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Wardrobe Oxygen and Maternity Fashion

Maternity clothing is surprisingly expensive. Items that would cost only $30 at your local Big Box retailer will be $45 or more at a maternity store. If they are a reasonable price, you are usually losing out on style and quality. A recent trip to a popular maternity chain store was a major disappointment – clothing I wouldn’t be caught dead in were being snatched up by desperate fellow pregnant sisters.

When you’re pregnant you still need to function in the Real World – you need appropriate career wear, clothing to keep you cool during the hot summer days, dresses that will let you look elegant and the next wedding or company function, swimwear and gym wear so you can stay healthy and active. Retailers know this and know they have you by the teat; they up the price, lower the quality and force you to purchase that which you would normally never touch with a ten-foot pole. It’s the same scheme they have for those who purchase plus-sized garments – want style? Well you will have to pay twice as much. Want basics at a decent price? Well you’re going to have to buy sub-par fabrics, gaudy prints and slipshod fabrication. Let’s not even start with the options if you are petite or tall!

Well if you don’t read my other blog, you may be wondering why I am even writing about maternity clothing. I am pregnant and due at the end of December.

I believe all women have the ability to look and feel beautiful within their budget – and I think that should hold true for pregnant women.
The days are gone where pregnant women are forced to wear polyester muumuus or pastel frilly confections covered with bows. Major retailers are starting maternity lines (hello Gap and Ann Taylor Loft), high-end department stores have extensive maternity lines, and hot designers are starting to see that there is a major market for stylish maternity clothing and are getting on the nine-month bandwagon.

However with all these updates, maternity wear, like plus-size fashion is still severely lacking. Women are judged to all be one height, with the same size of breasts and rear. Fashion is horribly basic and casual, or high-end and not budget-friendly for most parents-to-be who have to save their pennies for diapers, not Diane von Furstenburg.

Throughout this journey of pregnancy, I will be offering you reviews of items I have found are stylish, flattering and that fulfill the needs of a pregnant woman. As with traditional fashion, I hope my reviews will work for more than one shape, size, income or lifestyle of woman. I encourage fellow pregnant sisters to offer their suggestions in the comments (as long as they follow along these same lines). We can all learn from another during any fashion journey – maternity shouldn’t be any different!

To those who are not pregnant – have no fear this is not becoming a maternity or mommy blog. I am only adding this facet to Wardrobe Oxygen because of an obvious need on the Internet. The primary focus of this blog will still be providing style tips that can be used by almost any woman, regardless of age, size, income or lifestyle. I have reviewed a few products lately and plan to write about them, and will have some articles coming about hot topics facing women right now. I apologize in the lack of posts in the past several weeks but I hope this explains it a bit. My hope is to return to posting on at least a weekly, if not more regular basis. I thank those who have stuck through and hope to hear from all of you very soon!

Maternity Fashion Review – Liz Lange for Target Tankini

Swimming is one of the best exercises for pregnant women, and nothing is more enjoyable than a weekend at the beach or pool with friends or family. Thing is, maternity bathing suits are often unflattering, or terribly expensive. Where can a woman find a well-made, flattering and supportive suit that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg?

Friends with kids have told me to check out Target online – the store selection of maternity clothing is hit or miss, but online the selection is far more extensive, and the styles are pretty stylish and flattering to a broad range of figures. After seeing dowdy suits in gaudy prints, or $80 suits at my local department store, I headed to target.com in hopes of finding a decent suit for my upcoming beach trips and to get in a few laps at the community pool.

A great feature of the Target Web site is that it offers customer reviews. Target customers do not seem afraid of submitting comments, so I have found over time that these reviews have been extremely helpful in making online purchase decisions. Looking first by price (less than $40 was my budget), style (I want something that is feminine and flattering, simple and elegant, looks expensive), and then by reviews, I decided to order the Liz Lange® for Target® Tankini Top with Bottom (picture to left). This looked like a suit I would actually wear when NOT pregnant – a must for me during these few months. I knew a halter neck would be flattering as well as supportive to my large bust, and the tankini style would be more likely to fit my petite frame. Going by reviews and knowing what size I have been purchasing in maternity wear, I choose size Large (before pregnancy I wore a 10 or 12 in swimsuits and always chose a D-cup variation).
As soon as I received this suit I knew I would be pleased. The fabric is of good quality, seams well structured, proper lining throughout. The drawstrings on the sides were well fashioned and moved easily in their casing. The halter neck closed with a tie instead of a hook which made it easier to custom adjust to one’s frame. The bottom was well structured with a wide waistband that would be less likely to roll down; the leg openings are conservative but not matronly.

The drawstring feature on the sides is quite a nice touch – fully gathered, they work to gather the belly and have it fit closer to the frame. Drawstrings loosened, the belly is looser and works for later months of one’s pregnancy.

A size Large seemed perfect for my growing belly (loose but not baggy, quite loose with the drawstrings untied), properly covered and contained my breasts, and the bottom seemed to almost fit, and would probably stretch or go under the belly as I became larger.

Reviews on the Target Web site stated that the suit’s top is quite low-cut. It isn’t conservative, but I found the neckline appropriate, not too revealing and quite flattering. The fabric covered and stayed in place even when swimming and playing in the pool. I find that when a woman has curves, showing a bit of them is actually slimming, and this suit does elongate the body and make one appear more slim.

I took the suit out for a spin at the local community pool (picture to left – sorry but I am not going to post a full-length picture online). The synthetic fabric wasn’t slippery when wet (this often happens with synthetics, causing ties to loosen) and it didn’t become misshapen or separate from the lining (again something that happens with cheaper suits). After laps, water aerobics, and playing around in the water the suit didn’t stretch out; once dried it was the original size straight from the packaging.

However, the suit does grow a bit in water, as do most fabrics when wet. The bottom which seemed to almost fit suddenly was far too large in the belly, and a big baggy in the rear. I had to hold on to it when doing any sort of quick activity like laps, a somersault or flip turn. This may be a good thing in future months, but at 15-16 weeks I think the suit is more geared toward standing and gentle swimming. The top still fit and was secure in the bust, but due to being so early on in my pregnancy the belly part of the top was incredibly loose – so loose the water encouraged it to float to the top of the pool, leaving my entire belly exposed. Again, this may be a good thing in future months for it shows that it will have room for a growing tummy. Neither aspect makes it a bad suit, just that I am still in that in-between phase of not pregnant and really showing.

I spent several hours in and out of the pool and never had to tug at the suit to put it in place. It did not chafe at the leg openings, and though the top and bottom were a bit too big for me, I still think it is a fine choice for sunbathing, occasional dips in the Atlantic and cooling off at the community pool. In a few weeks, I think the suit will fit well enough to do laps and engage in water aerobics classes. If one needed a suit that was secure enough for water athletics in the early second trimester, I would recommend a one-piece style. However if you wish to be a bathing beauty now and weeks from now, I can strongly recommend this tankini from Liz Lange® for Target®.

Shopping Tip: Before heading to the Target Web site, search online for some sort of deal. Target rarely offers coupons, and their shopping deals are usually well displayed on their site and immediately added to your Shopping Cart. However there are many affiliate shopping sites like Ebates and Upromise that will give you cash back, college funds, points towards future purchases, etc. that partner with Target. Five minutes of research may put an extra few dollars in your pocket (or your future child’s college fund!).

Ask Allie: Before and After Maternity Clothing

Happy news, my husband and I found out we are expecting an addition to our family at the end of this year! I am in the end of my first trimester and I am experiencing major bloating and even a bit of a belly. I don’t look pregnant, I just look fat. To top it off, we haven’t yet told our loved ones or either of our bosses. What can I wear where I can look chic and not like a whale? Also with the heat, my morning sickness and fatigue, can you suggest easy-care looks that make me look polished even though I just puked up my breakfast half an hour earlier?

Well first things first, congratulations! How very exciting for you and your husband!
Best choice, and that which is available in most any store? Dresses! Shifts, trapezes, empire waists, baby-dolls, maxis… all these dresses are very in style and not clingy to the tummy area. A dress is a great wardrobe item for any woman, pregnant or not. It’s easy to slip on, in the right fabric it’s easy to launder, and it’s comfortable on the most humid and hot of summer days. Pair with some flat leather thongs, open-toe wedges or gladiator sandals and bold jewelry and you will look chic while hiding the boat and beginnings of a baby bump. Linen and cotton are great for shift styles because they breathe, have some structure so they don’t cling, and can usually be tossed in the gentle cycle, hung up and wearable the next day as-is or with a quick swipe of the iron. Jerseys and gauzy cottons are good for the baby-doll styles because they are more floaty and won’t stick straight out from your growing breasts. Pairing with a long necklace, more voluminous styles will be weighed down so you don’t look like a whale, but still hide the belly.
Keep it simple and monochromatic. If you are wearing a navy blouse and navy capris, your tummy will be less obvious than if you choose khaki pants. Wearing a monochromatic outfit is an easy way to look polished – don’t always stick to safe black, an outfit in all shades of brown, khaki, gray or even greens can be just as slimming but far more cheery.
Don’t drown yourself in fabric. Your bloating and belly is far more noticeable to you than it will be to others. Most will just think you have packed on a couple of pounds – something they won’t dwell on and very soon you will be able to explain! Baggy clothing usually makes us look bigger than we actually are. If you wish to have a little extra fabric at the tummy to hide the belly, loo9k for an open neckline, cap sleeves, a shorter skirt to counteract the fullness of fabric. Rouched and gathered fabrics at a hip or the side of the waist does great things to hide a bit of a tummy – wrap and faux wrap dresses and tops will whittle the waistline and distract one from the actual tummy.
Finally, take care of yourself! Spend extra time on your hair (maybe go get a cut that’s easier to style), wear flat or more comfortable shoes, get yourself a supportive bra for those growing breasts, invest in an extra-moisturizing body wash and gentle body exfoliant and understand you are creating a wonderful thing in that expanding, bloated body – don’t be so hard on yourself.

How is it possible to wear cute clothes while your body is changing shape without looking pregnant? Since the last thing a new mom wants to do is look pregnant! I have been living in nursing tanks from Target, yoga pants and jeans… my ass has vanished, but I have a muffin top that could take out the state of Delaware – I am the epitome of an apple shape right now. Oh and I need tops/dresses that allow for easy boob access. This is an equation that I have not been able to figure out the answer to- help me!

Congratulations, what an exciting time for you and your family! As that I know this reader outside of this blog, I know her style is very classic and preppy. I have them tailored my answers to that, though I think these would work for most any personal style and can be adjusted with color, accessories and necklines.
First things first, your body may not be the way it looked pre-pregnancy, but you probably don’t look as pregnant or mushy/weird as you believe to be. :) However there are many parts that are not the way they used to be, and with the nursing deal, your clothing choices will definitely be different! I know you weren’t an apple shape before hand, but as a current and life-long apple I can offer a few suggestions:
Nursing tanks are fab for this time of year, try dressing them up with a cotton skirt with a drop waist or a-line shape. Amazing how a printed skirt in cheery colors can take a boring tank and make it look like an outfit. I know necklaces and earrings may get grabbed and pulled, so a chunky wooden or plastic bangle or a few metal ones will add a feminine and fun touch to the look.
Wrap dresses are awesome, I cannot stress this enough. The wrap style will whittle any waist and the top is easy to slide to the side for nursing. In matte jersey, you don’t have to worry about wrinkles, throw it in the machine, let it hang dry and it will be ready the next day to wear. Matte jersey is also wonderful because it can be dressed up or down – with flops or sandals it’s a quick outfir for running errands or visiting family, with heels it’s a great look for church, work or a day wedding. Also great about these is that if you lose the tummy, the dresses are still cute and flattering – knit wrap styles usually work a size up or down from what you purchase.
I am a huge fan of drawstring linen pants. Just as comfy and washable as the yoga pants, but seem more chic. Victoria’s Secret has them super cheap – like $30 each and they come in lengths. The white is completely transparent, but the flax color works with nude undies, the black and brown are pretty versatile, and with some gladiator sandals, gold bangles and a scarf headband you can rock safari chic while feeling as though you are in your PJ’s.
Wrap tops are also great. You can usually find knits or matte jersey in a faux wrap or true wrap style. I have also been seeing quite a few pretty (and on sale!) wrap-style tops specifically for nursing in popular maternity clothing destinations. These tops look just as pretty as a classic wrap top, but are made to work well for the task at hand!
With your old wardrobe, pants and skirts that don’t quite fit can be made due for now with a belly band, or one of those extenders they sell at maternity shops.
Floaty tops are an easy thing to run to, but they often make you look heavier than you are and make people wonder if you are still expecting. If you wear a peasant or babydoll style of top, it should be in chiffon or a very lightweight fabric so it doesn’t tent out. Pair it with slim white or dark jeans to show your whole body isn’t that size. Don’t pair them with shorts, even slim bermudas because they really create an ice cream cone shape.
Steer clear of busy prints on top. People are drawn to them because they are fun and they think work as an optical illusion, but they often work against your curves. Keep the prints to the capris, the skirts, the Bermudas and solid knits on top and you will look more put together, and also slimmer.
As an apple, have your tops hit at your hip bones, not higher (emphasizes the tummy) or lower (makes you look heavier). Knit is your friend, not skin tight, but with a shape that skims your curves, a top this length will de-emphasize the midsection. Also look for creative necklines – v-necks, u-necks, halters, polos with buttons that hit lower than traditional length, wrap or surplice necklines all elongate and draw attention away from the belly.
Treat yourself to some fab shoes – nothing jazzes up an outfit of staples better than a cheery color of ballet flats, some gold sandals, something with a print or a quirky bow. It’s a great way to get the Carolyn back into your wardrobe without spending a ton, and having to ditch it when your body starts changing again. Somehow an old tank and knit pants looks polished with great shoes, a piece of jewelry and some lipstick or a scarf.
Finally, become friends with your tailor. Some of your pieces that you already own can have a few modifications to make them more flattering to your current figure. Far cheaper to shop within your own closet!

Your Maternity Wardrobe – Being Stylish Without Breaking the Bank

You’re pregnant, you have nothing to wear, you can’t fit into your current clothing too well, hate or can’t afford most maternity clothing, and feel as though you will have to hide in your house in a muumuu until the little one makes his or her appearance.

You search the Internet looking for creative ways to make due with what you have, getting confirmation from complete strangers who don’t know you from Adam that it IS okay to wear your husband’s work shirts with yoga pants, that it IS okay to let your current bras give you quad-boob for just a few more weeks, that it IS okay to have your clothes be too tight and feel horrible on that growing stomach.

Well I am never one to tell people to spend money they do not have. There really are ways to stretch your current closet, stretch your wallet and still look pulled together and polished through your pregnancy. 

However, not all pregnant women are created equal. You must STOP comparing yourself to your older sister, your husband’s cousin, your coworker, your mom, your best friend. One may have started showing at six weeks, another may not have shown until 26. Your breasts may have gone from B to DD in a month’s time while your neighbor’s only went up a half of a cup size. Your colleague survived an entire pregnancy with only a Bella Band and a maternity LBD while you don’t seem to fit into your old size 8s, or even new 14s. Your friend is only a week ahead of you, yet she has a perfectly mounded baby bump and you look as though you ate two bags of Cheetos.

It’s okay. The biological aspect of your pregnancy won’t be exactly like someone else’s and how your body reacts won’t be either. This doesn’t mean you are deformed, unhealthy, fat, or wrong in any way. It just means you are human, and you are working your body to create another human as fabulous as you!

So stop going to those message boards to see if you’re a freak of nature, stop crying in front of the mirror, and love those new curves and that baby bump, even if it currently looks more like a loaf of challah bread instead of a basketball. Read the next few suggestions – not all will work for all women, but hopefully some will help you find a way to feel good, look good, and still have money left over to furnish that nursery!

1. Empty Your Closet. Your life may be a whirlwind right now, but this is a project that will save you time and money in the end. Take everything out of your closet – those bridesmaid dresses, your power suits, your out of season garments and your current attire. Then honestly assess each item. Those that can NOT fit no matter what but are items to treasure and baby (the suits, the dresses, the wool coats); store in a cloth garment bag or other closet so they are out of vision. Nothing is more depressing than feeling as though you’re fat or deformed and seeing your favorite cocktail dress mocking you from the corner of the closet. It’s okay and completely expected that it won’t fit right now – treat it well, and take it out of sight until after.

Now look at the rest of the collection. Anything else that is in great shape but either doesn’t fit now or won’t fit by time that season rolls around, carefully pack up and put on a high shelf, under the bed, or in an attic. This means the tailored shift dress, the nipped in blazers, the lined slim-fit trousers… anything that is uncomfortable before even pulling up the zipper or buttoning the front. Again, this process is about saving time each morning and saving your sanity.

What is left? Most likely it will look an awful lot like what I had leftover when I did this process – lots of dresses with some percentage of stretch in them (or made in a trapeze/babydoll fashion), a few pairs of jeans, pants, capris and shorts; a handful of knit or slightly unstructured jackets, some sweaters and knit tops. Now you need to try these items on and be honest with what is in the reflection. Is the skirt too short now that it has to accommodate a changing body? Can it REALLY look flattering and appropriate with dark tights or over jeans, or are you trying to fool yourself? The top fits in the belly, but are you exposing too much cleavage to feel comfortable? Can it work with a cami underneath, or will it ruin the silhouette? Does it fit everywhere, but is cutting off the circulation in your arms? As I always say – it’s better to have quality than quantity. Anything you feel you need to justify will just leave you feeling awkward and uncomfortable when you finally wear it. You have enough on your mind – remove all the items that you will have to constantly adjust and fiddle with to keep yourself properly and comfortably covered.

Now, what to do with those pants and skirts that do fit if you could wear them unbuttoned? Keep them in your wardrobe rotation. There are fabulous products out there called belly bands that are made specifically for this. Crafted of stretchy lycra or a similar material, these items can go over your open waistband to keep your bottoms up, and your underwear out of sight. I have one in black and they have extended the life of my work trousers, and even weekend Bermuda shorts. Ingrid and Isabel is famous for their BellaBand, but you can find similar products in maternity stores, on eBay, and if you’re feeling crafty, can whip up a few on a Sunday afternoon. You don’t need 50 – choose one or maybe two (if they are on sale) in colors that will work with your wardrobe. I invested in only one in black since most of my wardrobe is black. They may poke out under tops, so choose one that fits your sense of style as well as your wardrobe palette.

Now consider all those tops and dresses that would be fine if they covered more cleavage. You may want to either invest in a cami or two, or modify a few you already own. The great thing about cleavage-covering camis is that all people see is a little triangle of fabric. No one needs to know that you sliced off the bottom half, sliced it open, cut off the front, etc. Take a pair of scissors to your current black or white camis and make them belly-friendly. Make sure to trim carefully so it doesn’t roll under your clothing or get a run in the fabric. Don’t want to destroy what you love and plan to wear after the baby is born? Get thee to H&M, Target or even Goodwill and get a few super cheap camisoles. Don’t spend dough on maternity ones if all they are doing is keeping your breasts covered; save that money for the baby (or a pedicure!).

Now that you know what you have, and what you need to make it really work, put it back in your closet and drawers in an organized manner. Your body can change from day to day, it is very possible that you will think Monday night you will wear your blue dress but by Tuesday morning it will no longer fit. If you keep your wardrobe tidy, it will make last-minute outfit changes less stressful and time consuming. Hang up still-clean clothes as soon as you take them off, spot clean when possible and make an effort to have these few items at the ready as often as possible.

2. Invest in Transitional Pieces. Get yourself that belly band and a few camis. Don’t put it off, because that just makes your wardrobe all the more frustrating. No time to head to the mall? These items are so simple and standard you can usually score them from an online boutique at an equivalent price. Search on your lunch hour or while pasta water is heating for free shipping, coupons, or sites like eBates that will provide you with cash back on your purchase. Go ahead and put the items in a Shopping Cart and have them ready come payday to purchase.

3. Realistically Assess Your Lifestyle.
The staples for a woman’s wardrobe can sort of go out the window at this point. Your wardrobe doesn’t need to be ready for whatever life throws you, but what you realistically will be encountering over the next couple of months. You don’t need to get a LBD if you know there won’t be any dressy events in your near future. If you are an SAHM, you don’t need tailored trousers and silk blouses. If you are a corporate woman, you may not need more than one pair of jeans and a knit top or two. However, do think about what you DO need. Do you have client meetings? Church? A conservative office? Think about your pre-pregnancy wardrobe and what items got the most wear, and keep that in mind for your pregnancy clothing additions.

4. Borrow from Friends. This hasn’t worked for me because I am short and curvy, and all my friends who have children are not that same combination. However, many women who are pregnant know other women who were and will be happy to give or lend some wardrobe staples. They may not have trousers in the right length, but they may have a few knit tops, or even a belly band they would be willing to offer for a few months.

However when borrowing, use the same discretion you used when digging through your current wardrobe. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you should take it. If it’s not in good shape, if it doesn’t fit properly or isn’t something you would enjoy wearing, it’s okay to say no. Our friends are our friends because they are unique and fabulous in their own way – you don’t have to like everything they like. You love blues and greens and your friend is offering three yellow dresses? Don’t take them just because they are free. You will already be having a hard time adjusting to a rapidly changing body, changing hair and skin; you don’t need to feel weird in a color or style that doesn’t fit your personality. It’s better to have less that you like, than a bunch of things you don’t.

Also if you have friends, who wouldn’t be offended, borrow or get non-maternity clothing from them. Maybe your mom has a few cute tunic tops from Chico’s that you usually wouldn’t wear but now seem like comfortable and fun wardrobe options. A friend who recently lost weight may have kept hold of some of her old clothes that are just a size or two larger than your original size and may now work for you. This is especially great for things like casual knits and outerwear. Again, don’t take what you won’t feel good wearing. You’ll be happier in the same black pants every day, than in garments that make you feel less than pretty, or less than yourself.

5. Hit The Thrift. Visit your local thrift and consignment stores. Yes, you will have to dig through tons of stonewashed denim jumpers and shorts, but occasionally you may strike gold. A friend found a Diane von Furstenberg maternity dress with tags still on it at her local Goodwill for only $8; a petite friend of mine found her entire maternity wardrobe at thrift stores (just as with sales racks, thrift and consignment stores often have the best stuff in the smallest sizes). She spent $40 in total and ended up with enough clothes to properly outfit herself for an office work environment and even a few weddings and holiday parties.

If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Your first visit may be horrible, but the next trip may be fabulous. Find out when they restock racks, if they receive shipments on a certain day, and even ask friends and family to search shops on your behalf. Give them guidelines (8,10 or medium, no denim, no prints, only the brands X, Y, and Z), but know that with such low prices, if they get you something you don’t love you can always re-gift to another expecting lady or re-donate without losing out.

6. Be Friends with eBay. As I type this, I am wearing a dress I got for $6.90 including shipping. Last night when I got home from work, I changed into one of three tees I got as a bundle for 99 cents plus shipping. eBay can be a pregnant woman’s best friend, or worst enemy.

As with any other eBay purchase, you need to be careful. Shop from reputable shoppers, know the brand they are offering and how it fits, as questions if the listing doesn’t answer everything. Have a price you aren’t willing to cross, and don’t cross it. So many times friends tell me they get so caught up in the thrill of the chase on eBay that they end up paying the same amount (or more!) that they would in a store. Do your homework and know what price this item is currently (or would currently) sell at a store. Shop for specific things, don’t wander aimlessly and remember what you bid on so you don’t suddenly get hit with having to pay for five different won auctions at the same time.

I have spent a total of $18 (including shipping) on eBay since I have gotten pregnant and from it have a pair of Gap jeans, a Liz Lange for Target dress, a casual knit dress, and three pretty tee shirts. You honestly can’t find those sorts of bargains at your local maternity store’s clearance rack.

7. Accept Your Changing Body.
Your breasts are going to get larger. How much and how quickly, that changes for every woman. Not only will they get larger, they will get heavier, more sensitive and often time just plain hurt. To try to stuff these breasts into your old bras is sheer torture and not healthy. Yes, bras can be expensive, but as with clothing you can often score some great bargains. Victoria’s Secret often has their bras on a two-for deal. I got two of their lightly lined cotton bras for 2/$20, online found a coupon for 15% off AND free shipping. $8.50 a bra, and they are smooth enough to go under lightweight knits and are in fun colors that make me smile. No, they aren’t the best made bras, but they will do and they keep my breasts feeling comfortable and shaped properly. Gap Maternity Online also has some good deals on bras – I got a smooth skin-colored tee shirt bra for only $11.99, had a coupon from a previous online purchase and had a promo code for free shipping. Often times you can find better prices online than you can at your local Big Box retailer – it’s worth a quick Google search before you head out to the mall.

As for underwear, if you can still fit into your pre-pregnancy underwear, awesome! I, the queen of thongs has had to retire most of them due to my new figure. Don’t tell anyone, but my cotton boyshorts from Vickie’s are now more comfortable worn backwards, and at 21 weeks I find the best fit and the least VPL from traditional briefs. I am one to encourage women to wear beautiful and feminine lingerie, but there’s nothing beautiful or feminine about pulling wedgies, having dents in your hips, or binding panties on a woman. Look for lightweight fabrics to discourage VPL, and fun colors cost the same amount as white or gray.

The end of the first trimester you may start feeling a bit unsteady on your feet and as you get into your second and third trimesters, you may have a fear of falling. You may have been a high-heel woman but by now, the extra weight, the lack of balance and the swelling tootsies may make that near impossible. I know it’s hard, I am a heel girl myself. However save yourself, your baby, your feet and your back and get a few shoes lower to the ground. If you do feel you can still rock the heels, consider a thick heel or a wedge for more stability and look into attaching non-skid pads to them. I am one who adores my shoe collection, but has started to wear the same 2-3 shoes all the time because they are comfortable and sturdy. Keep those shoes in the closet and use them with your post-baby transitional attire to get yourself back into the style swing of things. For now, be realistic, be comfortable and be safe. If you wear black a lot, a pair of black flats, Mary Janes or booties may be a great choice – look for a versatile style that can work with skirts, jeans and pants. Softer leather and fabrics will be more comfortable as feet swell. Consider a second pair in a color that makes you happy – much maternity clothing is in black and neutral colors – a pair of magenta ballet flats or emerald peep toes will add cheer and personality to your look.

8. Get out of the Maternity Boutique. There is nothing more overwhelming than a maternity boutique, especially if you are early on in your pregnancy and are starting it off with a less-than-perfect figure or budget. They are good places to stop to see many styles, and to also use that little stuffed belly attachment under clothes to ensure they will fit months from now. However if you do decide to shop at a boutique, walk past the front display, and work the store from the back to the front. Hit the sales racks first, and then look at full-priced items. Grab what size you think you are, and then one bigger or smaller (each brand seems to run differently). Take a friend who will give you an honest, yet gentle opinion. Bring a bottle of water to rehydrate. If the store his too crowded, too hot, too messy, the salespeople are too pushy, LEAVE. Return policies on maternity clothing are usually very strict and the last thing you want is buyer’s remorse with raging hormones.

Visit maternity sections of department stores and big box retailers. Shops like JC Penney will have surprisingly reasonably-priced and simple styled pieces year-round. These departments are often more relaxed (no pushy salespeople or jammed racks) so you can take your time to try things on, and usually have a better chance of getting your money back if you get home and change your mind.

Also don’t ignore the online boutiques. Shops like Old Navy have extensive online maternity collections, and most shops that sell maternity provide free return shipping if you change your mind. Gap, Target and Ann Taylor Loft often have amazing sales on their online maternity collections. A bit of Googling will often find you coupons for free delivery or at least a couple bucks off your entire order. I have found great career-wear, dresses and weekend attire most for under $12 each at the above mentioned shops and find the quality to exceed what I find in maternity-specific boutiques. If you sign up for these stores’ emails you will often receive a welcome coupon, and be notified before the public of upcoming sales.

9. Don’t Buy Maternity. When trying to have a budget wedding, experts often suggest a bride choose a bridesmaid dress in white or ivory because it will be a fraction of the cost of an actual bridal gown. The same holds true for maternity clothing.

Now, this suggestion doesn’t work for all shapes of women, but for many of you, searching the clearance racks in a size or two larger can often find you some gems at great prices. Look for items with stretch and that would flatter a bulging baby bump. Many knit pieces like yoga pants, matte jersey and sweaters with lycra will work quite well through many months of your term. If you are petite, you may want to also look at the regular sizes so you have enough length to accommodate the belly, and alterations may have to be made in shoulders or hems by a tailor. However, you can often score some amazing deals that will make these adjustments worth the money.

10. Accept Style, Not Fashion. These are really two different things, and there is no better time than when you are pregnant to accept this. You don’t need the current trend of jeans, designer brands, It shoes, accessories and certain fabrics to look fabulous through your pregnancy. In all honesty, the simpler maternity fashions are far more stylish than the overpriced or the ones attempting to recreate a runway trend. On the other hand, don’t think that just because you’re dressing for two, you have to dress in a manner that is outside your normal look. One can still be simple, chic, funky, artsy, bohemian, a rocker, an artist, a lady, a prep and be pregnant. If you didn’t live in cotton button-downs and capris before the baby, you don’t have to succumb to them now. If you didn’t like black before you were expecting, you aren’t doomed to wear it for the next few months.

Yes, the maternity stores will be chock full of overpriced designer jeans, crazy prints, sexy tops, and more pastel striped cotton tunics than you can shake a stick at. If these are within your sense of style and budget, go for them. However most of us are the type who want simple versatile pieces, coordinating colors, and items that won’t itch, bind or put us into debt.

It’s okay to have just two pairs of pants, one or two dresses and a few tops. So what if you wear the same black pants three times in one week – if they are clean and flatter, it’s totally okay. You are not entering a fashion contest, you are pregnant! Look for simple pieces that are less memorable so they can be re-worn often. Choose fabrics that are easier to care for – that cotton top is adorable, but do you want to have to iron it before each wearing? Same goes for dry cleaning – the more you can clean in your home or laundry room, the more often you can wear the garments, the less clothing you actually need in your wardrobe.

Choose a palette and stick to it. If you keep a wardrobe of browns, creams, reds and purples your collection will go farther. Blacks, grays and jewel tones like purples and greens also work nicely together. Whites and khakis can go with most any neutral or bright. Having a palette of 4-5 colors will make it easier when shopping, easier when making an outfit each day, easier when purchasing shoes and accessories. A simple color palette is also a great way to make cheaper items look more elegant. Stick with mostly solids, few pieces that fit well and wash well, and bring out your personality in accessories.

You may also wish to visit:
Maternity Fashion Review – Liz Lange for Target Tankini
Wardrobe Oxygen and Maternity Fashion
Wardrobe Staples for the Mom-to-Be
Before and After Maternity Clothing

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?

A Minty Miss – My Experience with StyleMint and JewelMint

If you follow fashion and beauty bloggers, I’m sure you have heard of JewelMint, StyleMint, and ShoeMint. These are celebrity-sponsored sites that offer a monthly “showroom” of pieces based upon your personal style.

You start by filling out a survey of your personal style – are you more Zara or J. Crew? If you’re getting a pedicure would you rather read InStyle or Cosmo? From this, the Mint site decides what from their collection is most appropriate to your taste and creates your custom showroom. The collection is updated each month, so you have new pieces to choose from.

The idea is fabulous – jewelry designed by Kate Bosworth and her stylish friend, shoes picked for you by Rachel Bilson, tees via the Olsen twins (and skincare via Jessica Simpson, though I won’t be discussing BeautyMint site in this article).

All of these sites are subscription sites – once you make your first purchase, your credit card is on file and you will be charged every month. You have the first five days of the month to dash to their site to say “skip this month” or else you will be charged the monthly cost ($29.99 for Style and JewelMint, $79.99 for ShoeMint).

Last year, I won a “gift certificate” to JewelMint. I had a devil of a time trying to figure out how to use it, and realized in essence it was just a free credit for the site. I went to the site, and wasn’t too impressed with the options – my skin doesn’t react well to rings not made of silver or platinum, I am not really an earring person, and I don’t like delicate necklaces. However, they had a green pendant on a longer gold chain that looked promising.

My JewelMint necklace

The necklace came quite quickly, and I was impressed with the packaging. A glossy mint green box with magnetic closure, the necklace was carefully displayed on a velvet-covered foam box insert. The packaging was so pretty and luxe, I felt I was getting an item from a high-end designer. Then I opened the box… and was underwhelmed. The necklace was… fine. The quality was average to below average – lightweight, a weird color of gold that looks fake even from several feet away, an odd length of chain. A stylish friend said it looked like a piece from Forever 21 and I had to agree.

My JewelMint bracelet

JewelMint has a referral program – get others to join with your custom URL and you get free credits towards more jewelry. I ended up acquiring four credits in 2011. Each month I would go to JewelMint to use my credits, and leave with nothing. Seriously, I could get free jewelry and couldn’t find a single thing I would actually wear. Last month I saw a gold link bracelet that looked promising and used a credit towards it. Again, the piece arrived very quickly, and in quite luxe packaging. And again the piece is underwhelming. While this bracelet is a better color of gold, it’s still lightweight, simplistic and should cost less than $29.99. I have heard from friends and fellow bloggers that pieces have turned their skin green and have broken in just a couple months’ time.

Even with my less-than-awesome experience with JewelMint, I was curious about StyleMint. I respect Mary Kate and Ashley’s personal style and taste. Also,the blogger A Girl in Boston had the StyleMint “Venice” tee and I liked how it looked on her. I also got an email from StyleMint for a discount on my first purchase so I decided to give the site a go.

Based on the size chart on StyleMint, I got a size 5/XL. With my shoulder, arms, and bust I usually err on the side of too big with tees to get a flattering and work-appropriate fit. While I felt the cut of the “Venice” tee would be cute with jeans on weekends, I was also hoping to wear it sucked into pencil skirts for an office-worthy ensemble.

As with JewelMint, the purchase arrived quickly and was wrapped with care. At first glance, the tee looked pretty nice – a soft lightweight knit that had a luxe, silky finish. Unlike cheapy big box retailer tees, there was care to have the stripes line up at seams. I liked the neckline – a slim hem that would look appropriate with a blazer or for casual wear.

The other night I tried on my tee… and it was huge. HUGE. The sleeves were so long they went past my fingertips, the neckline gaped and displayed a bra strap, and the swing cut made it look like a maternity piece. With all these Mint sites, returns are accepted but it cannot be worn, washed, must be in its original packaging, you need to contact them for a shipping label, and while shipping is free there is a $5.95 restocking fee.

I looked at the label – 100% cotton (though online it says 50% cotton, 50% modal), though it said to wash on gentle and lie flat to dry. I decided to throw it in the washing machine and dryer in hopes it would shrink. It did – not a lot, but enough to make it wearable. I was pleased to see that the color did not fade, and the knit held up nicely through the machines.

Me in the StyleMint “Venice” tee

Yesterday I wore this tee, and I like it… okay. It’s a beautiful color scheme, and a unique silhouette, but I don’t know if it’s really worth it for a tee sight-unseen, especially with the return process. The swing style is a bit too short to be flattering on most – even my sister agreed that a couple more inches would make the style more wearable (able to tuck in), and more flattering. It’s nothing dramatically awesome, and by looking at this month’s options, I don’t really know if any of them are. While the price is reasonable for a designer brand tee shirt, I don’t really consider StyleMint to be a designer brand, just associated with designers/style icons.  I would rank the quality and style to a store like Gap or LOFT.

These Mint sites are great if you have a pretty standard size or personal style and crave something new each month. However, they can quickly become expensive if you aren’t quick to manage your memberships. Unless you tell them otherwise by the 5th, these sites will charge your card each month, whether or not you purchase anything.

The cancellation process for these different sites vary – for StyleMint you need to call them during business hours, for JewelMint you can send them an email. I sent an email today and within a couple of hours, they replied saying it had been done. I was pleased to find it so simple, no attempt at wooing me back with discount codes, just a cancellation notice and request to rate the customer service experience.

I have not tried ShoeMint because I am a hard-to-fit person. I know certain brands fit me best, and prefer to have the ability to try the shoe on in the store.


Have you joined any of these Mint sites? What are your experiences with the product or the service?

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Ask Allie: Corporate Attire When You’re Expecting

I am almost 12 weeks pregnant and my regular clothes are starting to get tight, so I’ve started scouting out maternity clothes. I am having the worst time finding business appropriate maternity wear, which is actually what I need the most of. Do you have any suggestions, particularly for the days I am meeting with clients and would normally wear a suit?

I’m not sure why maternity apparel retailers think all pregnant women want to look like children or sexpots. If it’s not boring tee shirts and ill-fitting chinos, it’s bodycon dresses and twee ruffles and prints. When I was pregnant I not only wanted to maintain my personal style but also look professional in the office.

Before you buy a bunch of maternity clothes, try to get your regular wardrobe to extend as long as possible. Many of the maternity things I purchased early on I could only wear a month before I outgrew them, or body parts grew in ways I didn’t expect and things weren’t comfortable or flattering. I used a belly band for a while to extend the life of pants and skirts, and then switched to maternity pants and a couple longer or maternity tops with the cardigans and jackets already in my closet. In fact, I can recall being seven months pregnant at a client meeting in black ponte maternity pants, a maternity blouse, and a black ponte jacket I had from before I got pregnant. When your belly is really big, no one expects you to be as buttoned up as normal and an open jacket will usually get a pass, even in a more conservative work environment.

I also got away with dresses that had higher necklines (pregnancy increases the cleavage) with a cardigan or blazer. I had one black maternity blazer I wore quite often, sometimes with a blouse and pants, more often than not thrown over a dress to make it look corporate.

Focus on accessories – you can transform that same black matte jersey wrap dress with each wearing with a switch of accessories. An oblong scarf looped at the throat or a short silk scarf knotted at the neckline; a long strand of pearls or a short statement necklace; silver brogues or black kitten heel pumps.

Sometimes just buying a jacket in a size or two larger will work just as well as maternity. You mentioned in your original email that you are a cusp size like me – check out stores like Talbots who have Womens Petite sizes, where you can get a larger size without it being too big in the shoulders or length of sleeve.

There’s a lot of prints found in the maternity department, I found that by wearing more subdued colors I automatically looked more professional. A black or navy dress can pass for corporate attire far better than one with pink flowers all over it. Not only that, solids are less memorable so you can get away with wearing the garment more often.

While featuring the belly has become quite stylish in the past years, one place it is not appropriate is the office. In a corporate environment, neither men nor women should be wearing tight clothing to highlight any body part. Wearing a stretchy dress from pre-pregnancy days can be gorgeous for Date Night or a social occasion, but for the office look for dresses that graze the figure but don’t cling.

You mentioned a few retailers in your original email, but I didn’t see A Pea in the Pod. Many women bypass this retailer because it carries designer and more expensive maternity clothing, but it also carries career wear, and the kind you wouldn’t feel ridiculous wearing. When I was pregnant I bought a maternity three-piece suit in black – blazer, pants, and skirt. This way I could mix and match without it looking as though I was wearing the same exact suit to every meeting, and could wear the pieces individually for more casual work days. Right now most of A Pea in the Pod’s blazers are on sale for under $100.

Ebay was my favorite place for maternity fashion – such clothing is worn so little, that you can score like-new pieces for amazing prices. I typed in “maternity suit” in the homepage search field, then narrowed down by women’s fashion, then suits and found over 50 listings, one being a classic black Liz Lange pantsuit for $49.00. I found higher-end maternity like Olian and Japanese Weekend for less than $40 on eBay, and ended up selling a lot of my quality pieces on there to recoup some of my costs.

Department stores (including Target) have a better maternity selection online than in their stores. Many offer free return shipping for maternity since it’s not available in stores. I found many a great piece from JC Penney, Target, and Nordstrom for reasonable prices.

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Friday

Again working from home (well my mom’s home since my house is under full construction at this point).

Attire:
Gap Maternity – Gray silky jersey top
Old Navy Maternity – black ponte trousers
Silver cuff

Hair: Washed and conditioned night before, air dry, straightened in AM with round brush and dryer

Beauty: Philosophy – The Supernatural foundation in Beige, Nars – Blush in Orgasm, Clinique – Shadow duo in Like Mink, Long Wear lipstick in Beauty (eaten off by time this picture was taken), Cover Girl – LashBlast mascara in Rich Black

Thursday

Attire:
Gap Maternity – Dark gray jersey top
Old Navy Maternity – Black ponte trousers
Naturalizer – Black “Creston” flats
H&M – Silver necklaces
Silver hoops and cuff

Hair:
Next day – alarm didn’t go off (power failure) so I got ready in like 5 minutes.

Beauty:
L’Oreal – True Match foundation in C3
Nars – Blush in Orgasm
Clinique – Shadow in Think Mink (the light color), Longwear Lipstick in Beauty
Cover Girl – LashBlast mascara in Rich Black
Maybelline – UltraLiner in Black

Friday

Sister came over so we could have a family bond. She, my husband and I had a fabulous salad for dinner:

Herb mix salad
Sliced seedless green grapes
Chopped Fuji apple
chopped yellow pepper
Chopped peeled cucumber
Gorgonzola cheese
Chopped walnuts
Homemade vinaigrette

And then for dessert we had these delicious fabulous treats, that my sister baked. Tres yum!

We then watched the debate. They had champagne with the cupcakes, I had water. :)

Black ponte maternity trousers, gray jersey maternity top from Old Navy, hair air dried, no makeup, black flip flops from J. Crew. Yeah, it was that sort of day!

Thursday

Attire:
Kenar: Purple jersey top
Liz Lange for Target: Black maternity trousers
Limited: Silver and purple necklace
Callisto: tan heeled sandals (down to very few comfy shoes… but I won’t crack and buy black sandals this late in the season)
Silver hoops and cuff

Hair:
Washed and conditioned night before and air dried
Straightened with Croc wet-to-dry flat iron this morning
Small amount of Jonathan Dirt

Beauty:
L’Oreal: True Match foundation in C3
Nars: Blush in Orgasm
Clinique: Almost Lipstick in Black Honey
Maybelline: Brow powder in Dark Brown, UltraLiner in Black, shadow quad iN mocha Motion

Tomorrow morning I have my monthly mama-and-baby checkup so we’ll see how things are going! This shirt is not a maternity shirt… I like the non-maternity tops now that the belly is an actual baby bump and not a weird mass of lumps. It’s nice to have these pieces that worked before and still work now!

Thursday

Attire:
Olian Maternity – Pink jersey top
Old Navy Maternity – Black ponte trousers
Banana Republic – Silver necklace
Silver cuff and hoops
Sudini – Black leather booties

Hair:
Next day
Just brushed

Beauty:
Laura Mercier – Flawless Face Kit in Sand
Nars – Blush in Orgasm, Lipcolor in Dolce Vita
Maybelline – Shadow quad in Mocha Motion
Body Shop – Eye Color in Soft Black
Cover Girl – LashBlast mascara in Rich Black

I really want to recolor my hair – I had an appointment but it was last Wednesday so of course i had to cancel it. Just want to put a color over what is now blonde to make it more autumnal. Maybe next week…

Tonight is our first childbirth class. The first one was last Thursday but of course we had to miss it. We are doing Hypnobirthing and are both pretty excited for it!

Tuesday

Attire:
Olian Maternity – Pink jersey top (on sale at Nordstrom for like $29 and totally worth it – super comfy, easy to wash, gorgeous color, doesn’t itch or even feel as though you’re wearing anything)
Old Navy Maternity – Black ponte trousers (expect to see these a LOT in the next couple of months)
Report – Black round-toe wedges
Silver hoops

Hair:
Next day, just used dryer and round brush to smooth

Beauty:
Laura Mercier – Flawless Face Kit in Sand
Nars – Blush in Orgasm
Benefit – Pink to Please the Girl… palette: shadows in pink and champagne blended on lid
Dior Addict – High Shine Lipstick in Casual Beige
L’Oreal – H.I.P. Cream Liner in Black
Cover Girl – LashBlast mascara in Rich Black

Not all Pregnant Women Are Created Equal

When ordering maternity clothes, a basic rule of thumb is to order your pre-maternity size. This doesn’t always work – I am ordering items in Medium (though I haven’t worn a medium item since freshman year of college) and though I was a 12 petite pre-baby, I am ordering 10s, 12s and 14s and finding all sorts of fits. That’s fine, just as I found which retailers fit my body best pre-pregnancy, so I am having that journey with maternity!

One thing that is really irritating me though are inseams on maternity jeans and pants. Whether I am in my first or third trimester, I am still going to be 5’3”. Yes, as the belly (and bum and hips and thighs) grow with each month, fabric from the legs will be used up to accommodate this change. However, that doesn’t mean I need an extra 6” on my hems.

I have shopped at The Gap since I was 14. When I was thinner, I got away with the regular length of trousers and jeans. As I have gotten older and curvier, I flip flop between regular length (with heels) and ankle length or petite (which is too short for anything but sneakers and flats). The bigger my tummy gets, the less I feel like wearing heels (the less balanced I am feeling and the less strain my tootsies are willing to take) so I know petite or ankle-length bottoms is the way to go for maternity.

Gap and Old Navy both recently had major clearances so I ordered a bunch of stuff off their Web sites (gotta love free shipping with my BR card and free returns for all maternity wear). As that my job is changing their dress code to a more professional look (jeans only acceptable on Fridays) I was in search of short-length trousers, preferably in black. I found a pair of twill trousers from Gap for around $30 that were 12 Ankle, and a pair for about $20 from Old Navy, also 12 Ankle.

Here are the Gap trousers. IN 12 ANKLE:

I am not four feet tall. Usually I can purchase from a store off the rack. Ann Taylor, Gap, Banana Republic, J. Crew, all the major retailers I can usually get away with a regular length in a pinch, but always find the petite or ankle lengths appropriate and ready for me to wear.
And here are the Old Navy trousers in 12 ankle:
Same retailer, essentially. Rise the same (though different type of maternity waistband), same sort of fit in the bum and hips. Everything the same except the length (and that the Gap trousers are a crisper, darker black which would look more professional and probably wash better).

WHAT THE HECK PEOPLE? When women get pregnant they don’t grow a foot in height! Who in the WORRLD would think this is an ankle length on anyone under 6’ tall?

I would think this is an error in labeling or from the factory, but this is only one of SIX different petite or ankle-length maternity pants I have tried on from FOUR different retailers that would require several inches hacked off at the tailor. This is what grates my nerves and makes me wonder why retailers just hate all pregnant, short, tall and overweight women. I now have to decide if they are worth it to take to the tailor to make wearable, or if I just return them. The Old Navy pants are not something I would usually wear (not too chic of a cut) but they are cheap and don’t require the annoyance and cost of extra alterations. Argh.

Sunday

Attire:
Old Navy Maternity – White wrap tee
Liz Lange for Target – Black ponte pants
David Tate – Black leather city boots
Silver hoops

Hair:
Washed and let air dry, nothing else except fluffed a bit

Beauty:
Philosophy – The Supernatural foundation in Beige
Nars – Blush in Orgasm
Cover Girl – LashBlast mascara in Rich Black
Clinique – Shadow duo in Like Mink
Avon – Pro-To-Go Lipstick in Warm Pink

Today was errand day and Emerson handled it like a champ. We visited Target, Marshalls, Starbucks, a local restaurant for lunch and then a quick stop at the market!

I also see with this picture that I need to retire the maternity tops. This top (have it in olive, black and white) was an awesome staple through all trimesters of my pregnancy and the first month postpartum since it works as an awesome nursing top. However these tops have been laundered far too often and are a little too big now in the belly. Will add them to the maternity clothes in the attic because though they are kinda faded, they are still a great go-to top. Old Navy are you reading this? Bring these tops back. You had them short sleeved and long sleeved and they are AWESOME! Consider also making them in matte jersey or a dressier (yet still easily laundered) fabric. These and your also discontinued maternity ponte pants were lifesavers for MONTHS!!!

I finally replaced my Nars blush in Orgasm.

I have mentioned before how I feel this product is worth every dime. Well four years later I finally retired the original compact. Here’s the old one (actually could have kept it longer since there was still product), and the newbie. Sometimes department store cosmetics are worth the money – this is after wearing this blush almost every day since my 30th birthday.

Pretty awesome, Nars!

Monday

Attire:
Motherhood Maternity: Pink print matte jersey dress
Callisto: Tan heeled sandals
Silver cuff

Hair:
Washed and conditioned
Dried with round brush

Beauty:
Laura Mercier: Flawless face kit in Sand
Nars: Blush in Orgasm
Pop Beauty: Shadow palette for Brown Eyes – the khaki and celadon blended on lid
Cover Girl: LashBlast mascara in Rich Black
Clinique: Almost Lipstick in Black Honey

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: FabSugar.com. 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.

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!

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?


Fit
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.


Style
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.

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!