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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Patent's Patented Guide to Maternity Clothes Shopping

I have a love-hate relationship with maternity clothes. Specifically, I love maternity tops ... and HATE maternity pants. Maternity tops are extremely flattering to a pregnant body, and I tend to start wearing them pretty early in the pregnancy -- even when my regular clothes still fit me. The maternity shirts just make me look more pregnant rather than fat. (pro-tip: this works on everyone. Including people who are not pregnant. Wearing maternity-style clothing is the #1 cause of being asked "when are you due?" when the only thing you're expecting is a trip to the bathroom).

Maternity pants, on the other hand, were invented by Satan to fill women with hate. And they are very effective at this. As a general rule, they are ill-fitting, uncomfortable, and expensive. I hate them so very much.

Now that I've been pregnant twice, I think I have learned enough about maternity clothes shopping to share with you these shopping tips!


Try on everything. EVERYTHING.

Maternity shirts are apparently sized by a drunk person throwing darts blindfolded at a moving target.

I have a pretty good collection of maternity tops. Some are size Small and fit me perfectly. Some are size Medium and are a bit small. Some are size Large and I can barely get them over my shoulders. Some are size Large and I could easily host a circus under the fabric billowing about my abdomen. 

Actual photo from the dressing room.

One time, I tried on a cute sweater in a Medium and found it a bit tight around the armpits, so I tried on the Large. It was at least three times bigger than the Medium. I could have been four-armed conjoined twins, both of us pregnant, and it would have fit us both together.

Why the f***. I don't know. But don't buy anything without trying it on first. For real. If you're shopping online ... God be with you. And check the return policy.

Always check the boobs

Some women's boobs grow to watermelon-like proportions while they are pregnant, and so many maternity tops and dresses have VERY roomy bust areas to accommodate this.

Some women (cough cough LIKE ME) don't experience anything of the sort, and so the same shirts that look great on Watermelon Tits make me look like an 11-year-old trying on her mother's clothing.

I ordered one nice button-down shirt online, and when it arrived, I was dismayed to find that no matter how many socks I stuffed into my bra, it still didn't look right. I ended up giving it to my sister.

And if you have been blessed/cursed (depending on your outlook) with a ridiculously exaggerated pair of knockers, you don't want to end up wearing any of my shirts. You'll look like a porn star.

I'm not sure this shirt is the best fit on her. But what do I know.

Always check the boobs on your shirts. Always.

Buy lots of good tank tops

The perfect maternity tank top doesn't have to be maternity. You can buy it from the Wal-mart Juniors section if you want; I won't judge. Here's what you need to look for in the perfect maternity tank: very long (like, at least halfway down your butt long), NO built-in bra, stretchy, preferably adjustable strap length, and of a thicker material than your standard piece of crap $2 undershirt.

I wear these tank tops under almost everything. They cover up and even out whatever drama is going on at the closure of my pants, and they keep my butt crack covered if my pants decide to ride low when I sit on the floor to play blocks with Audrey. They make up for any maternity shirts that aren't as long as I would have liked them to be, and in late pregnancy, they cover up the bottom part of the belly that likes to peek out when your shirt is stretched so far it can't even shirt properly anymore.

It's almost impossible to have too many of these. I have 4 or 5 black ones, 3 white ones, some gray ones, some brown ones, and a hot pink one. I consider this to be 'an appropriate quantity.' Sometimes I still wish I had more.

Don't just plan on wearing your usual Express shelf-bra tank tops because "they're kinda long and should work fine." Trust me on this one. That shelf bra will start making you hate life a lot sooner than you expect.

Buy Cardigans

Any open-front cardigan will fit you throughout your pregnancy. So if you don't already own a bunch of these, do yourself a favor and buy them. They look great with just about any maternity tank, and you can mix and match easily so it won't look like you're wearing the same thing every damn day. Plus, you can continue to wear them when you're not pregnant anymore.

Extra bonus: if you're planning on breastfeeding, my breastfeeding uniform after Audrey was born was to wear a nursing tank top with one of my open front cardigans over it. Easy boob access -- you can't even begin to understand how important this will be until you're right there in it.

And let's be real -- Old Navy maternity tank tops are cheap as hell. I like it when I can put together outfits on the cheap that will be comfortable AND look decent enough to wear to work. You can't put a price on that. Except you can. And the price is low. And that's good.

This sh*t is like eight bucks. Come on. I can't even bitch about that, and I bitch about everything.
Old Navy
Old Navy


Hold off on wearing them for as long as you can

I hate maternity pants. Have I made this clear enough? I HATE MATERNITY PANTS.

They like to pull down whenever you sit, because you can't wear a belt with them. The ones that are meant to fit tight will grip your thighs and pull themselves down bit by bit as you walk. Ones that are meant to fit loose will bunch up in the back because of the elastic waistband. Depending on your height, they will either be ankle-bitingly short or foot-wrappingly long. Maternity pants that are the exact right length for your body probably don't exist anywhere in this universe. It makes absolutely no difference how tall you are -- your pants won't be the right length. And they'll cost at least $1 billion.

Therefore, the best gift you can give yourself is to hold off on wearing them for as long as you can. Once your regular pants start to get uncomfortable, maybe switch to your "fat pants." (I'm 19 weeks along with my second, which means I look quite pregnant, but I still fit into the jeans that are a couple sizes bigger than my usual ones). Or do the elastic band trick on the waistband, where you wrap an elastic around the button and then feed it through the buttonhole and back around the button again. I went to work today in a pair of non-maternity pants held up by an elastic, and I'm feelin' fine.

You can do it like dis ...

Or you can do it like dis.

A day will come when you realize that these stopgap measures are no longer working and you need to make the switch over to all elastic waistband all the time. But if you really wait as long as you can before reaching that point, then you'll probably have a lot more luck finding maternity pants that are comfortable and fit okay. Because your belly will actually be big enough to hold them up. How about that.

Plus, you kind of get over your hatred of them when you literally have no other choice except to wear sweatpants to work. So there's that.


Do some testing to figure out if you prefer over-the-belly or under-the-belly waistband

Pregnant women are very divided on this issue. Is it more comfortable to wear the pants with the waistband designed to go under your big ol' beach ball belly, like this?

Or is it more comfortable to wear the ones that you pull up to your bra Grandpa-style, like this?

You get double sexy points when you tuck your shirt in like this lady.

I personally prefer the under-the-belly ones most of the time, though I get the impression that this preference is a bit unusual. I find that the ones with the big belly panel are harder to pull up when they ride down, because you need to hitch them up at the hips, and then you need to hitch them up at the very top (which will be up by your bra line) and straighten out the belly panel so it's not all bunched up in the middle. You will either need to do this under your shirt, or you will need to take your shirt most of the way off to do it. You'll also need to lift your shirt up to the armpits whenever you go to the bathroom. 

I also find that in late pregnancy, the top of the belly panel no longer reaches to your bra but instead only reaches to a couple inches above your belly button, creating a very visible 'pantyline' across the middle of your stomach if you're wearing a tight shirt. It's not the most attractive thing in the world.

But they're also kind of great because they feel so snug and secure. Your tank top grips tight against the fabric of the belly panel, so you feel like your pants aren't going anywhere. It's a bit like wearing a one-piece bodysuit. Very cozy. And zero chance of plumbers' crack.

On the other hand, the ones with the elastic that goes under your belly are easier to pull up if they ride down, easier to put on, easier to pull down when you have to pee 600 times a day, and I also think they don't bunch up in the back quite as badly as the belly panel pants. So they certainly have their benefits.

You will not know which you prefer until you actually spend some time wearing both. So maybe start by buying a cheap pair of pants in each type and wear them around for a few days. You'll almost certainly end up with several pairs of each type in the end, but it pays to know which you prefer when you have the choice. This pregnancy, I bought several pairs of black leggings that go under the belly, and I'm so happy with them I could just scream.

Oh, and don't believe the hype from the maternity stores about how you can just buy full belly panel pants and roll the panel down around your hips. This is only a great idea if you want your pants to fall off.


Anything loose with a fully elastic waist will fit you the entire time ... so BUY THESE THINGS

By this, I mean loose NON-MATERNITY clothes with elastic waistbands. If you're comfortable wearing things low with the front below your belly, then maxi skirts and gaucho pants and basketball shorts and cozy sweats will be your best friends for the whole nine.

Stores will desperately try to convince you that you should pay twice as much for the "maternity" version of these clothing articles. 

Best part? They'll still be your friends afterwards, too, so you won't feel like you wasted a bunch of money on stuff you'll only wear a few times. You can't lose! 



If you're going to be big-pregnant in summer, thank your lucky stars because this means you get to wear slip-on shoes with no socks and you won't even get any frostbite on your toes. In late pregnancy, bending over to put on socks or tie shoes or zip up boots is a very uncomfortable proposition. If you can avoid it, avoid it. Buy lots of cute slip-on shoes that don't require any assistance from your hands. Your insides will thank you.

If you're going to be big-pregnant in the winter ... go with God, friend. Go with God.

Support bands

Loving Moments by Leading Lady Maternity Adjustable Postpartum Support Belt

Buy one of these. Seriously, f***ing buy one of these. I bought one just like this and I wore it very frequently in the second half of my pregnancy. I wore it every time I worked out or went walking, and any time I expected to be on my feet for an extended period of time. I could wear it under a shirt or dress and it wouldn't show at all. 

Back pain from wearing a watermelon strapped to your belly is real, and the relief this thing provided me was instant every time I put it on. Don't be a dumbass. Buy one of these things. And then wear it

Sidenote -- I also bought one of these ones:

... and found it to be a pain in the ass to put on, it made lots of weird lines under clothes, and it was a SUPER pain in the ass to sit down while wearing. Your mileage may vary. If you buy one and you don't like it so you never wear it, buy another one. They aren't that expensive. It's worth it to keep trying until you find one you like. Your lower back will be very appreciative.

I think that's it for tips! Good luck in your shopping journey, and make sure you feel beautiful in everything you buy. Even if you're the only person that thinks you look good in it, this is YOUR changing body and dammit, enjoy that sonofabitch!

Only maybe, I dunno, just, like ... avoid buying this exact dress.

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