How to Build a Postpartum Wardrobe That's Comfortable and Foolproof

The postpartum recovery period is hard, but a new mom "uniform" will help get you through. Stylist Allison Bornstein breaks down what to wear after baby.

How to Build a Postpartum Wardrobe That's Comfortable and Foolproof
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The postpartum period—when a woman is exhausted from giving birth, waking up at odd hours, and feels thoroughly unlike her "normal" self—can be really intimidating. Baby shower registries are usually focused on what the baby needs, and you may not have a ton of mental energy to devote to your own wardrobe. Plus, your weight is changing all the time, and your breasts, hips, torso, even feet may have changed measurements permanently.

I have yet to deliver, but I've already been thinking about how I'll dress myself on little sleep and with a whole new human to plan outfits for. "It's really smart to be thinking about postpartum—it's something to look forward to, something forgiving so that you're not trying to squeeze yourself back into your old stuff, or wearing your maternity stuff that you've been wearing for nine months that you're tired of," says Allison Bornstein, a celebrity stylist (she dresses Katie Holmes) and virtual styling extraordinaire with lots of mom clients.

Explains Bornstein, "I would make formulas: jeans, a tee, and a blazer; one of my tighter skirts and a bigger sweater; leggings and a men's shirt because that'd be good for breastfeeding." You don't have to reinvent the wheel. A few carefully chosen pieces in sizes that fit you right now can come together beautifully for your new mom "uniform." This also offers a bridge. Your normal wardrobe may not fit, but you don't have to go throwing out clothes just yet. Think of it as a sartorial opportunity: Maximize what you're wearing and find outfits that look as good as they feel. New moms, stock up on the below.

Thick, Comfortable Leggings

The challenge with leggings is that they can sometimes feel too casual. "I have a lot of new mom clients who say, 'I need to actually find my style again. It's so depressing, I'm chasing around a kid in leggings and a sweatshirt, and that feels comfortable for me but that's not who I am,'" says Bornstein. Don't worry, though: Leggings can serve as a great base for some of the other items on this list. There aren't a ton of postpartum-specific clothes, but the brand Blanqi is leading the way on comfortable stretchy garments for when you're shifting sizes.

A Loose Shirt Dress

I used to think that shirt dresses were off the table for me—they usually didn't fit across the chest or hips. But the trick is to go looser, then re-introduce structure with a belt or jacket. Or a structured bag and kitten heels. An oversized shirt dress is emblematic of how to approach your new wardrobe—they feel simultaneously comfortable and luxe, and can adapt to changing sizes without looking cheap or thin.

Well-Fitting Jeans

"Postpartum is the hardest time because you're changing sizes constantly; to invest in something expensive is silly," Bornstein says. Instead go for comfort. "Get a pair of H&M jeans in your size or one larger. You just need one or two core pieces that really fit you." A solid post-pregnancy "uniform": skinny jeans, a tee, and an oversized blazer. You could also go for straight leg, cigarette, or (aptly named!) mom jeans, depending on your shape. Just don't go with anything too wide-leg—it might make you feel bulkier than you actually are. Paper-bag pants and pull-on styles fit the waist a bit more easily than the standard button and zipper. You can also opt for elasticized chinosshorts, or skirts for something a half step dressier.

An Oversized Button-Down

A fantastic way to upgrade your leggings is with an oversized shirt and sandals or mules. "The leggings and sweatshirt look—the reason people wear it is because it's easy. If you give people a formula, another thing that's just as easy, they'll just wear that." Button-downs are as simple as sweats and an option for breastfeeding. Customize this simple shape with patterns or puffed sleeves. As with the shirt dress, just make sure you get the right fit—even if it's maternity. Done correctly, this piece could last you a long time, so comfort truly is more important than the number on the tag.

Well-Made Knitwear

This might sound like a counter-intuitive choice here. Something tight and form-fitting doesn't seem like the best option for me right now, you may be thinking. But knitwear is actually a great pregnancy staple—it defines and accentuates your shape instead of obscuring it—and it will stretch and move with you after you give birth. If you're hoping to not accentuate a certain part of your body, go oversized on either the top or bottom, with a tighter fit on the opposite half. Quality is key here, though, so consider that before you buy.

A Nursing Top or Dress

If there's anything I've learned being nearly six months pregnant, it's that most women's clothing doesn't stretch or adapt. Maternity clothes help make up for that. And thanks to some creative designers, nursing tops don't have to be quite so...obvious. There's still the traditional "petal" structure with two pieces of clothing laid on top of each other, but there are now wrap, overlay, and even henley options.

A Tee Dress

A simple tee dress with sneakers and a trench, blazer, or chore jacket is another easy pregnancy outfit. Go ahead and invest in this piece—a quality tee dress makes for easy long-term summer-to-fall dressing. Play with texture, length, and patterns for a "fashion girl" vibe. And lest you worry that sounds too superficial, Bornstein offers some reassurance. "People think it's so silly to be thinking about clothes when you're about to give birth, but it's necessary—otherwise you get into that rut of wearing sweatpants every day."

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Design by Morgan McMullen

(Image credit: Design by Morgan McMullen)
Katherine J. Igoe

Katherine’s a Boston-based contributor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle—from “Clueless” to Everlane to news about Lizzo. She’s been a freelancer for 11 years and has had roles with Cosmopolitan and Bustle, with bylines in Parents, Seventeen, and elsewhere. It’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.