Or How to Get Through Your Pregnancy Without Having to Purchase ‘Maternity’ Clothes
Although pregnancy is an exciting time in any mom-to-be’s life, the day-to-day logistics can often be quite daunting for a first time mother. For me if was quite an emotional rollercoaster to deal with so many rapid changes in my body — and when all of a sudden my favorite clothes started feeling too tight, I didn’t know where to turn. I just wanted to keep feeling and looking like myself, and the prospect of having to buy a whole new wardrobe of flowy earth-mama dresses to get me through a few months of my life sounded about as fun as labor pain — especially after a google search made me realize that it is almost impossible to find maternity wear in organic or eco-friendly materials.
Fortunately a thorough re-examination of my closet, and a couple tricks I picked up from friends staved off a bank-breaking trip to a Pea in the Pod. Ultimately I never ended up purchasing ANY new maternity clothes, and feel perversely proud of this accomplishment. I hope that some of the tips and tricks I picked up will be helpful to other eco-minded pregnant women who are going through this for the first time. If you’re a first-time mom-to-be staring at your rapidly expanding waistline and wondering how you’re going to get through the next 6 months with your sustainable style and your budget intact, read on…
How to stretch your existing wardrobe as far as your expanding waistline
Maternity clothes are often very expensive, hard to find in organic materials, and we all know that it is not very eco-friendly (or economical) to buy a ton of brand new items that will only last you for a few months. Fortunately there is hope for the eco-minded pregnant lady, and most of the things you will need probably already exist in some form in your closet.
If you are looking forward to the fun of buying brand new maternity clothes (and sometimes its nice to have an excuse to buy new stuff), by all means go shopping, and look for versatile styles such as 3-in-1 tie wraps (see Jessica Scott’s organic maternity wrap above) and belly bands in organic, breathable fabrics. . Check out Pristine Planet and Maternique for some eco-friendly options. But I hope my tips and tricks below will at least help you get more leverage out of your existing wardrobe, so you don’t have to purchase as much new stuff.
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
The first thing to keep in mind when it comes to an eco-approach to maternity clothes is the ‘Three R’s': reduce, reuse, recycle. Since the time during which maternity clothes are a necessity is so short in duration (in the grand scheme of things), you really want to try to avoid purchasing new things as much as possible. Hopefully, you will be able to find most of what you need already buried in your closet, but for those must-have items that you just can’t do without (maternity jeans in winter?) – your first stop should be your local thrift store or Salvation Army. Also worth checking out is BellyBundles, an online maternity consignment shop. Most thrift stores understand the high turnover of maternity clothes and have pretty good selections. When you are done with your pregnancy and those stretchy-top jeans, be sure to continue the cycle by passing your old maternity clothes onto your pregnant friends or back to the thrift store.
The A-Line or ‘Sack’ Dress
THE A-LINE DRESS
The first and most obvious maternity aid I discovered in my closet was the A-Line dress. Fortunately for us contemporary sustainable style mavens, this type of no-waist style has been trendy for the past few years, so there is absolutely no lack of baggy/floaty tops and dresses available on the market – even in eco-friendly fabrics. I’ll bet that most of you own at least one or two tops or dresses in this loose-fitting cut, and this is the type of thing you can wear throughout the whole 9 months of your pregnancy (and beyond). In the above photo I’m wearing an organic cotton ‘Weston Dress’ by Loyale at 5 months pregnant, and a black cotton Mexican dress at 8 months.
WARNING: Not for those who want special ‘pregnant lady’ treatment
One thing to keep in mind – the baggy style of the A-line cut will hide your bump, so if you want people to realize you are pregnant (i.e. if you want people to offer special ‘pregnant lady courtesy’ to you) this is not the best choice. Whenever I would wear something like this on the subway, no-one would ever offer me their seat – even when I was 8+ months along and, in my mind, pretty obviously pregnant. After feeling confused and miffed a couple times, I finally realized that it was because these type of clothes don’t make it very clear to the outside world that you are pregnant, and no well-meaning stranger wants to take the chance on assuming you are pregnant (and possibly receiving a very nasty reaction if you are not) unless it is really really obvious.
Flaunt your bump
FLAUNT YOUR BUMP WITH AN EMPIRE WAIST
The opposite approach to obscuring your pregnancy is to flaunt your bump for all it’s worth. Empire waist styles are great for this effect, and are probably your most flattering option for a growing belly, as this option makes you look properly pregnant rather than merely pudgy. If you check out expensive maternity shops like a Pea in the Pod, you will notice that almost all of the shirts and dresses for sale there (at a big markup) are simply normal clothes with an empire waist style. Fortunately, like the A-line, the empire waist has become quite a popular style for regular, non-maternity clothes over the past few years, so it can be found almost everywhere (including your closet hopefully).
PANTS – A trickier proposition
I’m not going to lie to you: pants are definitely a trickier proposition than tops in terms of maternity wear. Since your waistline is usually the first part of your body to start expanding, you might notice your pants getting too tight in the waist pretty early on. I understand why many women turn to maternity jeans, or to ripping the waists out of their favorite old jeans – but trust me, you CAN get through pregnancy without such drastic measures by simply employing a little ingenuity.
STAGE 1: The rubber band trick
During the first stage of waistline expansion in the first and second trimesters, you will probably be able to keep wearing your favorite pair of jeans — as long as you loosen the button and fly. With a combination of long tops (think tunics) and the old ‘rubber band trick’ – you can pretty much extend the life of your regular jeans well into your second trimester. If you are not familiar with the rubber band trick, see the image above: just loop a rubber band (hair bands are perfect for this) from your top jean button, through the hole and back to the button. This option is not very sightly of course, so you will need to cover it up with long sweaters and shirts that cover your fly. However, if you are a fan of the long waisted tunic look, like I am, this isn’t difficult to keep up.
STAGE 2: The Belly / Bella Band
During the second stage of waistline expansion you can extend the life of your regular jeans even further (or possibly your partner’s larger jeans) with a Belly Band. The pregnant lady’s best wardrobe friend, the Belly Band is an ingenious piece of stretchy fabric in a loop that helps to hold your unbuttoned pants up while supporting your bulge and maintaining an appearance of put-together sophistication. The most well-known brand of pregger tummy tubes: the Bella Band, is made from synthetic fabrics, but the eco-friendly brand Belly Band is made from environmentally sustainable bamboo.
STAGE 3: Stretch pants, leggings & yoga pants
Rubber bands and belly bands can only take you so far, however. There is a point you will reach at the very end of your pregnancy — when your stomach is as big as a basketball — when there is just no way you will fit into your tight jeans anymore, belly band or not. At this point you will probably need to opt for maternity jeans or stretch pants. Since I started the beginning of my third trimester in a 90 degree New York summer, I had the good fortune of not really having any need or desire to wear pants during this big-as-a-basket-ball stage. I am currently full term now (9 months pregnant), and on the rare occasion that I feel the need to put anything over my legs, my collection of stretchy leggings and yoga /workout pants works just fine.
I recognize that this may be a very different situation for the women who is approaching her third trimester in the middle of a 20 degree New York winter. For those of you in this scenario I would recommend checking out thrift stores, BellyBundles, or Pristine Planet for eco-friendly maternity pants. You could also ransack your partner’s closet with your Belly Band in hand, or even rip the waistline out of your favorite pair of jeans and sew a Belly Band into it.
Good luck and enjoy all the weird and wonderful changes that pregnancy brings. Remember that it really is a very short time in the grand scheme of things, so you don’t need a whole new wardrobe to support your pregnancy. The time flies by quickly, so relax and enjoy it while you can!
Does anyone else have any good advice about eco-friendly maternity options? I recognize that the perspective I am offering here is a very personal point-of-view based on my individual experience, so I would love to hear more perspectives from other pregnant ladies or new moms.