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Maternity wear top tips

Updated on January 9, 2013
Nathalie Portman knows how to dress a bump.
Nathalie Portman knows how to dress a bump.

Maternity wear can be quite a minefield. Firstly there are some women that can’t wait to show off their bump, and others who – for various reasons – will try to conceal their bump for as long as possible.

Whichever camp you belong to, unless you have A LOT of disposable income, you probably don’t want to buy an entire new wardrobe that is only going to last you eight months; tops.

With frugality in mind, my first pieces of advice would therefore be to not buy maternity clothes too early in your pregnancy, and to accept any second hand items that kindly friends might offer. Also, think about buying things that will work in the month or so after you’ve given birth. Sadly, not everyone pings back to their original size as they leave the hospital, so you’ll need things that bridge that gap, but which don’t make you still look pregnant. There’s some advice later in this article about items that do just that.

What others had to say...

“I bought some normal tunics, but one dress size up, which were great during pregnancy and are great post pregnancy until you loose the extra baby weight!”

“I found maternity leggings and tights, and under the bump cotton knickers a must!”

“Definitely do not buy those trousers that tie at the waist. I lost count of the number of times I had to run for the train while holding them up."

“Anything maternity seemed to be a bit more money - the vest tops in H&M for example were almost double for a maternity one! So I just brought bigger sizes of normal stuff for some things."

Adapting your existing wardrobe

Even if you do want to show off your bump, it doesn’t mean you have to buy maternity items from the word go (trust me, you will thank me for this advice as you get to the latter stages of your pregnancy and you have no choice but to make extra purchases!).

First off, for many people, their usual leggings or thick tights with baggier jumpers or dresses over the top work great (or tighter jumpers and tops if you want to accentuate your bump!) for a big chunk of the pregnancy. Also in the early stages, you can certainly get away with undoing the top button of your jeans and pairing with a top that skims over. Although I didn’t personally buy one, I received many reports from friends that bump bands worked well at this stage too and helped extend the shelf-life of their existing clothes.

Also think about whether your partner has anything in their wardrobe that might work; get creative.

However, there will be a point where you’ve been as creative as you can be with your existing wardrobe and you have to splash some cash. Therefore it pays to know what are the must haves and what are the waste-of-money items.

Katie Price's (AKA Jordan) maternity style is not for the faint-hearted.
Katie Price's (AKA Jordan) maternity style is not for the faint-hearted.

The essentials

Maternity leggings and thick maternity tights

Overwhelmingly voted the best buy amongst all my mummy friends, these can be worn with an array of different dresses; with tunics, longer tops and jumpers. I favoured the over-the-bump leggings, and these saw me through a full-term twin pregnancy (ie my bump was massive!).

M&S does good maternity tights (and bras) .

Long strappy tops

Again, extremely versatile and popular with everyone I spoke to. They are great for layering, which means they work whatever the season. They are a great foundation piece, which work great on their own when it’s hot (or you are feeling hot), but you can chuck on a jumper or cardigan if you get cold, and also smarten up with your existing shirts and jackets if you leave them undone. They are also great for breastfeeding once baby is born. This will save you a lot of money, as specific breastfeeding tops are very expensive. I also found them much more of a faff than a simple vest top pulled down; with a muslin draped over my shoulder to protect my modesty!

Two smarter tops

If you work somewhere, where you need to be dressed smartly, you will need a couple of smarter tops. However, try and be savvy. Can you get something that works for the office, but can be dressed up and be suitable for going out in the evening?


I invested in several pairs of jeans and wasn’t alone. I got so much wear out of them and could dress them up or down with cheaper tops. I also bought a dark/indigo pair, which I could get away with in the office with a smarter top/shirt/jacket. Jeans were certainly one of my maternity staples and passed a certain stage of pregnancy (especially my twin pregnancy) there was nothing I could do with my old jeans to make them fit!

Pair of trousers

A black pair is probably essential if you need to be smart for work, and they also make a good going out option. If you are not fussed about them for going out and don’t need them for work, then a pair of cords or cotton trousers are good options.

Two dresses

Maternity dresses tend to be nice and comfy and even more so if they are made from jersey material. This is also a great material as it seldom needs ironing. Your dress choice will be – to some extent - dictated by the season. Maxi dresses are a good summer choice. Wrap dresses are really versatile and can be worn over leggings and are easy to dress up if required.

Tiffany Rose does some lovely occasion wear if you do need to splurge for a wedding or similar.


Accessories are your best friends. A striking necklace or vivid scarf can totally transform an outfit and take something from daywear to eveningwear. The ability to modify an outfit in this way will help you cut back on buying too many items of clothing. Also, with accessories you also have the advantage that they can be used post-pregnancy.

Best shops and brands

These are some of the names that came up again and again with mums.

- Next

- New look


- H&M

- JoJo Maman Bebe

- ASOS (online)

- TopShop

- Noppies

- Mama.Licious

- Red Herring

The non-essentials – maybe…

Are you a hot or a cold person? I usually feel too hot and, as is the case for many women during pregnancy, I spent most of the time feeling like a radiator. For me, a maternity coat was a waste of money despite being heavily pregnant during big cold snaps in winter. I personally found that large cardigans, shawls and ponchos kept me plenty warm enough. That said, one of my friends who gave birth in June (and therefore was barely showing in the preceding winter months) listed a maternity coat as one of her essentials. She always feels the cold, so horses for courses!

I was a pre-pregnancy UK size 6, but put on almost three stone during my twin pregnancy. However, I was still able to wear my size 6, long, belted cardigan – minus the belt – until I popped.

I bought a maternity jumper and didn’t find it too useful. Most of the mums in my straw poll agreed. In the earlier stages, bigger non-maternity jumpers and undone jackets do the job and later on cardigans - and again undone jackets - are the more versatile option.


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