I'm nearly six months into my pregnancy in the middle of a very stressful and isolating time (opens in new tab), which has impacted my ability to see friends and go shopping for maternity clothes. I love thoughtfully selecting each item in my wardrobe so that I always feel like myself, but when I went in search of stylish pieces for my changing body, I was immediately bummed. My options included: a lot of billowy stuff that made me look like a tent, bright and colorful things that made me feel wider and more pregnant, or larger sizes of non-maternity designs (an ineffective tactic, save for a couple of notable exceptions, below). I can't dress exactly like I did pre-pregnancy because of my new shape—my bigger chest and belly are challenging for non-maternity clothes. It's a totally new way of thinking about my body.
So I reached out to Katie Holmes' stylist, Allison Bornstein, who's helped me downsize and perfect my non-pregnancy style (opens in new tab). She explains the secret to looking great: "When you're pregnant, what looks better is tighter clothes. Billowy clothes [only] look good on [petite] women. It's actually kind of cool; You have nine months when your body is not your normal body, so it's an opportunity to do something a bit new." With her help, I figured out what I could pull from my regular wardrobe (shoes, bags, blazers) and what I needed to buy (jeans, tops, skirts, dresses). You don't need much, which is perfect for someone who's trying to practice conscious consumerism (opens in new tab). Bornstein's hyper-focused on helping you shop your own closet, and she's always booking FaceTime styling sessions (opens in new tab): either a regular hour, or an extended version during which she'll send you relevant links for new items. Below are a few of the tips she passed on so I could make the perfect capsule—she's basically my pregnancy style whisperer. (Check out her super-helpful pregnancy capsule video (opens in new tab) for even more tips.)
A simple, ubiquitous slip dress works for basically any scenario, and pregnancy doesn't change that fact. This adds a luxe touch to your wardrobe without feeling heavy, and the adjustable straps mean that there's even a little room for growth. This was also great in the early stages of my pregnancy—the perfect transitional piece from "that lady who enjoys sandwiches (no shame!)" to "that lady who's definitely pregnant." I'm absolutely wearing this after I deliver. If the black isn't available in your size, ASOS just debuted one in a camel color, too.
The Bump-Proof Jacket
Long/oversize blazers can look surprisingly good—even on petite girls—with the right styling. My proportions are larger now in the bust and belly, so all I need to do is throw this trendy linen option over a maxi dress and ruche the sleeves. Viola! I've made a "completed" look and am giving off chic pregnant lady vibes. The only downside is it's dry clean only: Something you normally want to avoid in pregnancy wear, but something you could probably work around anyways. I'm holding onto this piece for post-pregnancy as well.
The Comfiest Bra
A good, comfortable maternity bra is a) necessary and b) a little hard to find, honestly. ThirdLove has a thicker, more structured version that I also own, but this version is stretchy and comfy for those first few exhausting months at home. Plus, you don't have to wait to get them—all my pregnancy bras are nursing bras.
The Pretty Print
It's easy to spot a lower-quality garment when it's a bright color or print, but this delicate floral design doesn't stretch, fade, or wear thin. Plus, it has juuuust a touch of neon. Slip skirts are now part of my pregnancy "uniform," thanks to Bornstein: The top accentuates my bust, and the skirt delineates the bump and tapers my lower half. No matter your height (this is basically a maxi skirt on me), it's a pregnancy must-have. If this doesn't come in your size, these polka dot and pink prints should do the trick.
Shorts aren't really my thing, but these Everlane options (two sizes up from my normal size) have the length and stretch I need. I wouldn't normally opt for something high-waisted—it's not possibly going to fit over my bump—so these sit below the bump, with the bottoms rolled up and a little more leg coverage than on the model. This is an option that'll work for postpartum too, when you won't be thinking about how to pull outfits together. The Easy Chino series also comes in a pant and skirt version, if that's more your speed. I may never go back to non-elastic waistbands, TBH.
The Perfect Denim
There's nothing better than maternity jeans compared to regular denim (the top button became my nemesis so fast). "It's not like you can just go up a size, especially with jeans...you want that stretchiness. It's uncomfortable to not have that," explains Bornstein. There are over-the-bump and under-the-bump options, like this one, with built-in stretch to accommodate your burgeoning belly. If you're looking for something less expensive, ASOS and H&M have good options too.
A tighter knit dress might sound counter-intuitive, but hear me out. It does two things really well: lengthen you, while also giving a great view of your curves. Don't be afraid to show them off, says Bornstein: "Clothes should emphasize the bump, then come back in to look like a column. It highlights and distinguishes the new shape you have." This also comes in a more summer-friendly navy stripe as well as charcoal.
The Walk-Everywhere Flat
Fashion sneakers can be great in pregnancy, but I've discovered that bending over to tie my shoelaces has become basically impossible. A pointed toe usually pinches my feet, but these stretch to accommodate my foot (just order a half-size up). The Point in its many colors makes any foot look long and lean, no matter how swollen. Also, there's no break-in period—the shoe molds to your foot as soon as you start wearing it—and they're blessedly machine-washable.
If you're dying to do a sandal with your bigger feet, opt for a flat one with plenty of support and an adjustable strap. This version has an espadrille feel to it without forcing you into a high heel that might make you wobbly. Mules are great and so trendy, but accidentally kicking them off on the sidewalk and having to hunt for them poses quite the pregnancy challenge.
The perfect white tee, but make it for moms-to-be. Bornstein insists that the sudden onset of big boobs when you didn't have them before (raises hand) can be a blessing in disguise: "Show them off!" The v-neck puts everything in proportion and doesn't make me feel overly busty. This option comes in black, white, and gray, and it goes great with the skirts, shorts, and pants on this list.
The Maternity Uniform
Leggings become a pregnant woman's de facto pregnancy uniform, and it can be casual with a sweatshirt and tee, or dressed up in a nice top and flats. Spanx are well-known for having some of the most comfortable maternity leggings. Their faux-leather option is also very nice, but not great in the super-hot summer. Save it for a fall pregnancy.
The Everyday Legging
At a slightly lower price point is Ingrid & Isabel, but Bornstein loves it for her pregnancy clients. The shape and stretch make it a nice alternative that prioritizes comfort without making you feel schlubby. It's not that often to have an item of clothing you can wear to bed and for a playdate, so it's no surprise moms and moms-to-be love leggings. This is worth the investment, since it's tough to buy leggings secondhand.
An athleisure staple gets a little lift with a cute "Mama" print. Plus, the buttons on the side means you can nurse without having to take it off entirely, and that adaptability makes all the difference when you're in a rush on very little sleep. Maternity clothes, I've found, really do have the innate flexibility that most regular women's clothing just don't have. ASOS has a couple nursing sweat options, if this isn't available in your size.
The Maxi Skirt
It can be tough to plan your wardrobe too far ahead, because you have no idea early on how you're going to carry. Thus, strategically choosing non-maternity clothes can occasionally work well; Just remember that an elasticized waistband is the way to go, usually above the belly but occasionally below if it looks better that way. A skirt's a nice transitional piece, especially when it's a-line or straight, because it'll grow with you as you expand. Something softer and lighter for summer is a lovely addition, whereas something thicker with a nice pleat is a good fall option. I actually love skirts more than shorts for an easy and not-too-casual option.
The Maternity-Friendly Dress
This is the opportunity to experiment with bigger shapes, too. Take the tiered trend, for example: This non-maternity dress, which might otherwise overwhelm me, accommodates the bump perfectly without any alterations because of its gentle a-line shape. On me, the dress accentuates my bump just above the tiers then slopes downward, and there's no pinchy elastic waist to worry about. "The things that looked good on you before might not, and the stuff that didn't look good might look great on you now," says Bornstein. So experimenting can sometimes really pay off—this comes in other pretty colors like pink and teal, but it looks effortless instead of try-hard.
The same idea applies here: Stripes sound like they'll just make you look and feel massive. Right? Wrong! The smaller stripe clustered more closely together with the longer length means that the overall effect is one, cohesive look. Besides, sometimes it's fun to make the bump stand out loud and proud—and there's no way to avoid it in the third trimester.
Just like a long blazer, oversize jewelry can work especially well during pregnancy. These hoops draw the eye upward towards the face and beautifully mimic the shape of your bump. Shop your closet and see what oversize stuff you already have, then supplement with high-quality options you can wear for a long time. This also comes in silver and rose gold.
The Chunky Chain
Coin necklaces are all the rage, and you can opt for something heavier now. "Jewelry and handbags are a good place to find some joy in dressing," says Bornstein. Since this would work for postpartum too, it makes sense to purchase these for the long-term possibilities. Again, it's about what makes you feel like you, while still being comfortable.
Case in point: If you're going to splurge on something, let it be a bag—one that can carry diapers, supplies, and other baby necessities, but doesn't look bulky and clunky. You're going to be carrying it everywhere, so you might as well like it. Cuyana's focused on sustainability, and their bags offer a chic simplicity without ever feeling cheap.
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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.
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