When you find out you’re pregnant with your first child, you’ll likely feel excitement like you’ve never experienced before – and if you’re like me, you’ll also realize you’re about to be shopping, shopping, shopping for baby goods! But as you build out your baby registry and prep your nursery, don’t forget about what you need to feel confident during your pregnancy – including your maternity wardrobe.
Long before I got pregnant with my first child this year, I heard friends and family complain about how maternity clothes on the market were either too frumpy, too expensive, or both. However, I’m happy to report this hasn’t been my experience. As a lifelong thrifter, I challenged myself to source my entire maternity wardrobe secondhand, and now that I’m almost done with my pregnancy, I wouldn’t have done it any differently. Plus, I saved a ton of money along the way!
It took a little more time to find maternity pieces I loved because I relied on local thrift shops and my neighborhood Buy Nothing group – but getting quality clothing at pennies on the dollar (or free) was worth it. Whether you’d like to find all your maternity clothes secondhand or are just interested in saving money where you can, keep reading to find out what I learned while dressing for less during my pregnancy.
You Don’t Have To Wear It Just Because It’s Maternity
This first tip I have is a “don’t” rather than a “do.” Do not feel resigned to wearing clothing you don’t like just because it’s maternity! If you hate empire-waist tunics, or figure-skimming dresses, or t-shirts with cutesy sayings like “Baby on Board” – don’t wear them! There are tons of other maternity styles out there that will speak to you, so don’t feel like you have to buy pregnancy clothes that make you go “meh” just because they’re cheap or available.
In a similar vein, people will start giving you hand-me-downs as soon as you announce you’re pregnant. Don’t feel like you have to wear them just because they’re free! If you love the hand-me-downs, that’s awesome, but wear things because you enjoy them, not because you feel obligated to. Donate hand-me-downs that you don’t want and free up space for the clothes that you do want.
For example, my neighborhood Buy Nothing group (I highly recommend you join one in your area) did a maternity clothes “round robin” swap. We passed several bins of maternity clothes from woman to woman, with each recipient allowed to take or leave as many clothes as she wanted. I am not a skinny jeans girl, but I ended up grabbing a couple pairs of maternity skinny jeans because “Why not?” At first I tried to incorporate them into my outfits, thinking that my maternity style didn’t need to match exactly with my non-maternity style, but I soon realized I was ready to give those jeans away because I never liked wearing them.
It was easy in the summer to stick to shorts, dresses, and lightweight linen pants, but as fall approached, I was nervous that I wouldn’t have a single pair of maternity jeans to wear. Then I thrifted a pair of light-wash flare Motherhood Maternity jeans that were exactly what I would have loved pre-pregnancy. I’ve enjoyed wearing them with a flowy white blouse and basket-weave flats in warm weather and a cozy sweater and chunky booties in cold weather!
Start Building Your Wardrobe Early
Plenty of women don’t appear pregnant until well into the second trimester – but don’t feel like you have to wait until then to shop for maternity clothes! Future you will thank past you for storing your closet.
You might feel weird picking up maternity clothes while you’re still wearing your “normal” clothes, but your baby bump can appear overnight, and you don’t want to feel like you have nothing to wear at a time when you’re already feeling all the feels thanks to changing hormones. There’s truly nothing worse!
That being said, comfy clothes like leggings and t-shirts will be your go-tos during pregnancy, but I highly recommend picking up “dressy” maternity clothes even if you’re not sure when you’ll wear them – life doesn’t stop when you’re pregnant, and you may have professional events, parties, and even weddings pop up. Even though I work remotely, I was glad I had picked up several pairs of maternity trousers when work-related events came up – and the pants were surprisingly comfy!
And of course, don’t forget to visualize how you’d like to look in maternity photos, whether you hire a professional photographer or make your husband take pictures of you in the backyard. Give yourself the okay to buy a few “impractical” pieces that will pop in photos. I typically stay away from strapless tops and dresses in real life, but I loved the off-the-shoulder maternity dress I wore in my maternity photos (and I got it for free through the Buy Nothing Project, too!).
Side note: This tip about buying early goes for nursing clothes, too! I spotted some cute nursing clothes at Goodwill early in my pregnancy and decided to hold off on purchasing – and now I wish I hadn’t, because nine months goes by fast!
Scout the Best Thrift Shops for Maternity Clothes and Check In Often
One of the best tips for being a successful thrifter is regularly checking in at your favorite thrift shops to see what’s new – and this especially applies when you’re on a nine-month timeline!
I had a pretty rough experience with morning sickness during my first trimester, and making a fun day out of thrifting for maternity clothes helped me feel more excited about being pregnant early on. So whether you like to shop solo, or want to enlist your mom, sister, or girlfriends to tag along, make your first maternity clothes purchase a special occasion. Treat yourself to a drink to sip while you shop, and do a fashion show for your husband when you get home!
Pro tip: Scout out which thrift stores near you actually have a maternity section. Some shops throw maternity clothes in with regular clothes, but others take the time to separate them so you have an easier shopping experience. I was actually convinced my local Goodwill didn’t have a maternity section, but then a shop employee showed me where it was – tucked away between the scrubs and the swimwear! Always check with staff about locating the maternity section.
If you prefer online thrifting, there are lots of deals to be had as well! For instance, ThredUp has a huge maternity selection. Poshmark is also a great place to find gently used maternity clothes – after all, many people only wear these items for a few months!
Think Outside the Tag
This tip is twofold. First, be prepared to ignore the size on the tag – different brands size maternity clothes totally differently, and you will find that your pregnancy size doesn’t always correlate to your pre-pregnancy size. For example, I found myself wearing pieces ranging from Small to XL.
Second, you may find yourself wearing non-maternity clothes throughout your entire pregnancy. Non-maternity items can totally be bump-friendly, despite what the tag says. I have lots of oversized or stretchy clothes that I’ve continued to wear throughout my pregnancy – and I’ll probably be wearing them after my baby is here, too! I’m not saying you need to copy Rihanna and eschew the maternity aisle entirely, but there is a lot of value in this mindset. So don’t think you’re being impractical if you buy non-maternity clothing that is bump-friendly…you’ll probably appreciate the addition to your wardrobe long after baby arrives.
Be Willing To Adapt Your Style – But Don’t Lose What Makes You You!
New moms are often warned not to “lose themselves” when they are pregnant with their first child. While this well-meaning advice may be a little off – after all, you become a new you when you bring a new life into the world – it’s true that continuing to feel like your stylish self during pregnancy can do wonders for your overall mindset.
Most likely, you’ll find yourself gravitating towards the colors, textures, and fits that you’ve always loved, while mixing in some new styles. For me, pregnancy meant totally rethinking what silhouettes I like to wear. As an hourglass figure, I prefer styles that emphasize my waist without clinging to my hips, like fit-and-flare dresses. Well, guess what looks really odd on a pregnant woman? Fit-and-flare dresses that hit at the natural waist! It took some adjusting, but I’ve enjoyed experimenting with looser fits and flowy fabrics to create maternity looks that feel flattering and effortless.
What Not To Buy Secondhand: Underwear
Maternity clothes might be the best items to buy secondhand because they’re often only worn for a few months – but I do not recommend trying to source your maternity underwear secondhand! I invested in some brand-new underwear early in pregnancy and was glad I did. These longline shorts from Motherhood Maternity are great under dresses and skirts and come in black or nude. I also recommend Kindred Bravely’s Grow with Me Maternity and Postpartum Brief – 10/10 for comfort!
I feel like no one talks about this, but you’ll also find you prefer different bras when you’re pregnant, and that will affect how you dress. Your ribs literally expand during pregnancy, so no wonder your pre-pregnancy underwire bra no longer feels like the perfect fit. Pregnancy is the perfect time to find your new favorite bralette and buy it in all the colors!
During your first pregnancy, you’re going to experience so much change – in your relationship with your husband, your loved ones, and your body. But taking the time to feel confident and cute will pay dividends in how much you enjoy your pregnancy – and your maternity wardrobe doesn’t have to break the bank!
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