I am almost six and a half months pregnant and my belly button is the size of a green olive. Look carefully and you can spy that creepy little fucker through my purple dress. My nipples are back-up dancers in Dante’s inferno, I split a pair of Zara tracksuit bottoms neat down the butt-crack last week and my waist has taken on the solidity of Miss Trunchbull.
Watching my body change has been a revelation, if not an always comfortable one, both physically and psychologically, and saying goodbye to 90% of my wardrobe hasn’t been easy. “I’ll just wear the larger bits in my wardrobe” you might say (as I did), quite casually, before you are pregnant. Yeah, good luck with that. The larger things become the smaller things quicker than you can sling one newly ginormous boob over your shoulder.
With all that in mind, I ask you, as I have been asking of myself with near desperation: What the fuck do you wear, especially if you hate maternity wear?
The roster of maternity brands out there have never appealed to me and did not suddenly become more appealing when pregnant. The default pregnancy style seems to be jersey wrap dresses and skinny jeans worn with cardigans, and neither is a look that’s ever suited me. (My mother, incidentally, is convinced that we should start a maternity line together “and make a million.”)
But the thing is, you need to shop. Anyone who says “I just didn’t buy anything when I was pregnant” is lying. You will need new bras (I recommend Spanx crop tops), maternity tights that cater to a bump (Falke, ASOS), new leggings (H&M), even new pajamas (Bodas, cotton, largest size). You’ll need new blouses, new dresses, new jeans and most likely, a new coat — if you want it do up.
Of course, it’s not all bad. Topshop maternity jeans are super comfortable and flattering. H&M Mama is great for basics. Maternity brand Isabella Oliver is good for black trousers and cotton shirts that tie above your bump, and Hatch is cute, albeit quite expensive, for jumpsuits. But beyond that, I’ve found little in maternity wear that resonates with my sartorial impulses.
It’s not even like I’m trying to create Major Lewks on a daily basis. The phrase “styling the bump” makes me shudder; my bump isn’t some new, cute accessory. I waited six months to put any kind of picture on Instagram for exactly that reason. I just want to work around it, in a way that feels accommodating and comfortable and me. I’ve worked really hard (genuinely) to get to a place of comfort in my daily dressing and hopefully, it will help some of you guys, too.
Here’s how I’ve shopped on a budget, on the cautious side (nothing too zany), in high street “non-maternity wear” stores, while looking for pieces that fit the top half of my body. (Though I’m an advocate of slow fashion, I’ve banned myself from investment purchases right now because my body is changing so quickly.) That said, the majority of my bottom-half closet: full-on maternity clothes.
Important side note: I write all this with a slim woman’s privilege. Most high street stores go up to a size 12-14, max, which makes “sizing up” impossible for some women. It’s yet another reason why that the paltry maternity offering on the market — and high street fashion’s non-inclusive sizing — irks me so much.
Here’s a download of tips garnered from my second trimester:
+ Large, soft sweaters. This is the only category I have invested in. I spend much more time at home now and like to be cozy whilst nesting (it’s a thing). These will fit me later, sans bump, too. Raey does the most incredible oversize polonecks (I have a navy one and I’m coveting the cream Aran one), and ethical cashmere brand Mandkhai does the softest ribbed knits. Other favorites include this, ahem, “Dries-inspired” one by H&M and an ALEXACHUNG sweater.
+ Oversize striped shirts (I already had a roster of vintage ones, but I added a white one from the new, well-priced shirting brand WNU, started by Tatler jewellery editor Pip Durrell), worn untucked with leggings.
+ Stretchy dresses. My most useful buys have included two ribbed dresses — a navy one from Free People and a black one from H&M — and this purple, strategically-draped jersey dress from H&M. If ever there was proof that a bumps’ silhouette is everything during pregnancy, check out the difference between my bump front-on and side-one, in this purple dress. I would never typically gravitate toward anything tight, purple, or Balenciaga-inspired, but at a certain stage of pregnancy, swathing the bump didn’t flatter my body. I had to outline it. I also love the Lucy dress by Rixo, with its tactical belly-ruching.
+ Coat-wise, I’ve lived in an oversize Maje bomber and my Topshop trench, which was a little large when I bought it back in May but is perfect now that I’m a denser moving object.
+ Longline blouses, worn with a statement blazer, like this gorgeously autumnal velvet Rika one.
+ A tube skirt. Again, I’d never gravitate toward this as a non-pregnatus. But now I wear this ribbed Sportmax one every other day.
+ Lastly, accessories will become your BFF. They are the only thing you cannot grow out of. These Nina Kastens earrings and my ones from Roxanne Assoulin provide me with micro joy. Due to chronic lower back pain, heels are largely off the agenda unless they’re low, so I’ve got these Maje Derbies on my shopping list.
The outfits you see here are ones I have on repeat. I have shrink wrapped 90% of my wardrobe into dense, misshapen bricks because I now fit so little of it. And you know what? I can now say that while my body, what with the stomach aches, gas, insomnia and other varying symptoms (more on that, soon), is a league unto its own, foraging for a fresh new style and curating a capsule wardrobe has been liberating.
Photos by Frances Davison.