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Trying to find clothes that fit well and make you feel comfortable during early pregnancy can be a challenge. Most of your old clothes no longer fit, but you don’t want to spend a fortune on maternity clothes yet. Here are some tips for finding clothes that will help you through those early months of pregnancy.
But first, how do I know all of this? Hi — I’m Hilary — The Pregnancy Nurse 👩⚕️. I have been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years of OB nursing experience, I am also the curly head behind Pulling Curls and The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. 🩺 I have not only seen how fabulous so many pregnant women look, but I have also felt the DREAD of going maternity clothes shopping. I understand how hard it is to dress a changing body, so let’s jump into this tricky topic!
Oh, and while you’re here — grab my safe eating guide — to make sure you and baby are safe.
Do You Need First Trimester Maternity Clothing?
In general, no. Especially if it’s your first pregnancy. Remember that first trimester ends at week 13 (because the weeks after fertilization are included in that trimester, when you didn’t even know you’re pregnant).
In fact, you may just have some extra “bloat” because of how your body is hanging onto water and nutrients right now for this new fetus.
While you may THINK that you look like the belly at the top of this post (that’s like the smallest belly I could find in stock photography) — she is likely around 20-25 weeks in that shot.
But, if pants start to fit tight, it’s probably time to put them aside for something else more comfortable (or, you could wear one of these)
What’s important in early pregnancy clothes?
First trimester clothes are tricky. I will have to say that if you’re not feeling well, the most important thing is comfort. Even if your bump isn’t big yet, you may just not want things tight on your waist.
Tight-fitting clothes may make you feel hot and constricted. And that may lead to nausea and just feeling worse because of what you’re wearing.
Also, you may be having all sorts of feelings about your body — so looking great can help push those feelings to the side if necessary.
Another consideration may be that you need these clothes to extend into your second trimester and beyond. Look for things that have more room below your bra line and you’ll appreciate that those will become a foundation of your wardrobe in the months to come.
Oh, and while you’re thinking clothes — have you thought about writing down all these thoughts and feelings? This pregnancy planner not only has spots for that, but also all the things you need for the nursery, what to talk to your provider about and more. It will grow with you during this pregnancy as much as a great pair of leggings. 🙂
When should you start buying maternity clothes?
Frankly, if you find a great maternity outfit that you love. Buy it. 🙂 Of course, keep the tags on and your receipt (hopefully they have a good return policy).
That being said — most women aren’t really thinking about maternity clothes after finishing their first trimester (13 weeks gestation) Yes, they may veer more towards leggings than dress pants, but most of your clothes will still fit OK (especially if you use a waistband expander — a true staple of pregnant woman).
What should you wear in early pregnancy?
Today I want to give you 5 must-have items in your wardrobe for early pregnancy — and some ideas of what those can look like and where to get them.
Why leggings? Mainly because the entire pant is stretchy. Be it Jeggings (so many great ones at your local Walmart), or actual leggings these can be a comfy staple in your wardrobe — especially when combined with….
This type of top is meant to come over your belly and hide the backside of those leggings.
Personally, leggings a bit too form fitting (and sometimes too thin) for me personally, but if you add a tunic top it can feel just fine to sport the leggings and feel a bit more covered-up.
- I like the casual look of this one
- This one is great if you love a puffed sleeve
- This one is super flowy
- This one is just your basic T, but bit longer.
- I love the knot on this one — I bet it would hide your belly a bit longer.
These tops can stay with you for a while during the pregnancy, and afterwards as well.
Something along these lines allows you to feel “normal” as long as you can — but your belly will easily be able to fit into this shirt for a while. A good pocketbook win!
ESPECIALLY if it is warm outside there are SO many cute dresses that will transition through pregnancy and after baby is born. This is a GREAT option — plus, if you buy them long you’re not worried about how you’re sitting at work etc. Huge fan of how dresses can last your whole pregnancy.
- This one combines ruching with a dress — this is a staple for pregnant women — most women tend to save this dress until they’re ready to tell the world they’re pregnant
- This one is nice and long and can easily be dressed up or down
- It’s smart to look for ones that have a bit higher waist band — like this one. That one gets bonus points as it will be easy to breastfeed in afterwards (and yes, most of these can be worn AFTER baby as well)
- This is a cute, shorter maternity one.
- This one dips down in front (great for as the bump grows)
- Because this one has a higher waist it’s a good option too
Tips for maternity dresses
- Don’t buy ones with a waistband, even if it’s stretchy
- Consider how the length in the front will raise as your bump grows (and how comfortable that will be)
- Don’t be afraid to get maternity dresses — most of them are meant to grow with you (and you can still wear them after baby too!
Can we get a shout-out to spandex?
Stretchy pants don’t JUST have to come as leggings. There are lots that have quite a bit of give at the waist. However, I’d recommend getting ones that have a maternity panel (I like this kind, rather than the full bump panel maternity jeans which you’ll wear later) so they last a bit longer, than regular jeans.
Don’t forget you can also use a waistband extender to get a few more weeks of wear out of your favorite pair.
How to hide your pregnancy belly
Are you looking to keep your pregnancy a secret for a select few for a few more weeks?
Nothing wrong with that.
First off, I want to remind you that while you think you look different, most people aren’t noticing at all.
BUT, there are a few ways to hide your pregnancy belly, especially in the early stages of pregnancy.
Wear flowy dresses — like this one, no one will have a clue (plus it’s really cute and trendy, a big win)
Wear sweaters — something like this can hide it nicely. Plus, layers can be nice as you may vary between hot and cold. 🙂
Grab those tunic tops — again, flowy while also looking “normal”
Where to Buy Maternity Clothes
Once you start buying maternity clothes it can feel like an added expense. But, there are a couple of places you might not have considered to add to your maternity wardrobe:
Your friend’s closet. Most women are HAPPY to share clothes they only wore for 6 months and then packed away. Mention to a few previously pregnant friends that you’re looking for clothes, and see if they offer up their options for you. This has always been a blessing for me to share with others, and to use clothes they’re no longer using!
Second-hand stores: Again, because they only get worn for a while this can be a treasure trove of maternity stuff. Many of them have a maternity section. While it’s not big, it’s something. Don’t forget to peruse the plus size section as well. You might find something that works in there as well.
Beyond that, I’ve had luck with a few other stores:
Ross. I know, it seems like you have to hunt for what you want. And I will agree that the clothes aren’t made to last long. BUT, I have found some great maternity clothes at Ross for a great price. Some only lasted the pregnancy, but some I was able to give off to other pregnant friends. It’s worth a look. The same may also be true for TJ Maxx or Marshalls, but I haven’t has as much luck there (and often the clothes are pricier).
Walmart. They do have a small maternity section, but they have a PLETHORA of leggings, and often tunic tops. Again, it can save you some cash to shop here. You’re already going for your cake mix, just check out the women’s isle as well. 🙂
Old Navy They have had a great selection of maternity clothes for a LONG time, which I appreciate. For me, these tended to be splurges — but I loved having a few great items in my closet that I could pull out when I wanted to look better than my T-shirt and leggings. 🙂
Here’s one you may not have thought of. Did you know that Stitch Fix has a maternity option? If you’re just not loving what you’re finding in your local stores — give it a try! It can also be a fun way to try on some maternity clothes without having to go to the store. If you’ve never shopped with them before, this link will give you $50 off your first order.
Ok, I think we’ve covered my best tips for clothing yourself during early pregnancy. Do you have a shop that you’ve been loving? Tell us in the comments.
And grab that free guide to eating healthy during your pregnancy right here:
- About the Author
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A nurse since 1997, she has worked in various fields including pediatrics, geriatrics & hospice.
She has 20 years of labor and delivery experience in the San Jose, CA and Phoenix, AZ areas.
She is also the curly head behind the website Pulling Curls and is the creator of The Online Prenatal Class for Couples — the #1 hospital-based prenatal class on the internet.