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maternity wear

Strategies for Avoiding Maternity Wear

Most of the cool chicks we know had the same moment of self-doubt soon after confirming their pregnancies: How am I going to dress myself in a dignified manner – and avoid maternity wear – for the next nine months?

Don’t despair. We’ve had some experience with this, and we’re here to tell you that it’s really not nine months of dressing like a different person. We’ve laid out what you can expect in terms of bodily metamorphoses, trimester by trimester, so that you can rest assured: Only the last four months will require some flexibility and modification when it comes to clothing. And for those of you who would never be caught dead in the maternity wear section of any shop (even online) — we can relate. Here’s your strategy for making it through those last four months when waistbands are no longer part of your reality.

THE CHANGES

First Trimester, aka The Porn Star Trimester

It’s when your boobs are enormous, but everything else stays the same. It’s all the curves you always wanted, in all the right places. Time to pull out those tops you never quite filled out, or wear low-cut dresses with abandon. Enjoy these three months of bombshell. If you’re lucky, you may get another taste of this phase during breastfeeding, but you’ll be too confused and/or tired then to really enjoy it. So this is your moment of glory.

Second Trimester, aka The Double-Take Trimester

This one is tough, because you’re definitely too pregnant for all your normal clothes, and you don’t look like yourself — but you’re also not so out there that everyone clearly understands what’s happening under that shirt. You’ll get lots of quizzical looks that say, “I always knew she loved dosas, but this….” This phase is full of some truly awkward social interactions and lots of glances at your midsection. If you have a sense of humor about it, you can definitely have fun with this one. But towards the end, this is also the trimester that you make the transition to elastic waistband, meaning you’ll need a real dressing strategy (see below).

Third Trimester, aka The Jersey-Elastic-Spandex Trimester

At this point, give up on any normal clothes, along with anything else that’s uncomfortable. Don’t feel like standing on the train? No problem, feel free to shove everyone out of your way. Can’t be bothered with your boss’s boring presentation? That’s cool, you’ve got to go sit down and put your feet up. Milk it; everyone expects you to. But while your belly gives you a pass on all of the things you don’t feel like doing, it also makes these three months the most treacherous time for strategic pregnant dressing. You’ll need to get creative.

THE RULES

Here’s your guide to looking — and feeling — like a normal person for those critical last few months:

Tight one one end, loose on the other. When wearing separates, resist the urge to dress in all-loose or all-tight clothing. Maternity wear sites will tell you billowing tent-like dresses are the way to go — they’re not. Neither does the skin-tight-all-over look work past month 5. To keep people saying, “Wow, you look great,” (without adding “for a pregnant woman”) follow the half-loose, half-slim rule: Pair super tight jeans with a loose t-shirt, or flowy trousers with a tight tank top, or a tight pencil skirt with a boxy top. You get the idea. No loose-all-over or tight-all-over looks.

De-friend the empire waist. Somewhere along the way, a misguided soul got the idea that pregnant women look good in empire-waisted tops and pregnancy dresses. Maternity wear is filled with images of women in clothes that hug the bustline, then blossom just below to drape over pregnant bellies. Unfortunately, all this does is make you look 10 times bigger than you are and draw attention to your stomach in the most unflattering way. Also, empire waists are for six-year-old’s princess costumes.

Evaluate “shrinkage.” It sounds obvious, but guess what: A bulging midsection means that many normal shirts suddenly become crop tops. It’s magic! But not the fun kind. Pay attention to how high your stretchy skirts and pants go, and how low your now-larger t-shirts will fall. This is a new type of math, and don’t worry — by the end, you’ll be able to gauge appropriate shirt lengths like a carpenter eyeballing a 2-meter plank of wood. But until you get to that jedi level of pregnancy, always do a check before leaving the house so you don’t appear bare-bellied at your next meeting.

Bare your arms and legs. At a time when you’ve got about 10 kilos loaded onto your midsection, it helps to accentuate the parts of you that haven’t expanded. So show off those shoulders and arms, or wear a flowy mini-dress that shows off your legs. If you’ve ever looked at an adorable pregnant woman and wondered how she looks so damn good, chances are she’s either bare-armed or bare-legged, or both.

Buy cheap, but chic. Any seasoned preggo knows she can make it through many pregnancies without ever approaching the dreaded maternity wear section. But she also knows she’ll need to buy a few new items for the four months when she has a completely different body. You will likely never want to look at your pregnancy clothes again after it’s over, so don’t spend a lot of money on them. Instead, be clever: buy cheap t-shirts in a size or two larger, cotton trousers with an elastic waistband from a discount store. No one will check the label; they’ll be too busy complimenting you on avoiding the dreaded empire waist.

Make some sacrifices. Sometimes, you have to sacrifice a favorite piece or two to your pregnancy, even if that will render them unusable later. It helps to have some “normal” clothes as part of the pregnancy dressing rotation, even if you have to irreparably destroy elastic, stretch delicate jersey, or perform any other number of unthinkable seam horrors on your favorite apparel. It’s all for the greater good of your sanity during this sensitive time.

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