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Pregnancy Must-Haves

Every woman’s pregnancy and body is different. however as I near the end of my own pregnancy, I thought I would offer to you a few items that made this life experience that more pleasant. Feel free to comment and provide your own pregnancy must-haves!

Nars Blush Orgasm1. NARS Blush in Orgasm. I know, I have worn this for almost four years but I never loved it more than I did during this pregnancy. Everyone says you get this pregnant “glow,” but especially during the first trimester when you’re trying to not toss your cookies on your keyboard, you are completely devoid of any glow or color (other than green).

Orgasm is a peachy-pink shade that works on so many different skin tones (pale wintry Allie, spent too much time at the beach Allie, fading tan Allie, tan in a bottle Allie, etc.) and has that perfect bit of shimmer – little enough to wear during the day, but enough to make your flaky dry and sallow skin look dewy and fresh.

The color lasts all day, one compact lasts for YEARS (I am JUST replacing my compact this month after purchasing it for my 30th birthday), and when I wear it people say I have “The Glow.”

2. Laura Mercier’s Flawless Face Kit. Bought on a whim. This kit really works in making the face look natural yet finished. Great instructions, great bag to hold everything, all the size to be carry-on-luggage worthy, lasts all day. For my skin, I chose the kit in Sand. You can read a more detailed review by me here.

3. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. This book may seem too far-out, too hippie, too radical for many. So be warned. However for me, it was utterly empowering. When I found out I was pregnant, I didn’t have a regular OB/GYN. I had changed insurances (for the better) and it was right around the time that I had to schedule my annual. I did what any intelligent pregnant woman would do – I asked friends, Googled reviews, read reviews in local papers and periodicals and then made an appointment with the best one who was associated with the best hospital that was a reasonable distance from my job and home.

This is a great route for many, and the doctors from this practice were very good and very knowledgeable. Something just didn’t click with me. Lurking on a pregnancy message board, I heard about this book and bought it used on Amazon. I didn’t know anything about The Farm, I knew little about natural childbirth (outside of trying to go at it in a hospital without an epidural), and had never heard of Ina May.

After only a few of the true stories in this book, I switched to a group of midwives who had a practice that was connected to a hospital (can go natural but if anything goes wrong, I am minutes from L&D). I went from fearing labor to seeing it as a rite of passage. I felt empowered, proud to be a woman, part of this sisterhood. I felt more connected to this pregnancy, this body and this little person growing inside of me. I started craving knowledge and gobbled up every book, documentary, article and message board I could find.

This route is not for all and I am not one to try to sway people or force people to see my side. Many people have also said they found this book to be very scary, weird, and mean if you are considering a hospital birth. However if you are curious about reading real-life experiences of women who have had natural births… you may get as much from this book that I did.

Naturalizer Creston Flat4. Naturalizer’s Creston Flat. I love heels, and feel uncomfortable in flats. However my husband is a photographer and I am often his assistant, running around weddings and events and standing on my feet for hours. I bought these flats over a year ago just for photo shoots. I thought they were dowdy and made me look shorter and heavier than I already am. They were worn only a handful of times before my pregnancy.

As my pregnancy went on, my feet started to change. At first, it was just a bit more pain than usual after a day in 3” heels. Next, I lost some of my stability and felt awkward in anything that wasn’t a wedge, a chunk heel or a flat. By third trimester, my feet had grown a half a size. Now rounding out my pregnancy, my feet are a size an a half bigger and far wider than they were even a month ago. I pretty much fit a shoebox better than I do a shoe. I have tried dozens of shoes – online retailers who specialize in comfort and wide shoes, footwear boutiques and mall shops with very little success.

Today in my 37th week, I am sporting the heck out of those Naturalizer Creston flats. They are one of the only shoes I have found to be comfortable and fit all day. The soft leather grows with my feet as I swell, and retracts when I do. The look is simple and can work with dresses or pants. The sole is good and grippy – I feel safe even on slightly slippery days. The footbed is heavily padded so I feel relatively comfy even after many hours. These shoes were a chance purchase and now are worth their weight in gold. So much, I wish I had also purchased them in another color!

Sofft Mary Jane5. Sofft’s “Veronica” Mary Jane. Another chance purchase. I just couldn’t let go of heels and had heard great reviews about Sofft so I bought these online in brown suede.

You would never think it, but these cuties are the only shoes, other than the Creston flats, that I can still fit into and wear comfortably. I wore them Saturday night when I went to DC for a friend’s birthday dinner. I wore them Thanksgiving, to my baby shower, and at least once a week to work.

The heel is not very high and it’s scalloped so the weight is well distributed. The footbed is super comfy, the sole is rubbery, flexible and grips nicely. The strap has elastic hidden under the cute flower so it grows when my foot swells later in the day. The style and height makes them cute with dresses or even with trousers.

I purchased them in brown suede; I found the suede to be more flexible and accommodating than the leather version. How amazing to find shoes that get regular compliments AND baby the heck out of your feet? I adore these shoes and post-pregnancy am considering purchasing another pair in a different color.

Chantelle Senso Bra6. Chantelle Senso Seamless Bra. I adored this bra pre-pregnancy for its ability to lift, separate, completely disappear under lightweight and light-colored knits and give enough padding for nip coverage without adding to my size. I usually despise molded cup bras, but this one always seemed tailor made for my figure. The nude color is very close to my skin tone, the straps are stretchy enough to not dig, but stiff enough to give good support. Same with the band (many people find this bra to seem too small at first – try it for a bit, it seems to mold to your shape instead of being super stretchy like most bras).

When my breasts started growing with pregnancy, I looked for cheap larger bras. I went from a 36D to a 38E and it wasn’t in one fell swoop. To keep purchasing new bras each size would cost a small fortune. I bought bras on sale, bras from lower-end brands, and thought it was fine. They were comfortable, they got the job done…

Then I saw a picture of myself wearing one of these cheap, comfy bras (the Gap tee shirt bra that was on sale). The look was horrible. My breasts looked horrible – bit in an unflattering way, spread out, sort of pendulous (you can see the look here). I always loved my breasts, but this picture made me embarrassed.

So I bit the bullet and bought the Chantelle Senso in my new larger size. It hurt to drop so much money on a bra that wouldn’t fit me for a long while but I just couldn’t take looking giant and sloppy. For those who haven’t been pregnant, even though you tell your pregnant friend she doesn’t look fat, she will feel fat. Her face rounds out, her arms grow, her breasts grow (and for many of us, everything else in between will also grow and soften). If I could at least keep my bust looking perky, I could feel better about my appearance.

The bra was worth every penny – I suddenly looked slimmer, my breasts no longer ached at the end of the day, my clothes fit better. My décolleté looked as it did pre-pregnancy and I gained confidence. The bra hid under everything – semi-sheer sweaters, lightweight knits, white cotton shirts. It was one less thing to worry about during the maternity period.

I am currently wearing the Senso; this is my fourth Senso bra. I wash them by hand or in a lingerie bag on the gentle cycle of the washer. They hang to dry, but they get ten times more wear than any other bra in my collection and wear out. I hope they never discontinue it for they have a lifetime customer with me!

Bella Band7. Ingrid & Isabel’s BellaBand. I didn’t “get” this item for a long time. I hate the layered look and am not one to sport it on a regular basis. IT seemed to be a tee-shirt extender that would hide the fact that my non-maternity pants were unbuttoned. Why did I need an overpriced piece of lycra to do what a ponytail elastic (looped around button hole to extend the button hole) could do?

Then I tried it. No longer did my pants bunch, did the button show through my shirt. As I got larger, the BellaBand helped keep too large maternity pants up, and extended non-maternity ones through most of my second trimester. Crappy roll-waist maternity trousers stayed high on the belly, lowrise waistbands no longer showed off skin when I sat down, and I was able to wear it high enough that it never showed with outfits (preventing the teenage look of layered tees). I even wore the BellaBand over my bust under dresses as décolleté coverage/in place of a cami. Post-pregnancy, I know it will be worn to keep up pants, and to cover the tummy while breastfeeding.

I bought mine in black since the majority of my pants and wardrobe are that color. I know there are cheaper versions out there, but I loved knowing that this little piece of Lycra maintained its color, its shape, its durability through many washings. Having that reassurance made it worth the price.

8. Old Navy’s Ponte Knit Maternity Trousers. Awww boo Old Navy for discontinuing this item. If it weren’t for these trousers, I may have not left my home in the third trimester.

I have often wrote on this blog about my love of ponte knit – it’s heavier than other knits, refined and has a dressier look than jersey fabrics. Since it is a knit, it has stretch. Since it has weight, it doesn’t cling and glides over bumps and curves. It can be machine washed, usually matches ponte garments from other retailers, and works year-round. I have dresses, suiting, skirts and pants of this fabric and thought though most of my pregnancy, “Why doesn’t someone make a maternity line from this fabric?”

My sister found these pants on the Old Navy Web site and I ordered a pair. They are a slightly wide leg that is comfortable even with swelling and hip growth. The waistband is like a yoga pant – wide and of the same fabric. There are two patch pockets on the front and two besom pockets on the back. They stay up even in the last few weeks, match my ponte garments from places like Ann Taylor and Banana Republic, go in the washer and dryer and are completely work-appropriate.

Many pregnant women get to a point where chino and denim are no longer comfortable. When you still have to look presentable for an office environment, items like these are a Godsend. I found a similar item from Liz Lange for Target, but found the length too long for anyone under 5’5” and the fabric to be far thinner (looking more like yoga pants than proper trousers). Hello maternity fashion designers – this is a potential goldmine! Make some trousers in black, brown, charcoal, ivory and possibly navy… add lengths and an extended size range and you will have so many happy pregnant customers. Offer some coordinating jackets and we would be utterly ecstatic! Until then, I will still love Old Navy for offering such an item, even if it was only for a short time.

Neutrogena Body Oil9. Neutrogena Body Oil. When I was in my first trimester and many smells made me ill, this was one smell that seemed to calm me. When I got PUPPP in my third trimester, it was one of the only products that seemed to soothe the itchies. When stretch marks started to itch and hurt, nothing felt better than to rub them with Neutrogena Body Oil after a shower. I would pour it in a bath when I would have severe itching and insomnia – the smell and the soft feel would relax me and let me sleep a couple more hours.

This has been a product I return to every couple of years. I try out new products, covetable lines, but usually come back to Neutrogena Body Oil. It absorbs quickly, is gentle on my sensitive winter skin, the smell doesn’t compete with my perfume, my husband likes the smell, I like the feel and look of my skin when using it, it is versatile, and I love how I can grab a bottle at my local Target. It’s a product I could see being in my bathroom even 20 years from now.

10. My DayRunner. When you are pregnant, your brain disappears… at least part of it does. It’s very slow and very subtle; suddenly one day you forget where your friend’s house is located, what time your doctor’s appointment is, what is the date of your grandmother’s birthday. I had Outlook, I had my cell phone’s calendar, I had the calendar in the kitchen that my husband and I had used for years to reind one another of events we both had to attend. It worked very well and I never double booked or forgot an occasion.

Then my second trimester arrived and my brain left. I forgot passwords to Web sites and would take elevators to wrong floors. Next thing, I couldn’t recall what day Halloween fell on. I bought an agenda book – one small enough to fit in my purse, but large enough that I could add pages and customize to my needs. I added all the addresses and phone numbers I needed in case I lost my cell (which happened once with this Baby Brain), added necessary passwords in code so if I forgot them, I could refresh my memory. I added the most basic of dates like my husband’s birthday, the baby’s due date, the days I worked from home. I added work appointments in case I got stuck somewhere without Internet. I made lists of what needed to be done and put dates on them so I knew what I was thinking when.

I think my DayRunner kept me from losing my job or a single friend.

An agenda book may not be what you need, but do prepare for the slow loss of brain cells while pregnant. Just as many women swear they are not acting crazy due to PMS (and then admit it was the hormones talking after the event took place), pregnant women will swear they are not becoming forgetful. Be good to yourself, your friends, your coworkers and figure out some sort of system that will keep your life in order when your mind has lost it. It will probably also come in handy post-baby to organize family events, play groups, day care, doctor appointments and more. If you get one that has the rings where you can add pages, you can add little clear sheets to show off pictures of your new bundle of joy too. 🙂

Ask Allie – Pregnancy and Beyond

On my other blog, I have been writing a bit about pregnancy and motherhood. Because of that, I have received many emails about pregnancy and motherhood-related fashion and beauty. I thought I would share my answers here so that they may possibly benefit other women:

What is a good nursing tank or bra for large busts?
I really don’t get it – your chest grows with pregnancy and breast feeding, why is it so darn hard to find a decent nursing bra over a size C? As with sports bras, it seems that all nursing tanks and bras either provide monoboob or no support. I tried many of the suggested brands and had to return them because they gave quad-boob, monoboob, were indecent (too exposed to wear the tank out of the house), or had me sag to my belly button. However, I had some success:

Bravado’s Body Silk Bra: This wire-free. Comfy bra is not as bad as most because it has removable soft cups. With the cups inserted, your breasts have a bit of shape; remove them for a comfy sleep bra. Now this bra won’t give you a nice enough shape for work, but it’s a great weekend/sleep bra. Bravado knows how to make quality nursing apparel – the bra washes well (I have only put it in the washer once, but I hand wash at least once a week), the clasps are easy to hook and unhook with one hand, it doesn’t stretch out. I have it in black; the neckline looks like a cami so it’s not so bad if it peeks out of a scoop necked tee when a certain little one decides to grab onto Mommy’s shirt and pull with all her might.

Anita Nursing Bras: I have tried two underwire styles and have returned for more. FINALLY a company that has created a nursing bra that lifts, supports, separates, is easy to hook and unhook AND doesn’t look atrocious. Anita bras look like regular bras, but have easy-use strap clasps and even little loops (helps with rehooking and also good if you use a little marker to remember which side was last nursed). I find they run pretty true to size, hold their shape well, the wires stay in place even after many openings and closings and I feel feminine in them (a rarity in the nursing attire world).

Bravado Nursing Tanks: These were constantly recommended to me, but when I tried them on, I found that they made me look like a porn star. My size hardly covered my breasts and I totally poured out of the neckline and underarms. Not only that, the bodice was skin tight (even the maternity version) on my postpartum tummy.

Then I read online that one should not only order a cup size (or two) bigger, but even a band size bigger. So I did, purchasing a band size and two cup sizes larger and hooray – a nursing tank that covers, supports and gets the job done! Now this isn’t the prettiest bra in the world – the rouching in the front is a bit strange and I feel a telltale sign that it is a nursing bra. However, it’s a great piece to have for the summertime, yoga class and weekends with a cardigan or hoodie (or with the shrug that Bravado also manufactures).

For the first-time mothers, a word of advice: do not purchase a nursing tank in white. It seems like a nice basic color, but it will quickly get poop, puke and plenty of milk leakage on it. It will constantly be in the laundry and will require plenty of Oxiclean or bleach to keep it wearable. I have black and dark red and they are far more wearable. The white one I received as a gift is now only worn at night because it has turned a light shade of gray and has perma-spots on both breasts.

Bravado Plus Original Nursing Bra: Okay, these are NOT flattering. They give you monoboob, they don’t lift very much, they don’t separate, and they look like a deformed sports bra. I hate them, but if you’re leaky like me, you will find that you need to wear some sort of bra 24/7 and you won’t be comfortable in your synthetic or underwire bras while sleeping. Also, Bravado offers Plus and Double Plus styles specifically for larger busted women. This way the cup grows without having a too-big and unsupportive band. These larger sizes also are constructed differently to assist in separating the breasts. I found a Medium Plus Plus bra was perfect for my size.

There is an online site called NestMom that will custom tie-dye these Bravado bras for you. This may seem silly when you can find a basic white or black one for cheaper elsewhere. However if you ARE like me and in need of a bra 24/7, it’s such a welcome change to have color in place of dingy neutrals. Also like the Body Silk, it’s cute if it peeks out from under a tee or a ribbed tank. I ordered the bright tie dye and it is a gorgeous rainbow of colors that has held its intensity through many washes and runs through the dryer. NestMom is also a great site to find larger sizes of Bravado products, and more colors and selection than your local mall store (it is where I got my red nursing tank).

What did you use to prevent stretch marks?
Stretch marks are based more on genetics than lack of moisturizer. That being said, I did slather on plenty of products in hopes that it could help (and also to minimize the itching from the stretching belly skin). I used Neutrogena Body Oil and Body Shop’s Coconut Body Butter (in the last two trimesters, I used both – oil first, then butter once the oil dried).

The stuff kept my skin nice and soft, but I still got many stretch marks (and new ones post-pregnancy as well). I still use the Neutrogena Body Oil and occasionally the Body Butter as well to keep the skin supple. Two months postpartum, I do see the stretch marks slightly fading, and the skin changing/tightening.

My husband calls my belly stretch marks my “flames” (a-la the flames people put on cars and motorcycles); I see them as a badge of honor, a battle scar and a reminder of the intensity of pregnancy and labor. It’s something I stressed about a lot before my daughter was born, and now something I hardly care about. My mind has other more important things (like my daughter) to worry about. I already wore tankinis or one pieces to the beach so the stretch marks really haven’t affected my wardrobe choices.

What are your favorite nursing pads?Before I got pregnant, I had no clue that mothers needed things like nursing pads. Wait, you leak between feedings? Some women do more than others, but I have yet to meet a woman who didn’t need to invest in at least one box or set of nursing pads.

I really didn’t want to go with disposables. Just as with disposable diapers or sanitary napkins (both items I do not use), it is so much landfill waste. However a friend of mine had to stop breast feeding so she gave me two boxes that she already owned – Medela and First Years.

First Years were completely invisible under clothing, but were plasticy and I feared would cause thrush or clogged milk ducts. The Medela were really bulky and showed under thin knits. Luckily I went through these two boxes before I had to go back to work and worry about show-through and absorption.

I then ordered some washable nursing pads – one pair from a Work at Home Mom via Etsy, one pair from Lansinoh. Both work equally well (It’s wonderful to support small businesses and working moms and they usually have equal or better quality, so check out Etsy before you go with a brand name) but both really show under thinner knits. I now use these at night, at-home weekend days and days I work from home. I figure at least using them at these times I am reducing some of my waste…

But this meant I had to purchase some disposable nursing pads. I received free samples from Avent and found them to be way too bulky; reading online reviews I decided to try out Lansinoh. Lansinohh is known for great breast feeding products. Their pads are fine – they are large, they are absorbent, yet thin and invisible under all clothing. However if they shift, they do bunch up and if pressed against, have a papery sound. I went through my whole box without a single issue with leaking, and I didn’t find that they shifted very often (though if I forgot to remove it when nursing, I found it would crease so much that it had to be replaced or else be very visible under clothing). When this box ran out, I went online to read more reviews and decided this time to try the pads from Johnson’s. These are cheaper, they aren’t individually wrapped (which means less waste), they have an indent for the nipple (which is a nice feature), and I read that they are less likely to itch than Lansinoh. I didn’t even think about it – itching I thought was a side effect from nursing. But hey, if Johnson’s can minimize that… works for me!

Okay, I love these nursing pads. They are far thicker than Lansinoh and will show with a white or light colored tee shirt, but otherwise are perfect. The mild itching I experienced is completely gone. These babies soak up so much I need to use far fewer (less waste and a box goes a long way). They are very cushy and comfy, they don’t shift at all for me. Johnson’s are not as big in circumference as Lansinoh, but I haven’t had any issues with shape or leakage. Best part? They are usually cheaper than any other brand. Score!

Where can one find stylish nursing attire?Ugh, the majority of nursing clothing is hideous. Dowdy silhouettes, boring colors, cheap fabrics. As with maternity clothing, most nursing clothing designers seem to think that mothers want to look like their children. They use way too many bows, ruffles and calico prints for any decent adult woman.

The only company I have found that regularly offers stylish nursing clothing is Boob Maternity. I have two of their dresses – one maternity (which has a surplice neckline that works well for nursing) and one nursing. Boob’s quality is excellent, the styles are simple yet chic, and the customer service is phenomenal. Yes, the prices are not cheap but the maternity dress I own has been worn since the beginning of my second trimester and I still wear it today. It has been washed dozens of times and even went through the dryer a few times when my husband did the laundry. The style is so simple, I have worn it with tall boots, with pumps, with tights and even with jeans and it has looked great for work, for evening or the weekend. If you consider cost per wearing, my dress from boob maternity is a better bargain than anything on the clearance rack at the mall.

Most of my nursing clothing (and pumping clothing – I pump at work) is not exactly nursing attire. I wear lots of separates, knits that can handle being shoved around to accommodate the activity and items that button in the front. However the best nursing attire I have found are matte jersey wrap dresses and tops. Wrap dresses are an item that look good on almost any woman’s figure. Matte jersey washes easily, doesn’t wrinkle and it a touch water resistant (I usually can blot away a drop of milk before it sinks into the fabric). The wrap neckline is easy to push to the side (I usually hold the neckline closed with a safety pin when not nursing or pumping) and the fabric makes it perfect for work, weekend or even a wedding or special event. Best of all, matte jersey is a pretty timeless fabric, works year round, and wrap dresses have been stylish for years and aren’t planning to go out of favor any time soon.

Holding On To The Past

I become emotionally attached to clothing. I think many of us do – I surely see it when I do closet clean-outs and wardrobe makeovers. People who cling to dresses three sizes too small, jeans with zipper ankles, Doc Martens, concert tee shirts because they remind the owner of a happy occasion.

With a max of four possible weeks left in this pregnancy, I have started packing up some of my maternity clothes. I know a few pieces will still be worn a couple weeks after the baby, but I packed up the items from the warmer months, or the pieces that just won’t be likely to be worn any time soon (hello skirt suit and tankini).

My plan was to sell that which I didn’t really love, and carefully pack that which I did in the attic. I try to inventory that which goes in the attic – I make a list which goes at the top of the container for easy reference, and label the outside of the container so I don’t have to yank open everything to find last summer’s shorts.

Well a friend found out recently that she is pregnant and due in June. I just can’t let these nice clothes sit in an attic until whenever, if ever I get pregnant again. So I re-invetorized my maternity wardrobe, not separating for sale. I figure I will let her use whatever works for her, and then afterwards decide what to sell.

As my husband slept, I put my pregnancy insomnia to good use and locked myself in my closet (oh yeah baby, I so need to take a picture of my new closet for you guys – I can sit in it!) and re-went through all my maternity clothes that will not be in current rotation. Some I hardly realized I even owned, some I won’t miss (hello white jeans from Ann Taylor Loft that seemed to grow a size with every washing), and some… well some almost made me tear up.

As with regular wardrobes, there are just some pieces you purchase without much of a thought that become a major part of your life. For me, it was my pink print matte jersey dress from Motherhood.

It was August, I went to Rehoboth Beach with my mom and sister for our annual girls’ getaway. We stopped at the Motherhood Maternity outlet. I have despised maternity clothing stores my entire pregnancy and just looked at the over crowded racks of acrylic sweaters and wanted to run as fast as I could. My sister however started digging through racks, trying to find great style at a great bargain. She came across this dress. It was my size, and it was only $9.99. I am not one for loud prints, but I decided to try it.

It fit, and it was cute.

Two months later, it still fit and still was cute.

If it weren’t 40 degrees outside, it would most likely still be worn, still fit and still be cute.

This dress was an easy go-to piece for me. It flattered my pregnant figure, it was cheery colors, it didn’t itch or bind but made me look appropriate for baby showers, nights out, work, and anything where yoga pants weren’t allowed. Every time I wore it, I received compliments from strangers. People told me I was a cute pregnant person, and my skin was glowing. Each time I put it on, my husband would smile and tell me how beautiful I was pregnant.

It’s so tempting to keep it in the closet… maybe I can still carry it off with a cardigan and leggings? Maybe it would still fit post-baby? Should I really lend it to a friend – what if it gets damaged?

Then I think of those tapered jeans, sequined tanks and fuzzy snowflake sweaters in the closets of my clients and friends. Those pieces that people hang on to from when they were smaller, younger, more daring, more sociable. They hardly ever see the light of day, and if the owner does get down to that size or back to that lifestyle – the item no longer is flattering or stylish. This dress, which got me through so much of my pregnancy may be something I find utterly repulsive in a couple of years. This dress, which brought me confidence and happiness could provide joy for another mother-to-be instead of collecting dust in my closet or attic.

Some times I think about clothes I no longer own and wish I still had them. Why did I get rid of my The Smiths tee shirt? Those perfectly worn vintage jeans from Moondoggies in College Park, that ivory Victorian lace blouse I used to wear with just a simple bra (oh yeah, the early ’90s – but I could sport it now with a camisole!)? Then I remember – I got rid of them because it was time. I know I don’t donate and toss willy-nilly, so there must have been a good reason. Maybe they were damaged, maybe they went out of fashion, maybe my memories of the garment are better than the actual thing.

Maybe we all are holding onto the past in our closets. Last night I took everything from my old closet and moved it into my new one, switching our dry cleaning hangers for proper ones, having everything hang in the right direction, and re-examining that which I felt deserved precious closet real estate. I ended up removing about five items that just were not proper style or quality. The year is ending, just a couple of weeks and we will be in 2009. What in your closet is not worthy of your new year self?

Guest Post at Already Pretty

I love Sally McGraw and her blog Already Pretty. She has an amazing sense of style, and gives wonderful advice that works for most any woman. If I lived closer to the Twin Cities, I would totally have her as my favorite shopping partner!

Sally asked me to do a guest post on her blog about pregnancy chic and I was happy to oblige, and honored to be considered. You can check out my post here!

Guest Post at Already Pretty

I love Sally McGraw and her blog Already Pretty. She has an amazing sense of style, and gives wonderful advice that works for most any woman. If I lived closer to the Twin Cities, I would totally have her as my favorite shopping partner!

Sally asked me to do a guest post on her blog about pregnancy chic and I was happy to oblige, and honored to be considered. You can check out my post here!

Thursday: Going Old School

Shirt: Target (similar)
Jeans: Gap
Shoes: Ivanka Trump
Bracelets: Nordstrom, Ann Taylor, Lauren Ralph Lauren, c/o Soft Surroundings
Earrings: Filene’s Basement (similar)
Bag: Sabina (similar)

My company moved offices a couple weeks ago and one of the many perks of our new location is a modern bathroom… with a full-length mirror! I had to be at work at 7am this morning so no fancy photos from my husband. Figured I might as well take advantage of an empty bathroom with good lighting!

If you can’t tell, I woke up and thought it was Friday. I knew I had a lunch to celebrate a coworker’s pregnancy, and somehow that got me in a Friday denim frame of mind. Good thing I didn’t have any client meetings on the books today!

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Maggy London: Black, lime and teal print matte jersey faux wrap dress
Callisto: The only shoes with a heel I can wear for longer than six hours… tan leather heeled sandals
Diamond Nexus Labs: Solitaire studs and necklace

Day 2

L’Oreal: true Match foundation in C3
Cargo: Matte BeachBlush in Tenerife
Cover Girl; lashBlast mascara in Rich Black
Revlon: Super Lustrous lip gloss in Pink Afterglow
Simple, basic look because running late today!

And what many of you have been asking for… in time for Week 22 of my pregnancy:
Here’s a baby bump picture for you guys! It’s finally starting to be round and less lumpy/bumpy!

Sorry for the posting lag – life has been BUSY! 🙂

Blogging Love – Interview!

I was honored to be interviewed by Elle of the new blog Label Ho. Elle’s discusses fashion and her personal style on this site. I love supporting fellow fashion and style bloggers so I jumped at this chance to have us get to know one another better!

You can check out the interview here.

I loved the questions she asked (and if you go back in her archives, you can see her answers to the very same questions!). The name of her blog cracks me up. It reminds me of when I was Editor of my high school yearbook. I had such the fight with the sponsor over the proper spelling of this word. “If you add an ‘e’ it’s suddenly a garden tool!” (Let’s not even get into why this word was in my yearbook – let me just state that my high school was a fabulous one where I learned Japanese and was in International Baccalaureate courses, but it wasn’t in the most chi chi of neighborhoods.)

Since she interviewed me, I decided to ask her a few questions as well. Get to know Elle!

Name: “Elle,” author of Label Ho, a fashion and personal style blog

Why did you start blogging? What could be better than writing and posting about something you love? I thought it would be a fun hobby and a great way to connect with other fashion-minded people.

Favorite item in your closet: An authentic vintage Gucci handbag circa the 70s. I love that its suede and doesn’t have the GG logo plastered all over it. I found the bag at a thrift shop and its in immaculate condition. Best of all, I got it for an excellent price!

Favorite Web site to visit: They have pretty comprehensive coverage of what’s going on in the fashion world, delivered in quick, short posts. I also like that they post great outfits that members of their community put together. I’m fascinated with seeing what people put together.

Top five items on your style wish list for this season: I can only think of three since I think I pretty much have most of my key pieces already:

1. Another pair of dark bootleg jeans. I’ve pretty much worn my favorite pair so much (Joe’s Jeans in the Honey fit) that the color’s faded significantly.

2. More dresses. I’ve purchased a few already, but I just can’t get enough. They’re so easy to pull on in summer.

3. A pair of wide-leg jeans. I’ve tried on a ton of different ones, but still haven’t found a flattering fit.

Outlet Mall Shopping

Yesterday I visited a major outlet mall in my area. Over a mile of stores – some with great bargains, some with great piles of crap. There have been many stories about discount stores – how some of the product is not on sale, the clothes are made specifically for the outlet and are not the same quality that the brand name usually delivers, etc. After all that, you find designer duds for less, when is it worthwhile to spend, when should a bargain be passed by?

If it doesn’t fit well for $300, still doesn’t fit well for $150 and even for $65, don’t buy it. Just because it’s a great bargain does not make the fit any better. Shoes that are too tight or too big, jackets that pull at the back, pants that would be lovely if you just lost 15 lbs., no matter the bargain these items should just stay on the rack.

If the jacket’s sleeves are too long, the skirt’s hem at an awkward length, the shoulders a bit too big, these things can be altered easily by a tailor. You must be in love with the piece and find multiple places and ways to wear it to justify the tailor expense. I found a cream silk linen suit at a discount store – the suit fit perfectly except for a broken zipper and too long of sleeves and legs. I bought the suit for $65, regularly $350, and for $40 had the zipper and hems all modified. I have worn the suit to work, to religious events and as separates for three years. That purchase was worth the added tailoring expense.

Often times the items at the discount store are there because they are leftover from last season. When it comes to classic pieces like suits, dresses and knits, this is not a problem. A blue merino v-neck is lovely almost every year, and more lovely when 50% off. The problem comes with the trendy p[pieces.

If Lindsay, Mischa, Nicole or Chloe was wearing it last spring, it’s a good chance that piece is passé now. Pass on the embellished jeans, the metallic leather bags, the rainbow-hued sunglasses and most other accessories. Just because it’s on sale does not mean it is a good buy. When it comes to scouring outlets, your best deals are the ones that will last through more than one season. Sweaters, suits, outerwear, cocktail dresses, leather goods and most shoes are great bargains if you find quality and value in the same item.

Name Brands
Just because you found a pair of Manolo Blahniks for $100 at the Saks Fifth Avenue outlet does not mean they need to be purchased. Do they fit your current style? Are they comfortable? Are they current or classic?

We have all seen the label whores – those women with a Coach purse, Jimmy Choo shoes that JLo wore last year, Baby Phat jeans, a Bebe tee with the rhinestone logo, Chanel sunglasses and a Pucci scarf in her hair. These items weren’t bought for the quality or the style. They were bought because a stranger could spot the brand a mile away. She looks trashy, obvious and victimized by fashion. None of these are appealing. Labels do not suddenly make you well dressed or well liked.

If you can find a Furla bag for 40% off and it suits your style as well as lifestyle – then go for it. If you are buying a bag purely because it’s Prada and you don’t like the style, size or fabric… well you have become a label whore.

Don’t buy that jacket just because it’s designer. Pretend that it is an unknown label – do you still like it? Do you still find it attractive and necessary? If not, put it back on the rack. That goes for ill-fitting designer duds, last season’s “It Bag,” obvious logo advertising (if it’s that obvious, it will be that obvious from last season – not worth your time or money) and damaged designer goods.

Damaged Goods
Many discount retailers sell the irregulars from a label. Some irregulars can barely be seen by the naked eye – may be an incorrect dye lot or the wrong buttons sewn on a jacket. Some may work in your favor – pants cut too short or sleeves that are too long or too narrow. Often times these stores received the garments that were damaged in production, transit or through many jaunts to the fitting room. Broken zippers, missing buttons, fabric snags are all defects that can easily be repaired or covered up if the price and style is right. However there are other defects that are not worth the purchase, no matter how low the price. Runs in nylon, stains, button holes at the wrong height, linings that do not align with the trouser, two pieces stitched together from two different dye lots. Even if it is Versace, it will look like Gallo Clothing on you if it is this defective.

Buying in Bulk
I used to be a huge fan of buying in bulk – find a tee shirt you love, buy it in eight colors and three of white and black. Flattering trousers? Buy one in every color. I then found that my wardrobe was like one big uniform… one big boring uniform. Mixing basics with fun pieces offers versatility, ease but individual style.

At outlet malls, buying in bulk is a good idea. Yesterday I was at the Banana Republic outlet and found high quality stretchy tees in tons of colors – $9.99 each. I bought one in black, one in white, one in gray and one in red. These shirts can be worn with jeans on weekends, with a little skirt for happy hour with the girls or under a suit for work. I found a great pair of wool trousers at Off Fifth, bought them in brown, gray and black. They were so standard and fit so amazingly well (and were only $39.99 each) that it was worthwhile to buy every color I liked. I knew with my work and lifestyle I would find regular use for such trousers. Another time I found a pair of really cute studded pointy heels from NYLA. They were 75% off and tres cute. I decided to buy them in hot pink, ivory and black, thinking that if they fit well, they would get much use. I was imagining sparkly tops and designer jeans with the ivory, a sexy power suit with the black, and envisioned an outfit a la Carrie Bradshaw for the pink. I took them all home, have worn the pink ones multiple times, and have barely touched the other two. I don’t wear designer jeans with sparkly tops on a regular basis, and don’t own a single chic black power suit. Those two shoes have barely seen the light of day. Consider your current lifestyle when considering to buy in bulk – items that look too familiar may not be worn and too many of the same thing may make them all too boring to regularly wear. Also, if you don’t wear red patent stilettos now, you probably won’t after purchasing a pair.

In conclusion, don’t buy just because of a label, or just because of an amazing price. Less money for an item is still money, and money should be spent carefully. Be willing to take the time to find quality purchases, not pick up every shiny bauble that sort of resembles what Gwen or Jessica wore last Spring. Fashion is not about the specific item, but the allover look. A Louis Vuitton bag or a pair of Chanel sunglasses will not make you a fashionista, the pairing with appropriate and complimentary pieces is what takes you from being a label whore or a fashion victim to fashionista status.

Wardrobe Staples for the Mom-to-Be

Many of you over the years have asked me about a maternity wardrobe. As that I have yet to be pregnant or a mother, I really didn’t feel qualified to properly answer this question. Luckily fellow reader Leta Boylan has taken on the task. Thank you so much Leta!

“Dear Allie:
Using your original list, and a few other “just maternity” lists that I found, I have synthesized a list of what pregnant women need to buy, clothes wise. I know that you have no kids, but trust me, as someone who has one and is planning on another, maternity clothes are important and difficult.”

For maternity clothes, you will need a smock, a caftan, a muumuu, a half-apron, and some white Keds… okay, bad joke. Just kidding.

Maternity clothes are only worn for a narrow window of time, so it helps to need to decide if you plan on having multiple pregnancies or not. Clearly, if you intend on having eight or nine kids, it makes sense to buy pricier, better made clothes.

Accept the fact that unless you have unlimited shopping time, money, and storage space, you will be making due with a much smaller wardrobe than what you normally have.

If you are buying new maternity clothes, Old Navy and Target’s Liz Lange line are inexpensive, and widely available both online and in brick and mortar stores. Ann Taylor Loft, though much pricier, has a wonderful line of maternity business wear.

Used maternity clothes are easier to find and usually of better, newer quality than normal (non-pregnant) thrift/consignment store stuff, and eBay abounds with wonderful maternity stuff. If you can find a garage sale with maternity stuff in your size, that can be great, but keep in mind that you should not buy maternity clothes just because they fit you. You will be wearing and re-wearing the same small number of pieces for at least a few months, so it’s important that they are clothes you like, that are flattering, and are in colors you normally wear.

I am generally in favor of buying maternity clothes, rather than regular clothes that are just too big, because they are cut for a pregnant belly, they will fit you better, you will look better in them, and you will be more comfortable, both physically and emotionally. There are a few exceptions to this, notably underwear and sweats, but be aware that the stretchiness in non-maternity clothes will be shot after enduring a pregnancy, so these items should be replaced once the baby is born.

Supposedly, you need to buy maternity clothes in your normal size. There are two problems with this thinking. One is that your butt, boobs, hips and thighs all grow during pregnancy- not just your belly. (Not to mention your ankles, nose, fingers and feet.) The second is the fact that, more so than regular clothes, maternity clothes tend to be sized XS, S, M, L, XL, and so on, rather than 8, 10, 12, and so on. Coupled with the recent, widespread spate of vanity sizing, making sizing even less consistent and more obtuse, it makes things rough on the expectant mom. If you can’t try on clothes prior to purchase, try to take detailed measurements of yourself and get detailed measurements of the clothes. And always, always, always, err on the side of too large rather than too small.

A big consideration in maternity clothes is your due date. Clearly, if you are due in February (in the Northern Hemisphere), you won’t need a bunch of maternity shorts, as most people don’t move into maternity clothes until the beginning of the second trimester. (If you are pregnant with multiples, however, all bets are off, and you may well wear maternity garb throughout your entire pregnancy.)

The First Three Are Essentials
I know a few lucky women who didn’t grow too huge during pregnancy and were able to get by with only these items.

1. A Belly Band
All this is is a wide, smooth piece of strong elastic. It can be worn folded in half, like a sandwich where your waistband is the cheese, or unfolded, covering your entire belly for support.

This little item will keep your normal pants on longer, allow you to look non-awkward in maternity clothes while your bump is still small, and help to keep your midriff covered. While the Bella Band is the most widely known brand, you can find far less expensive but nearly identical items on eBay. You may even be able to find a tan-colored version at a medical supply store.

2. Comfy, stretchy bust support.
In early pregnancy, your boobs hurt. Later, they grow. As a busty woman, I love underwire, but even I couldn’t hang during pregnancy, when I renamed them “torturewires”. If you have a certain neckline or event that requires a lot of support, then by all means wear a real bra, but for the most part, accept that being pregnant means less boobie-hoisting. You will need a minimum of three comfy, stretchy bust supporting garments.

Conventional wisdom dictates that you should go ahead and buy nursing bras, as these will be comfy during pregnancy and useful afterward. I have a hard time with this, because nursing bras are horribly overpriced, and I have not yet found one of even decent quality, much less one that lived up to it’s inflated price. I’m sure this has to do with being a 34F, but nursing bras were nearly useless for me. Also (and this complaint is not size related), nursing bras tend to require either special nursing tops, or limit your selection of normal shirts, which is why I would rather use tank tops and layer, as I discuss below.

A more frugal and practical alternative to nursing bras is to buy slightly bigger than normal sports bras. This won’t break the bank, so if you need to size up a couple more times during pregnancy, that’s okay. Also, a low cut, kinda loose sports bra works fine as a nursing bra. However, sports bras often have weird backs and very wide straps, making them harder to wear discreetly.

Therefore, my favored choice is nursing tank tops from Mamalama Wear. I started out with three and ended up with one in every color.

These have a built-in bra, and the straps unhook on either side for easy nursing. Besides the fact that these are obviously very useful once your newborn is out in the world, the bra is stretchy to accommodate growing/shrinking breasts, and they are soft and comfortable, with nary a wire to be found. Like all tank tops, these are seasonless, as they are wonderful for layering or wearing alone in hot weather. While a similar, Gillian O’Malley nursing tank top can be found at Target, Mamalama tanks come in a wider variety of colors, as well as coming a long version for those of us with long-torsos. If you carry very high, as you get bigger and bigger, you may find the tanks bunch up between your bust and your belly, making them harder to wear. Therefore, you may have to resort to the bigger sports bra or too-expensive nursing bra. However, many of us pregnant ladies will be able to sport nursing tanks the entire nine months and beyond with the help of the next garment.

3. Topless Undershirts
The only brand name that I know of for these is Blush, though I don’t doubt that knock-offs will soon appear on eBay. These are stretchy, though not made of heavy-duty elastic the way a belly band is. These allow you to stay in your normal shirts a lot longer, essentially by adding a lengthening layer. This is especially nice during in the second trimester, which tends to be the sticky wicket of maternity dressing, as most maternity shirts are still way too big. These are great with a cropped cardigan (or blazer, or jacket) and one of those nursing tanks. Isn’t this a cool look?

These are nice for post-partum modesty, too, because even if you’re thin enough to fit into your low riders again, it make take a while to get your tummy taught enough to want it to peek out. These are also nice if you are using a nursing bra and need to lift your shirt- the topless undershirt keeps your tummy covered, and the shirt covers your breast.

Again, get a least three, but buy one in every color if you want.

Everything Else

4. & 5. Two pairs of maternity jeans, the same sorts as Allie’s recommended jeans:
Get a casual flattering pair, and a dressier, darker pair. As a fan of low waists, I had a really hard time with belly panels, especially on denim. I much prefer the low rise, elastic band version, as it is more versatile during early pregnancy and post-partum.

6. Cardigans
These are the pregnant ladies’ friends. Get at least two in a regular length, one in black or gray and one in your signature color. Go ahead and buy some more if you want to try the sassy cropped look from above. Cardigans are great for layering and if you have your essential items from the list above, you need not worry about leaving those buttons undone and letting your belly poke out. You can get cardigans in virtually any weight, so no matter what seasons you’re pregnant in, you can find some that will work. This is one of the rare non-maternity items that will work well for a pregnant woman. These are also nice post-partum, as the front panel of a cardigan works well as drape for modest breastfeeding.

7. Seasonal Items
Thinking of the due date….
If you are due in winter, you will probably need a coat that fits and comfortable, solid footwear in a half to full size larger than what you normally wear.

If you are due in summer, you will need a bathing suit, 2-4 pairs of shorts and/or capris, and at least one flowy sundress or skirt. (As hard to believe as it is, when you are huge and it’s hot, you really are more comfortable in a skirt.)

8. Black Maternity Pants
Okay, this is a no-brainer. Even if you do not work outside the home, or work in a very casual environment, these are a pretty key item, for all the same reasons that Allie discusses on her list. Yes, these are dressy, not sweats or yoga pants.

9. A Black Jersey Dress, A Black Knit Dress, Or Both
This is the preggo-version of Allie’s Not-So-Little Black Dress. The hem on these should be just above the knee. I know it’s hard to believe, but the bigger you get, the more you will like dresses. They tend to be less constricting the most vital, burgeoning areas, and, unlike pants and skirts, have no waistband to do battle with.

I know some people will groan at more black (and there’s even more to come!), but we are shooting for versatility here, and like it or not, black is the most versatile clothing color there is. If you detest black, by all means, buy gray or another neutral, but be aware that you will get neither as much wear, nor as much use out of a dress of another color.

It should be easy to find both black knit and black jersey maternity dresses. These fabrics have a lot of give, but are still body skimming, making them perfect for expectant mamas. Clearly, if you are cold-weather pregnant, you will want knit, and if you are hot weather pregnant, you will want jersey, but both are seasonless enough to justify purchasing one of each, especially if you are in need of a professional maternity wardrobe.

10. Suiting
I am generally not fond of what some catalogs refer to as “wardrobers”- a blazer, skirt, and pants, all in the some color and material- because I feel that some of the pieces get more wear than others, and end up looking weird together.

However, if ever there was a time when such a thing was needed, that time would be during the pregnancy of a professional woman. Because you will be wearing them for such a short period of time, wear is not really an issue.

I would get two 3-piece wardrobers, one in black, and one in another neutral, navy or perhaps some shade of khaki. This will give you four suits, as well as four business appropriate bottoms. If you buy four shell tops to wear under your blazers, and eight other tops to go with your four bottom pieces, you will have three full workweeks worth of clothes. If you also pair the blazers with jeans on casual Fridays, you may never have to wear the same outfit to work twice.

11. Maternity Tops
This is the one you’ve all been waiting for, I’m sure. This is both where maternity fashion gets fun, and where the room for error grows enormous. If you are lucky enough to make it through pregnancy in your normal shirts with the aid of some topless undershirts, great. If not, here are a few rules of thumb:

-Don’t go through pregnancy swimming in your husband’s tees and oxfords. No matter what the magazines say, this is not cute. It looks goofy, or sloppy, or both.

-As in all clothing, avoid any sort of graphics or silly slogans.

-It will probably be worth it to buy one fancy evening top to go with your black pants.

-Maternity tops tend to be the least expensive maternity item, as well as being the maternity item with the most variety, so buy as many as you want/can afford/have room for.

-These are the wardrobe pieces that will reflect your personality more than any other, so have fun. This is where you get into color, and buy stuff with interesting details, or flattering necklines, or unusual sleeves. However, try to avoid button-downs. Most maternity versions end up looking like your husband’s oxford.

-As with all maternity clothes, keep the season of your due date in mind.

12. Shoes
Shoes are tough. Your feet and ankles will probably swell, and it’s a drag. If you must buy new shoes, buy cheap microfiber ones, not just because they won’t be worn long, but also because they will stretch. This is important, because pregnant feet are pretty normal in the morning, but swell to balloon-like proportions by mid-afternoon. Buy insoles and try to stay comfortable. And yes, after your baby’s birth, your feet will, in all likelihood, go back to normal.

Clearly, few people will need everything on this list. In trying to be comprehensive, I hit some things twice- I know that a professional woman who buys suiting will have no need for an extra pair of black maternity pants, and a woman who dresses casually almost all the time and is pregnant in warm weather will have no need for new shoes when she can live in flip flops. But I found so difficult to find even the most rudimentary maternity wardrobe lists that in compiling this, I wanted to be thorough yet flexible.

As a final note, don’t be conned into thinking you need a breastfeeding drape- these tend to be in the most awful patterns imaginable. If you can’t use your shirt, use a pashmina and remain chic.

I would love to hear any other suggestions; place them in the Comments so we can all reap the rewards!

The Wardrobe Stapes When You Are Expecting

The list below is not only from my experience from being pregnant, but complied after speaking to several other women who had been pregnant.  This list will give any woman who is expecting a simple, stylish wardrobe that should have her ready for most any situation that comes her way.

1. Not-so Little Black Dress
For pregnant women, I highly recommend the wrap style of dress. It is terribly flattering for the figure, it is usually of a really comfy non-itchy fabric like matte jersey, silk knit or a poly blend and it is versatile. A three-quarter sleeve length will work in almost every season – if you are in a warmer climate a flutter-sleeve or short puffed sleeve will keep you cool while flattering your softer shape. Add tall boots and a camisole for work, wear it with pumps for a wedding, pair with leggings and flats for the weekend.

The dress doesn’t have to be black, but black is more likely to look dressy if a wedding or evening event ends up on your social calendar. If you know in the upcoming months you won’t have such an affair, another dark solid color (chocolate, indigo, blackberry, charcoal) can be quite versatile. Use accessories like necklaces, scarves and camisoles to add color and interest to the dress. It’s better to keep basics like these solid so they are less memorable – easier to wear more often without looking as though you have a tiny wardrobe.

2. Black Knit Pants
Why do maternity fashion designers try to dress pregnant women in stiff chino? It’s not comfortable, it creases, it shrinks, it collects lint. If a maternity clothing line isn’t trying to get a pregnant woman to wear chino, it’s trying to get her to wear cheap polyester. Well if you search enough, you can find some pretty fantastic knit trousers out there that are worthy of the workplace but feel as great as your yoga pants.

Ponte de Roma fabric (also known as ponte) is a pregnant woman’s best friend. This fabric is a heavyweight, tightly-woven knit that has a refined finish. It stretches like regular cotton knit, but due to its weight and finish, it looks totally appropriate for the workplace and can dress up for dinner or a party. I found ponte maternity pants at Target and Old Navy but have seen them at many other retailers since my pregnant days. The ones I had were fashioned with a wide waistband similar to yoga pants – this kept the trousers comfortable through all trimesters, and the waist was nearly invisible under fitted tops. If you find a pair, buy in bulk. Have a pair for now, and then two pairs that are slightly longer (if possible) for your last trimester. My Target ones were too long and I kept putting off hemming them and was glad because come the end of the last trimester they were the only pants that were truly long enough for me. And by the end of that third trimester (and the first few weeks postpartum) I practically lived in those ponte pants (I even wore them home from the hospital after delivering Emerson).

3. Casual Cardigan
If you’re pregnant in fall and winter, this can be a sweater coat or swingy chunky cardigan. If you are due in the summer, you may want a lighter weight piece. A solid color, and a color you adore is a great choice. I had one in hot pink that not only coordinated with a few of my print pieces in my closet, but also made me look and feel happy and refreshed.

Pregnant women are hot one moment, and chilly another. Often times coats seem to be way too bulky and heavy for an expectant woman. Cardigans are a great way to have that extra layer to keep you comfortable, but can easily be tucked in a bag if you get hot.

Cardigans are also a great way to change the look of your maternity wardrobe basics. It can be paired with a tank or knit top for the weekend, with your black trousers for work. Put over a dress for a completely different silhouette. I also often tied my cardigan around my shoulders for a preppy look that also balanced out my bottom-heavy frame.

A basic cotton or wool knit is a great choice – I had a fine-gauge cotton one from Ann Taylor LOFT that had a jewel neckline and simple buttons. It laundered well, was simple enough that it could be versatile, and didn’t scream maternity. Similar ones can be found at most any maternity fashion retailer – steer clear of too many decorations and embellishments – a simple cardigan will get you more miles of wear and will be more likely to look stylish if you keep it for a future pregnancy (or if you hand it down to a pregnant friend or relative).

4. Dressy Cardigan or Soft-structured Jacket
This is a cover-up that is a bit more refined. It may be a cardigan with pave or pearl buttons, or even a jacket out of ponte or boiled wool. Something that isn’t structured, isn’t lined, but can make a pair of pants and a knit top look a bit more professional or sophisticated. Paired with jeans and a tank, it still can look great for the mall or brunch with your gal pals.

I had a collarless jacket out of ponte that was not maternity. I bought it before pregnant from the Banana Republic Outlet, but it worked up until the end of the last trimester. It made basic knit tops and my ponte pants suddenly look appropriate for a work meeting. I also would toss this jacket over my maternity dresses to look a bit more professional, or to ward off chill on cooler fall days. I was a pregnant person who got hot easily, and I can remember using this jacket as my fall coat – I would loop a pashmina or scarf around my neck to cover my front and the ponte jacket would keep my arms and back warm enough for my comfort level.

5. First Half Jeans
Your belly won’t be the only thing that is different in the latter part of your pregnancy. I found that jeans I ADORED in the first several weeks of having a bump I despised in the third trimester. You may like a demi belly band, and now you love a secret fit; before you may have liked the maternity panel and now you like the jeans that don’t have any stretch and just sit under the stomach. And really… you won’t know until you get closer to that time. So buy yourself a pair or two of well-fitting jeans now, and have a fund ready for the ones you will need in a couple of months.

For these jeans, a dark color and even rinse will be the most elegant, most versatile, most slimming. I liked a straight or slightly bootcut fit because it balanced out my shape. Flares look even more exaggerated with a baby bump and skinny jeans can easily make you look like a lollypop. Jeans with a hint of lycra will be less likely to stretch out, and will fit longer.

Don’t be in a rush to hem them to the perfect length – as you get larger, you will find that you require a longer inseam. Err on the side of a bit too long – it will get you more miles. Also, the further into your pregnancy you go, the lower the heel of your shoe will most likely be.

6. Second Half Jeans
See above.

7. Low-heeled Black Pumps
Pregnancy does not give you a license to wear hideous footwear. I wore low heels all the way until the day I entered the hospital. In fact, a low wide heel can be more supportive and comfortable than a true flat. Leather is dressier than suede or other fabrics (and easier to polish up and look new).

A black pair of pumps (can be peeptoes, mary janes or slingbacks) will be so useful. You can pair with trousers or dresses for work, have an easy way to dress up your not-so LBD for a festive occasion, and if it’s well made, it will be your favorite footwear as time goes on.

This is something I did NOT have when pregnant and desperately wish that I had. I instead found a pair of brown suede mary janes from Sofft that fit the bill. They had a vintage feel to them – wide rounded toe, thicker stable heel, a little leather and suede flower on the strap. They stretched when my feet grew, they had a lovely padded insole, and the heel was high enough to look feminine but low enough that I could walk to the Metro or wear them all workday without being miserable. If only they were black and leather, I would have found they went with my entire wardrobe, instead of just a few random pieces.

8. Tall Flat Boots
Another item I wish I had. I had mid-height boots, and I wore the heck out of them.

With dresses, you feel more covered. With leggings, you look less naked. When it’s cold out and all your tights are too short, you can cut the feet off your tights, tuck them into your boots and no one is the wiser. Boots will balance out the short hemlines of dresses as your belly grows. Leather boots can protect you from the elements without being too hot, and can offer support when you swell.

And finally, some days it’s hard to look sassy when you are pregnant. Somehow a pair of tall boots can make an entire outfit look more posh. Tall flat boots are fantastic post-partum as well for this same reason.

Riding boots are a classic – dark brown or black. Keep a simple, classic look and you will get years of wear out of them – from pregnancy and beyond.

9. Black Leggings (or Heavy Opaque Tights)
You will get to a point where you have no desire to put on anything that binds, itches, constricts, has stiffness, or doesn’t feel like pajamas. On top of that, as you get closer to the end of your pregnancy, you will find that many of your dresses look more like tunics. A pair of black leggings or tights (I had some maternity tights from Spanx that I adored, and found a cheap pair of leggings from Liz Lange for Target) will get a ton of wear, even if you are currently a leggings-hater.

Pair with your dresses and black flats or tall boots. Wear with a longer top and a drapey cardigan and boots for a casual weekend.

10. Two Really Supportive Bras
Your breasts will change. They will get bigger, and heavier. Your old bras will not cut it any more. You will look better and feel better with good bras.

Find one with a bit of padding and it will protect overly sensitive nipples as well as become invisible under knits.

11. Bella Band
Some people find these a waste, but I found it had so many uses for me.

Before I fit into maternity wear, I could use it over unbuttoned pants to keep them up and look smooth under tops. Once into maternity clothing, I found many pants slid down and the Bella Band did a great job at holding them up. Last few weeks of pregnancy, the Bella Band covered the part of the tummy (and maternity panel) that now too-short shirts did not. Postpartum, the Bella Band again helped hold up too-big maternity pants and cover open zippers on non-maternity trousers. When nursing, the Bella Band could be worn under non-nursing tops to cover the midsection.

Black is a good choice – it will be less visible with your black trousers, and also work well with jeans. White can be too casual looking and since it is made with Lycra, can look yellowed or old over time. Some come with lace or trim; you will get more mileage and style with a simple one free of adornments.

There are different brands of these bands – no need to go with the Bella brand. However, one made of plain stretch jersey may not hold up as well or support as much as ones like the Bella Band which have a high percentage of Lycra and are of a tightly-knit fabric. My Bella Band still looks brand new, after so many washes and wears (and being worn since by two other friends who were expecting).

12. At Least Three Knit Tops
I really don’t know why so many maternity designers make tops out of cotton and poplin. Like trousers, a pregnant woman wants fabrics that don’t crease, chafe, or require ironing. The further you are in your pregnancy, the less you will want to wear itchy, stiff, constricting garments.

These knit tops are not standard maternity tee shirts. These are made out of a refined jersey, a soft synthetic that drapes, even a silk jersey. They are solid in color, and have interesting details like blouson or flutter sleeves, a surplice or ruffled neckline. They are tops that feel as comfy as a tee shirt, but can be paired with your black knit trousers and a necklace and look smashing for work or play.

Choose rich, delicious colors that make you feel fantastic. Neutrals may seem the way to go, but after morning sickness, swollen feet, round ligament pain and insomnia you could probably use a bit of color to your day. Candy pink, bright aqua, leaf green, teal blue, royal purple, garnet red – these are colors that will look polished and refreshed.

Keep in mind that you will get warmer than usual as the pregnancy continues – long and tight sleeves may not be the most comfortable come third trimester. Also, many women’s arms grow along with their bellies. Consider something that floats (yet still skims your curves – too much volume is not flattering for anyone) for longer wear and comfort.

13. Two Long Ribbed Tanks
Black and another neutral appropriate to your color palette (chocolate, heather gray, white, bright red). These can be paired with the cardigan or jacket, put under a knit dress for modesty, worn to extend the wear of pre-maternity attire, and worn under all those maternity tops that will be far too short come the end of your third trimester. Look for a high quality knit – heavy weight, lots of stretch, color saturation.

Don’t expect a maternity tank to necessarily be long – look for ones that advertise themselves as longer so you can be sure that it really will cover that one inch of belly that always ends up showing in those last couple of weeks.

14. Two Jersey Knit Dresses
Sometimes pants can be a pain. Dresses are simple one-item dressing, and they can make you look put together even if you feel that your world is falling apart. Knit dresses are comfortable, cool, washable. They don’t wrinkle, they fit over your belly, and if cut well, really flatter your frame.

Solid colors are again the way to go – have one in a neutral, and one in a delicious hue. When choosing colors, consider the rest of your palette and pick one that will compliment your cardigan, your jacket, your tanks. Keep things in a simple color palette, and you will spend less time staring at your closet and sighing.

A wrap style is always a great choice for a pregnant frame; also flattering are dresses cut on the bias, and dresses with surplice necklines. Look for a defined empire waist for shape (no one looks good in a muumuu).

Pair with a long-sleeved tee and tall boots for colder days, and sandals or flats and a long beaded necklace for warmer months. Your accessories can transform this dress so that you can wear it every week and not look like a broken record.

15. A Pair of Slip-on Shoes/Flats
The further you are in your pregnancy, the larger your feet will probably get. You also may be unsteady on your feet. On top of that, it will become harder and harder to touch your feet (let alone see them). Having a pair of shoes you can slip into will be your saving grace.

A simple ballet flat can be chic, but usually doesn’t have the support necessary to baby swollen tootsies. Look for a simple flat that has a proper sole and arch support. Peeptoes are sassy in warmer months, a classic round-toe flat (plain or with bow or other simple adornment) is always chic, a Mary Jane can provide a sweet touch to a simple wardrobe. Be sure the shoe has a non-slip sole. I had some simple slip-on gladiator-style flats that I wore while pregnant, but they had a leather sole and I slipped a couple times, once falling on a sidewalk. You’re not only eating for two but living for two – be smart and choose a rubber or other sort of sole that grips the pavement.

Some tips for pregnancy style:
– Don’t shop exclusively in maternity boutiques. I personally only got two items from a classic maternity shop, and they were on the clearance rack at their outlet. Your favorite non-maternity brand may have a pregnancy line, many department stores have a more extensive line of maternity clothes online, and the majority of these retailers offer free returns as that they do not sell the pieces in their shops.
Check eBay. I found a cocktail dress, sundress, and wool peacoat all on eBay and paid less than $15 for each one.

– Ask friends… and friends of friends. Your best friend isn’t your size? Well her coworker who just had a baby may be. She may be willing to loan you some pieces or at least sell you some for a great price.

– You don’t have to wear only maternity clothing. One of my favorite dresses when pregnant was a dress from the Merona for Target line. It was charcoal gray, ponte knit, with a defined empire waist, scoop neck and short puffed sleeves. It was a bit long, so on pregnant moi it came to the knees. I wore this dress every week, and even to my shower. I had another dress that was non-maternity and I wore until the last few weeks (another style with empire waist). I even had a pair of ponte knit trousers from Old Navy that weren’t maternity but I wore through all three trimesters (once my belly popped, I wore them below the bump and at the end wore with my Bella Band). If you stick to the concepts above (solid colors, knits, wrap styles, empire waists) yet check the non-maternity sections, you may end up finding a couple winners.

– You aren’t being frivolous or selfish to purchase a maternity wardrobe. It seems as though it is a blip in time, but these months are an important time. You will have a changing body, changing emotions, changing lifestyle. It will be easier if you have the right armor to deal with it all. When you feel attractive, you exude that confidence. You stand taller, you have more energy, you have more grace. If you purchase quality and simple pieces, they can be stored and worn again for your next pregnancy (or the pregnancy of a friend or sister). My maternity wardrobe consists of some pieces from other women I knew who were my size and weren’t planning to have more children, and my collection has been loaned to two friends who got pregnant. Also, if you don’t plan on having any other children, maternity clothes are quickly gobbled up on eBay and Craigslist for a good price.

I also have a few other posts that deal with maternity style:
Pregnancy Must-haves
Ask Allie – Pregnancy and Beyond
Before and After Maternity Clothing
Wardrobe Staples for the Mom-to-Be
My guest post at Already Pretty about Pregnancy Chic

And finally, to really be inspired by pregnant women with style, please check out these blogs:
Boutique Girl at Things a Boutique Owner Sees
– Academichic’s posts from when one author was expecting
– You can see what I wore while pregnant during 2008 (gave borth January 8, 2009)

If you know of other women who have photographed their maternity wardrobe on a blog, please share those links!  I know I found such photos very inspiring when I was expecting!

My Wardrobe Today – Thursday

Shirt – Talbots (similar)

Skirt – Ann Taylor (similar)
Tights DKNY
Shoes – Jessica Simpson (similar)
Necklace – c/o Ann Taylor (no longer available online, matching bracelet)
Bracelet – Ann Taylor (similar)

New Shoes! Like? Filene’s Basement in DC is going out of business and I stopped by the other day on my way home from work. I got these for about $35 and they are surprisingly comfortable (unlike my other Jessica Simpson suede heels). The place was a crazy mess last Friday – I didn’t even go downstairs to look at apparel.  I had to search four boxes to find the mate to these shoes, grabbed a three-pack of black socks and headed for the register.  Everything is now up to 70% off in stores, if you’re willing to risk your life, step over craziness and dig deep, you may be able to find some great deals on fashion!

By the way, these shoes are a 7.5, the size I wore before I got pregnant.  I was a solid size 8 after having Emerson, which I have heard is completely normal.  Lately some of my shoes feel big – could I be going back to 7.5 again?  Any of you experience this years after your pregnancy?  Thanks!

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Weight Watchers Update

The big smile on my face isn’t because I am engaged (still happily married), but because MY ENGAGEMENT RING FITS AGAIN!

Seriously, this is the best Mother’s Day present EVER! At least once a week I try on my wedding set, hoping that it will fit. Each time, no luck, can’t even get it over the last knuckle. Then Sunday morning I tried it… and it slipped right on! The wedding band doesn’t fit yet (it was always a bit smaller than the engagement ring), but that’s okay. Baby steps!

This week I removed 0.2 pound. Nothing spectacular, but it’s better than a gain. I was more active, I was tracking more than the previous week, making smarter decisions. I’m okay with this small amount because it is still progress and I didn’t feel deprived this week or as though I was on a diet.

And even though it is only two tenths of a pound, it was exactly what I needed to get back into wearing a ring that I haven’t been able to fit since the first trimester of my pregnancy!

Fellow Weight Watchers folks, how was your week?  What successes did you have, what learning experiences did you encounter on your journey?

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What I Wore: It’s Myne

myne heidi dress hobo bags clutch zippers myne heidi dress review

Dress: Myne | Bag: Hobo Bags (similar) | Shoes: Nine West | Glasses: Zenni Optical | Bracelet: Had forever (similar) | Lipstick: Revlon ‘Certainly Red’ | Ear Cuffs: Etsy (here and here)

I wrote about this dress in this post. A lot of you wanted to see me in it since I am a very different shape from the model, but it has been too cold to bust out this lightweight silk dress until now. When I bought it I figured I’d style it with peeptoe ankle booties and my wide silver metal plate belt, but once spring arrived I decided I liked it a bit more stripped down. The dress is by the brand Myne, and each time I read the label I say, “It’s MINE!” in the whiny voice I use when I read Emerson her book, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Share.  As an FYI, this is a size 10; I originally got a 12 but found it too long for my petite stature.  The 10 fits comfortably but the belt that came with it is too small (no biggie, the belt is kind of ugly and cheap looking).

If you signed up for my monthly Style File newsletter you know that I recently got these glasses. They’re huge, they’re bright, and they’re a lot of fun for a very low price (hello prescription lenses under $30!). I’ve been wearing a lot of red lately – I’ve been doing a red lip almost all winter and have been choosing OPI’s Big Apple Red as my nail polish of choice for almost a year. It made sense if I was going to buy some funky glasses to have them in my current signature shade!

Little Bits of Luxury: The Series

With age comes wisdom. It’s taken a while, but I have learned to truly buy quality instead of quantity. I unsubscribed from most retail emails so I am not wooed by 50% off (if I didn’t need it at full price, I don’t need it now), I rarely enter a mall because I know myself and I will leave at least $100 poorer with bags full of things I don’t need and will likely collect dust. When I visit a store like Target or TJ Maxx I have a written shopping list that will be a visible reminder to stay on track. And in the past year, when I have added to my closet I have looked for what I can remove – to store for the future, to donate, to sell, to admit defeat and cut up into rags.

And the things I purchase are better quality too. Now I am no Martha Stewart, so for me quality is likely Nine West, Etsy, L’Oreal. But I have learned it’s not about the name on the label, but how the piece works with my life and performs in the long run. Be it bras, BB cream, baking dishes, or boots I research, save, and buy the best within my budget. This also goes for luxury items (and items that are luxurious just to me). I have never admitted being a minimalist, and with age I have learned that some luxury items just make life better (and are far kinder to the body than cupcakes and nachos). I’ve also learned that luxury can come at all pricepoints, and some of the best indulgences are quite kind to my wallet.

I’ve found that series on this blog are some of my most popular posts on Wardrobe Oxygen. And so my newest series will feature little luxuries I indulge in, and how I budget for them, and why they are worth it. I hope you enjoy!

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What I Wore: Real Red

Dress: Belle c/o Dobbin Clothing | Bag: “Erin” Satchel c/o Fossil | Tights: Nordstrom | Boots: Ros Hommerson  | Bracelets: had forever, Nordstrom (similar) | Watch: Citizen c/o WatchCo | Coat: Via Spiga

Fossil was kind enough to send me this bag and I immediately fell in love with the color. It’s not cherry, it’s not tomato, it’s not ruby or oxblood or any other fancy terms. It’s as clear and true of a red as a crayon. I checked the bag’s label and it’s called Real Red. I like that, no crazy made-up name, just what is exactly is. This bag is pretty phenomenal, and perfect for a commuter like me. Two side zipper pockets to hold things like farecards and lip balm, and inside there is a zipper pocket on one side, and the other side five different pockets to hold anything from a Smartphone or your keys to business cards and a pack of gum. And in this bag I have my wallet, Kindle (did you enter my Kindle giveaway?), makeup bag, myAgenda, sunglasses, gloves, journal, and two reusable containers to hold my lunch. Impressive! The crossbody strap is adjustable to become a shoulderbag, or it can be removed. I know this bag is going to be used quite a lot this season!

I never understand why street style models and bloggers wear their coats on their shoulders like a cape.  How can they move their arms?  Why not just put on the coat?  Then I realized on cold days I do this very thing – I wear the coat like a cape from the house and over my shoulders until Karl gets ready to take pictures.  This way my outfit doesn’t get as rumpled and I’m less likely to mess up my hair.  Karl got this picture of me in the coat at the beginning of the shoot and it showcases the coat I bought last winter on a whim and still adore a year later (and it’s still available at Nordstrom and now on sale!).

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What I Wore: Issa for Banana Republic

I’m not a fan of designer collaborations. I don’t understand clamoring for a cheaper version of a designer piece. I don’t want a glued-together pleather bag or ill-fitting polyester blouse no matter what name is on the label. However, once the Issa Collection came out for Banana Republic I was intrigued. Banana Republic already has good quality and fits me relatively well, and the pieces in the collection were things I would buy no matter the designer. I liked the kimono dresses, and felt this print was one I would wear now and five years from now, in spring and in winter. For those considering this dress, I chose a 14, and yes, they do run short (it’s veering on not work appropriate and I am 5’3″). However it’s made extremely well, a heavy matte jersey that feels good and is a style that I think would work if I gained or lost weight. And you know me, I waited until it was on sale, Banana Republic was having a big sale, and I had reward dollars!

And how great is this bracelet? Wearing gold jewelery? No problem! Silver? No problem! Everything goes with this piece from Ruth Barzel, and I love that it’s rock and roll while still being elegant. I’ve been wearing this bracelet a ton lately (check my Instagram for proof), I like it mixed with other bracelets, but with such a bold dress, I felt it looked best all by itself.

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My Wardrobe Today – Monday

Skirt – Ann Taylor (bought on eBay 5 years ago for $14.99, no clue how old, label style unfamiliar to me)
BootiesCole Haan
Scarf – c/o Nordstrom Rack
Silver cuff

I forgot to set my alarm last night. My body woke me up at 7:15 (glad it wasn’t 8:15) and I had 45 minutes to get myself together and out the door. I had pulled this skirt out of my stash of potential winter things and a month ago it was just too tight, too short, and I thought I would re-eBay it. I pulled it on this morning since it was sitting on the cedar chest at the foot of the bed… and it fit! Only thing wrong is I guess the hem dry rotted and has fallen out while wearing (easy to fix). Very excited to have another leather skirt in my arsenal!

New bag – I had $40 in Nordstrom rewards, saw this bag for $129 and decided to try it.  I have wanted a bigger bag to carry my netbook and such, and wanted a soft black purse (currently have my Banana Republic one which is that textured hard leather like a football). Love the bag, so soft, holds so much, necessary front pocket (with magnet closure) and hey… gotta love such a quality bag for only $89!

Sorry for the delay in posting, work has gotten really hectic. Glad I stocked the office fridge with Lean Cuisines because that’s the only way I get to eat anything. The only time I have left my desk is to hit the printer or the bathroom (and refill my water bottle!). Whew, what a crazy couple of weeks!

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Contest: Tolani Scarf from

jessica alba tolani scarfTo celebrate me coming back to work and to blogging, I have a great contest for you readers!

One of you can win a Tolani scarf that has been seen on the likes of Jessica Alba (pictured), Sienna Miller, Vanessa Minnillo (pictured), Halle Berry and Mary-Kate Olsen.

The Tolani scarf is courtesy of, an awesome site that sells hip women’s designer clothing from the likes of Black Halo, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Diane Von Fürstenberg and Vera Wang Lavender Label.

I am so excited, because you KNOW I love scarves, and these beauts from Tolani are fabulous!

vanessa minnillo tolani scarfHow to enter:
Send an email to with the word “TOLANI” in the subject.
In the body of the email, please provide your name and mailing address (I promise these addresses will only go to me – except for the winner, and will be deleted once the contest is over). Winner will be chosen by random.

Contest ends Friday, March 20th, 2009 at midnight ET. Winner will be contacted by email. Scarf will be mailed out from Sorry international readers, but the contest is only open to those in the United States.

Get to know
Facebook (friend “shop chickdowntown” and/or become a fan of the chickdowntown page)
Twitter (
YouTube ( or

Good luck!


Black cashmere tank from Banana Republic, black ponte jacket from Banana Republic Outlet, Chinese red shantung skirt from Banana Republic (definite theme here!), leopard peeptoe heels from BCBGirls, gold necklace from Express, gold bangles from Ralph Lauren.

Hair was washed and conditioned, dried with my Croc wet-to-dry iron. No products.’

Makeup is L’Oreal True Match concealer in W1-3, Benefit’s That Gal, philosophy The Supernatural in Beige, Nars blush in Orgasm, Revlon ColorStay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis – ivory over whole lid. Lashes curled, two coats Cover Girl Lash Blast and one of Imju Fiberwig. Maybelline Ultraliner in black on top lash line and on lips is some Revlon Shiny Sheers in a sheer red that I left at home by accident so do not have to read the label.

I am not really sure what is going on with the layout of my posts; I have not done anything different so it must be that Blogger is being stupid again.

This outfit is inspired by Catie’s contest at Cuffington. This outfit makes me fabulous inside… though notsomuch when I walk past my reflection in a window. I adore this skirt, it is so much fun and the color is awesome. The cashmere tank is really thick and I have had it for years and got it for like $10 on the clearance rack. Jacket has given me many miles and I love its versatility and the shoes… oh I love these shoes so much I have two pairs of them! All that is missing is my silver cuff, this great green ring I bought at a Ren Fest and my wedding tiara and I would be wearing almost all my favorite things! 🙂 Too bad this skirt isn’t the most flattering (the one my husband says makes me look like Mimi from Drew Carey) or I would wear it every week! 🙂