Once upon a time, a girl could get through pregnancy wearing her partner’s shirts and a smock dress. No more. Now it seems as though you need an entire new wardrobe of maternity wear to stay in fashion as your belly grows. And a whole range of fabulous maternity wear lines have sprung up in Australia in the last five years to tempt you.
But how much do you really need in the way of maternity wear? And how much do you need to spend?
“You don’t need to spend a lot of money on maternity clothes to look great,” says Franki Hobson, editor of Cosmopolitan Pregnancy magazine. “The key is to choose wisely.”
She suggests buying a capsule wardrobe of maternity wear basics to mix back with items in your existing wardrobe.
“there are designs for all price points,” she says. “Maternity wear in Australia has changed enormously from a tiny little niche industry to something much bigger. If women can’t find what they want, they design and market it themselves.”
Big maternity buys
We asked Hobson to outline her picks for a capsule wardrobe – the essential fashion items you can’t be without:
- Maternity jeans: “You can pay anything from $40 to $350,” she says. “You can get a great pair of from Target or go the designer option. It’s similar to normal jeans in that way.”
- Maternity bra (see below or read our Maternity Bra article)
- Stretch jersey wrap dress: “It will grow with your belly, is unrestrictive and you can wear it in summer with thongs or in winter with leggings or tights.”
- Black maternity leggings: “The best ones go over your bump and give you support.”
- Empire-line top: “It’s flattering, beautiful, floats and shapes your new-found cleavage!”
- Maxi dress. “Dresses are easy and make you feel great, especially when they’re roomy.”
- Something special: “During the course of your pregnancy, you will be invited to something where you need to wear something special. Make sure you have something that makes you feel beautiful.”
- Comfortable, cotton maternity underwear.
- Long tops: “I made the mistake of going to exercise classes and wearing normal t-shirts – every time you raise your arms you’re revealing half your belly!”
- A great pair of flat shoes: “Your ligaments loosen with the release of hormones, so it’s important to have a good, supportive flat shoe.”
How can I save on maternity clothes?
“It’s important to remember that you might be in some of these clothes for a while after the birth as well,” says Hobson. “Choose wisely, and use the cost-per-wear as rule of thumb. You may not wear your maternity clothes much in the first trimester, but if you buy the key items they will be on high rotation as your pregnancy progresses. Look for quality fabrics that wash well.”
Asked whether second-hand is the way to go, she admits she’s reluctant. “You want to feel good in your pregnancy, and you need to have something to wear that helps you to make the most of it. Buy wisely – whatever your budget,”
The foundation of maternity wear
One of the most important maternity wear garments you’ll buy is your maternity bra. While the wearing of a bra during pregnancy or breastfeeding is a matter of personal choice, a supportive maternity bra may reduce the stretching of tissues that could result in sagging.
According to a spokesperson for mothersdirect.com.au, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Australian Breastfeeding Association, prices for quality maternity bras range from $44.95 to $79.95.
The right time to be fitted varies from woman to woman, but it should occur about the time that preparation for lactation means you begin to outgrow your regular bra. Most of the changes to the breast have occurred around the 16 week mark of your pregnancy and this is a good time for fitting if you haven’t already had to do so.
Ideally, you will have your bra fitted professionally. Interestingly, you are fitted for the size that you are at the time of fitting as maternity bras are designed to adapt to changing needs. Look for
- wide elastic around the diaphram,
- six hook-and-eye extensions on the back to accommodate the growing baby,
- fully adjustable straps,
- and a design that is wire-free.
Having said that, you should consider another fitting at around seven months, and then again around 4-6 weeks after the birth of your baby.
What should I look for in a breastfeeding bra?
As well as all the features mentioned above, The Australian Breastfeeding Association suggests the following checklist:
1. Is there a drop-down feeding cup?
2. Does it have a soft cotton lining for comfort?
3. Does it have an “A frame” for support when the cup is dropped for feeding?
“If you find a bra you like, buy two,” says Hobson. “You don’t want to be in one bra every day after the birth.”
Last Published* December, 2022
*Please note that the published date may not be the same as the date that the content was created and that information above may have changed since.