Dressing professionally as a woman can already be a pricey endeavor, and once that “maternity” label gets tacked on, the price can jump dramatically. Seven years ago, while pregnant with our first child, I thankfully had a cushy job as an engineer that came with a comfortable chair, flexible schedule, and casual dress code. Sure, I worked in a windowless basement, but my biggest maternity wardrobe concerns were ensuring my jeans were hole-free and my T-shirts covered my expanding midsection.
That wardrobe didn’t change much with our second, as I had the opportunity to stay home full-time. Fast-forward several years to our third and now fourth babies, and my new business casual office life has required an extensive overhaul of my stash of maternity clothes. Yet with daycare expenses, aging vehicles, and all the expenses we’ll have once baby arrives, I can’t just go purchase whatever looks good and fits well.
1. Save Early
One of the benefits of building a maternity wardrobe is that you, generally speaking, have some time before you’ll actually need to purchase the stretchy pants and ruched shirts. As soon as you get that positive, start setting aside some money from each paycheck into a wardrobe fund. Assess what items you’ll think you’ll need and then set a goal for how much you’ll need to cover the missing pieces. Having the money already designated for clothes lessens the likelihood of buyer’s remorse later when you hand over the dough.
2. Watch Sales
Don’t give me that look. Yes, I realize this is likely a no-brainer, but it had to be said. These can especially be handy as seasons shift and stores need to make room for incoming stock. Given my last point about the advanced notice we have before we fit into maternity clothes, there is a good chance those capris on clearance in the early fall will be just what you want for your eight-month belly come spring.
3. Scour Consignment and the Web
Local consignment and thrift stores are great options if you have them available. Everyone has the benefit of sites like ThredUp—a consignment store offering quality apparel at sometimes extreme discounts. Don’t forget about your other favorite online shopping venues, either. Many stores you’ve used before have a maternity selection, albeit sometimes limited. Just beware of return policies. Some sites, like Zulily, offer amazing prices, but those purchases can be quite the gamble with the no-return option.
4. Friend Swap
Connecting with friends or coworkers who were recently pregnant can be an opportunity to snag some gently used apparel for nothing. Once your little bundle of joy arrives, you can pay it forward to the next friend in the office who could use the same courtesy. I’ve also taken advantage of this for baby items like the infant insert for my Ergo carrier, swapping with a long-distance friend as we continued to have babies at intervals ideal for sharing.
5. Focus on Classic Styles
When purchasing items it can be tempting to go for that trendy piece—and I won’t blame you for deciding to splurge on something that looks amazing, especially if it’s also comfortable—but to get the most out of your hard-earned cash, it’s best to go with styles that won’t be dated if you need them for a later pregnancy in a few years or next season. (Yes, I might still be regretting that seven-year old pair of flare jeans sitting in my storage bin.)
6. Choose Versatile Pieces
While you’re at it, choose pieces—including shoes!—that can be easily mixed and matched to get the most versatility with the least investment. Don’t forget to create combinations that work well outside of the office. Go for wardrobe choices that are suitable for church, can pair well with jeans on the weekend, and can still get some use if you decide to switch careers or stay home full-time after baby is born.
7. Don’t Forget Postpartum
Parenthood brings a lot of uncertainty. No matter our amount of preparation, we can’t anticipate everything—how well our baby will sleep, how fast we’ll recover, how quickly we’ll lose the baby weight. Nor can we know what size attire we’ll need after birth. We instead have to prepare for the very likely possibility that our pre-pregnancy business clothes won’t suffice at first.
For this, go back to number one above and set money aside throughout your pregnancy specifically for snagging some postpartum items. This not only provides a pleasant shopping trip for mom, but also gives you a chance to pick up breastfeeding-friendly items and gain a confidence boost from having clothes that fit your still-adjusting-to-mommyhood body.
While pregnancy can be hard on our bodies, adhering to a professional dress code doesn’t have to be hard on our bank accounts. Making smart choices and planning ahead can ensure we look good and feel great through all 40 weeks—even if we don’t get to wear those beloved yoga pants and T-shirts every day.