pregnancy

How I Built a Professional Maternity Wardrobe Without Breaking the Bank

In the first several weeks and months of my pregnancy, I was so anxious to know the baby was growing well, that any weight gain and hint of a baby belly was a welcome discovery. Sure, my clothes fit a little tighter and my key professional pieces got less comfortable every time I wore them, but that was exactly what was supposed to happen.

Now in my sixth month, there are only a few non-maternity articles still in rotation (including my suit I bought when I first became an attorney, and before I lost twenty pounds of “Bar Exam Weight”; it is 2017: what’s old is new again!). Every day, getting dressed is a new challenge; it is hardly even useful to lay out an outfit the night before, because if baby decides to flip overnight, it may not fit any more!

Desperately searching the great Internet Library for wardrobe ideas, I was disappointed that most maternity wardrobe advice fell into two categories: (1) Wear leggings, t-shirts,a and elastics on your jeans all the time; or (2) Spend all your money on a completely new wardrobe you will use for the next ten months!

We all want to look like Amal Clooney, but what is a young professional to do? I have to look grown-up and put together, but I am not interested in investing hundreds or even thousands into clothes I will only wear for the next six months! Couple my budget constraints with the fact that many clothing lines simply do not offer enough options for female attorneys in general, let alone specific maternity wear, I had to get creative. Although I still have a lot of growing to do, I have already learned a few tips and tricks you might find helpful when building your professional maternity wardrobe, while staying within a reasonable budget.

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You can be surprised by the versatility of some non-maternity items in your closet – or someone else’s! This open blazer looks sharp without putting pressure on your ever-growing torso by foregoing a button closure. Via Kohl’s.

1. Accept hand-me-downs with gratitude.

I have the joy and pleasure of having a close friend who’s pregnancy slightly overlapped with my own. She just had her baby girl two weeks ago, and has been graciously sharing her maternity clothes with me as she outgrows them or simply doesn’t have a use for them any more. She was especially helpful because she worked in an office during her first pregnancy, so she supplied my first pairs of dress pants and blouses for the office. Even though some pieces I may not find useful because of fit, style, or the particular season, many of her hand-me-downs have helped fill critical gaps in my wardrobe and saved the day when I was waiting for purchased clothes to arrive in the mail! I have been so blessed by her generosity and look forward to the day when I will get to pay it forward by sharing my clothes with someone else.

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2. Shop at home first, and then slowly.

In my experience it is a good idea to wait and see what you will need as you go along, rather than filling the online (or real) shopping cart as soon as the test turns blue. In fact, when I looked in my own closet first, I found at least a half-dozen shirts that will work well during every month of pregnancy, two skirts that will probably fit up until the end, and a couple of pairs of leggings that will be well-worn during this period. After I bought my first round of maternity clothes and wore them for a couple of months, I began to notice where there were gaps in my collection. In my first maternity haul, I focused on dresses, thinking they would be a versatile all-in-one outfits. However, after a few weeks of, “Getting dressed would be so much easier if I just had a pencil skirt,” I knew buying that one piece would go far! I realized that although my work dresses were helpful, I needed a few more bottoms so I could mix and match for even more outfits. If I bought too many dresses at first, I would have wasted money on things that did not turn out to be as useful as I thought.

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Stores like Target and Old Navy update their collections often with each season, so check back frequently for styles that go on sale. This slightly less summary top may not be what you want at a barbecue, but it is perfectly work appropriate in your air conditioned office! Via Target.

3. Sales Sales Sales – have I mentioned Sales?

I am not one to pay full price for anything, anyway, but that is especially true when shopping for what will turn out to be – let’s face it – a temporary wardrobe. I know I will continue to wear these after the baby comes for several months, but ultimately I will look funny in pleated shirts and ruched dresses. My go-to place has been Old Navy, but I have also gotten a few pieces from H&M. Old Navy has insane sales and you can practically steal clothes with the deals and discounts they always send to your inbox. I don’t usually like Old Navy for key articles because they are not known to endure for the long-haul, but that is perfect when I am only looking for clothes to last me six months or so! So far, I have spent about two hundred dollars in total on maternity clothes, which has gotten me:

  • two court-appropriate work dresses
  • three slightly less dressy but work-appropriate dresses
  • black dress pants
  • black pencil skirt
  • floral printed t-shirt
  • maternity tankini top
  • sleeveless plain top
  • sleeveless patterned top
  • wireless bra

Twelve items for two hundred dollars means each item cost an average of sixteen dollars. Am I a genius, or what?

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You cannot go wrong with a little black dress – especially this one, which has a button opening to assist in nursing. Via Old Navy.

4. Get the most wear out of every purchase. 

For professional women like me, our “around the house/running errands/weekend” clothes are the exception, not the rule. Maternity jeans, leggings, and flowy sweaters are not going to cut it in court, closings, and client meetings – as comfortable as they may be! It is a challenge, but I have to resist the comfy, casual maternity clothes that are so easy to find. Instead, when at home and on the weekend, I have opted to wear the things I already have (even though they might not fit the best), hand-me-downs, and the few articles I bought that work well for both the office and home.

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This is exactly the kind of dress that is casual enough for a throw-on and go Saturday, but I can also wear with the right accessories and cardigan at the office. Via Old Navy.

A couple of dresses I bought are casual enough that they can be worn to my sister’s birthday party, and then dressed up with accessories and a blazer for the office. It is worth it to me to spend money on the pieces I will wear from 9-5 every day, and then hack it for the rest of the time.

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The mandarin collar on this top is just enough to make it interesting, and the bright color exudes confidence and sophistication. Via H&M

5. Style is in the details: collar, color, and cut.

The most polished look one can wear is a tailored suit, but there is no way I am spending hundreds on a dry-clean only suit, which – if tailored properly – will not even last me through my pregnancy! I needed to switch to stretchier fabrics, but remain polished. How does one fake the tailored look? The details: collars, colors, and cut. A collar or bow on even the loosest-fitting shirt looks instantly more groomed. You will be surprised by the casual brands that still carry shirts with a mandarin collar, a lower-maintenance version of the traditional. If your tops don’t have a collar, add the structure with an open blazer (even a non-maternity one without buttons will provide the collar effect with comfort).

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A shirt like this will take you far, with it’s classic look and color, even without a blazer. This is all-cotton, although it is a denim weave, providing additional structure. Via Target.

As for colors, I like to stick with solid black on the bottom and a bold shirt. This not only makes the shirt more memorable (making it easier to re-wear the bottom even the next day), but the contrast adds a bold confidence. I like sophisticated patterns like stripes or large floral. Otherwise, I tend towards colors that are timeless and serious: maroon, white, and light blue are appropriate for every season.

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This bold print makes the outfit interesting, even without heavy jewelry. A solid pant or skirt and white or light blue cardigan complete the look. Via Old Navy.

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Just like your non-maternity wardrobe, you will need basics to mix and match. I prefer a boot-cut to the slim ankle, because my ankles already tended to be too large for them before pregnancy. Via Gap.

Finally, cut. It is shocking to me that anyone would design a short maternity dress. As if I want one more thing to worry about while navigating pregnancy, let’s add, “Don’t flash everyone!” to the mix. This is something to be particularly aware of when buying from budget brands: they tend to take short-cuts (literally) on length. I do not buy dresses that are described as hitting “above the knee.” I similarly do no buy maxi-style dresses online, because if they are not quite long enough, they look too juvenile.

As for body-con versus empire waist, it depends on how loose the particular dress or shirt is made. I cannot wear a spandex bandage to court, but a billowy sack would also not send the right message. My favorite professional look has been somewhere in-between: an empire waist, but a slightly more fitted skirt. It provides a nod to my pre-maternity favorite (pencil skirt), without being too stuffy or tight. The fabric is key here: a jersey cotton is not going to give you the structure that a polyester blend can.

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This is a fantastically bold color and the cut is perfect: just long enough. The detail at the waist makes it slightly more fitted, without being shockingly tight. Via Old Navy.

15 answers for 15 weeks

  1. I am due in September.
  2. I am actually seeing it as a positive that I will “have to make it through the summer.” I have fewer pregnancy clothes to buy, won’t have to lace shoes or even put on socks. I will wear dresses and flats, and live in either air conditioning or the pool. #winningallday
  3. I am now in my second trimester, but had an extremely easy first. I never got sick, dealt with a few weeks of exhaustion and mild nausea if I didn’t put some food in my mouth every couple of hours, and that was it. I got my energy back well before my second trimester started and had such an easy pregnancy, and I was pretty shocked when the doctor actually found a kid in my belly!
  4. I feel amazing. Every once in a while, I get worried or anxious. I had bad heartburn for a few days that is now under control. I literally cannot tell you how easy this has been so far and how insanely thankful we are for that. No trips to the emergency room, no special instructions. Just a boring,  easy pregnancy. Thank you, Lord!
  5. It doesn’t matter if it was “planned,” does it?
  6. We don’t know the baby’s sex.
  7. We won’t find out until it is born.
  8. We don’t think we are stronger or better or have more will power than those that do find out. We want to be surprised for ourselves.
  9. The nursery does not have a color because there is no nursery. We do not know where we will be living when the baby arrives, and if it is our current home the bassinet will hopefully fit in the corner.
  10. We will both return to work outside the home after the baby is born.
  11. We are extremely grateful to be surrounded by supportive family, all of whom are fighting over how much free babysitting they will be allowed to provide. We are overwhelmed by love and support!
  12. We do have names picked out. Ask next time I see you and I will be happy to share.
  13. I do not know how this baby will be fed, but it will be fed.
  14. We accept all offers of free baby supplies. Between my brother’s baby, our home, my parents’, and my in-laws, I can almost guarantee every item will be well-used and appreciated! And we promise to pass along any extras to others in need.
  15. We are super excited and blessed. Massimo is already an amazing father and takes care of me and loves us like crazy. We are enjoying every day left before we have a child to tote around, but also greatly looking forward to meeting this little person. #humblebragpro

-D. E. Barbi Bee

How Pregnant Are You On Social Media?

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With all the talk about asking your boss to pay for your birth control these days, I thought I would take things to the other end of the spectrum and talk about another issue plaguing our society: over-sharing pregnant women on social media. We get it, you are growing a human being inside of you and that is a pretty big deal, and probably exhausting. I’m super happy for you and maybe your thirteen Facebook posts a day are your way of documenting this magical time in your life, I don’t know. But I do know that there is such thing as over-sharing on social media, and pregnant women (and what they will soon become – new moms) tend to be a pretty big culprit in this area (though not ALL pregnant women – thank you!).

To find out how pregnant your social media platforms are, just take this simple, quick quiz. And remember, we all over-share sometimes, but it’s never too late to stop.

1. Is your profile picture your ultrasound photo? 3 points

2. Is your cover photo your ultrasound photo? 2 points

3. Are both your cover photo and profile picture your ultrasound photos? 15 points

4. Is your round, nude pregnant belly your cover photo? 20 points

5. Are there any nude (or look like you could be) maternity photos of you anywhere on the internet? 25 points

6. Are at least two out of your four most recent Instagram photos pregnancy-related? (this includes photos of your bump, swollen ankles, baby clothes, and/or food you’re eating thanks to “eating for two!”) 5 points

7. Have you complained on social media at least twice in the last week about stretch marks, cravings, lack of sleep, or “feeling enormous!”? 5 points

8. Are you more than three days passed your due date? -5 points

9. Have you made more than two statements to the effect of how you can’t imagine your life before you got pregnant and everything in your whole world is now and always will be for this infant? 7 points

10. Do you have a Pinterest board for every phase of this adventure? (Ex: Maternity Clothes, Pregnancy Food and Exercises, Breastfeeding, Nursery Decor, DIY Babyfood, Potty Training, Early Education, etc.) 10 points

11. Could I or any of your other 863 Facebook friends tell you when you had your last doctor’s appointment? 5 points

12. AND the appointment before that? 8 points

13. Does my news feed get clogged with updates on how big your little fetus is – daily?! (He’s a grapefruit?! Ohmygosh!) 10 points

14. Could your friends/followers tell you when to go to the hospital, thanks to your updates every time you have a contraction? (“Um, your status three minutes ago said you had a contraction, and now this one? You need to get steppin’ girl.”) 12 points

15. Did you make your announcement on social media the second you found out about the baby in your tummy, even before you told you mom/husband/boyfriend/sisters? 20 points

16. Did you make the announcement with a photo or video of a positive pregnancy test? 15 points

17. Have you ever made a statement on any social media platform about the grossest things you’ve experienced due to your pregnancy? 30 points

18. Could I, a virtual stranger, except that one time we took geometry together in ninth grade, fill out your intake forms at the hospital for you, just by browsing your extensive medical information you’ve shared on social media? 25 points

Add up your points, and heed the advice below:

First Trimester: 0-35 points

You are barely showing your pregnancy on social media! You may be hiding it, or you may realize that not everyone needs to know every detail of your nine months of growing a person. Congratulations! I hope you maintain this perspective well on into motherhood. You might want to take some pics of the baby, ya know, for the scrapbooks. But that’s all, really.

Second Trimester: 36-75 points

You might be over-sharing. Consider adding some diversity to your posts, like talking about the gorgeous weather, or a really fun place you recently went (NOT the doctor or birthing class). Finally, before you hit ENTER and share some news, think about maybe just texting it to a couple interested friends instead, like 2/3 of the time. That way they will feel special that you are including them in your journey, rather than annoyed at reading the same stuff on their Facebook feed every day, like a commoner.

Third Trimester: 76 points and up

Okay, everyone knows it: you are definitely an over-sharer. You not only need to stop posting about your pregnancy, you probably need to take a sabbatical from social media all together. Don’t worry, no one will miss you hour-by-hour status updates, letting us all know what you are craving. In fact, some people may thank you. And you can come back when you have the baby, but be warned: social media is not the place to announce every diaper, tear, smile, and nap. They have baby books, and cameras, and phones for a reason.

When you are tempted to make a post on social media, follow these simple steps:

1. Ask yourself who would get more use out of this information: that kid you sort of had a crush on in middle school but never even danced with, or your doctor? If it’s the doctor, don’t post it; proceed to the doctor. If it’s the kid from middle school, I don’t think you understand the question.

2. If the answer to number one is “Meh, not really that crucial,” then ask yourself this: did I post virtually the same thing (status update, photo, video, or link) yesterday?

3. If the answer to number two is “Yes,” then send it to your mom via a private message. If it’s “No,” then save it for later, and come up with something else to post about.

Friends and connections on every social media platform thank you for your consideration. And we’ll gladly post a “Congrats!” on your wall when the time comes, if you’re into that sort of thing.

-debarbibee