What to wear when you're pregnant

Actress Elsa Pataky, Chris Hemsworth's wife and mum to Indie, 1, is pregnant with twins - but still dresses with her own ...
Actress Elsa Pataky, Chris Hemsworth's wife and mum to Indie, 1, is pregnant with twins - but still dresses with her own personal style. 

Ah, that beautiful expanding waistline (and some other things) as you progress through your pregnancy. What a magic time. It can also be a challenging time to find the right clothes. Here are some tips on buying well for your pregnancy and beyond.

Buy as you go

Each of us is different - some women just pop out in front and that's it, others put on lots of weight all over. The thing is, you won't know how your body's going to respond to the pregnancy until it actually happens.

Buy clothes only as you need them, but with further growth in mind, depending on the stage of your pregnancy. I know a lot of women who bought loads of maternity clothes as soon as they found out they were pregnant but didn't wear most of them because they didn't fit/suit when it actually came time to use them.

Buy well

Remember, you're not pregnant for long, even though there is the post-pregnancy stage in which many of you will still carry extra weight for some time.

Start with a good bra. This is a must. You need good support and you need comfort. And yes, you may end up buying several bras both during and post-pregnancy, but it's worth it. I was styling a pregnant woman not long ago and she was squeezing herself into her old saggy bra. On my recommendation she bought a new bra and couldn't believe that she did actually have a waistline.

Buy base items for your wardrobe

This is dependent on seasons and clothing needs, but here are some ideas.


Work wear

Trousers and/or dressy leggings: This is one item of your wardrobe that you won't regret investing in. 

  • Go for a basic colour that will work well with other colours
  • If your shape suits it, a straight or narrow leg will give you a slimming look
  • To begin with, you can buy waist-expanders for your existing trousers
  • Look for elasticated waistbands - the wider bands tend to be more comfortable and sit flatter. As your belly expands, position the waistband below the belly
  • It is worth investing in a pair of maternity trousers that allow you to expand the waist as you need

Tunic or long tops: These are great because they sit beautifully over your tummy and bottom and give a gorgeous long-line look. Just make sure they have enough room width-ways for your growing tum. A-line and empire-line style tops are great, though just ensure there is enough room for your growing bust.

A blazer to dress things up: Unless you gain weight across your back and upper arms, you can continue to wear your regular size blazer throughout your pregnancy, and beyond - you're not expected to button it up. A blazer looks fabulous teamed up with a tunic top. Smart cardies are a great alternative to a blazer - there have been some fantastic colours around this summer to really enhance an outfit.

Dresses: I just adore dresses, they're just so easy, comfortable, feminine and a complete outfit. Dresses with wrap/cross-over tops are wonderful for pregnancy and breastfeeding; they're extremely flattering for the figure and also very comfortable because they're usually made in a stretch-knit fabric that also drapes well.

Don't forget your accessories: A great way to minimise the appearance of your expanding bust is to wear a long pendant necklace or scarf that hangs between the breasts - it breaks the overall look up.

Smart casual wear

Wear the tunic tops and blazer that you use for work, with a pair of jeans or leggings. Depending on the season, it can be worth investing in a pair of maternity jeans that will last through the pregnancy and after. A straight or narrow leg will give you an overall slimming look.

Other things to consider:

  • Buttoned-front shirts and tops are great for breastfeeding
  • Stretchy knit fabrics are good, as are fabrics that drape and hang beautifully over your body. Lightweight sheer fabrics are also good for a looser, more flowing look
  • With weight-gain and changes in your body, you may find you easily overheat - look for lighter-weight, cooler, loose fitting clothing

It doesn't have to be maternity wear:

  • There is some fabulous maternity wear around, designed for comfort, ease and to enhance your pregnancy beauty. It can, however, be expensive at times.
  • Consider instead, cheaper brands of regular clothing, just in a bigger size. But this comes back to my point about buying as you go, for example:
  1. If you only have a small baby belly throughout your pregnancy, then you may not even need to go up a size, depending on the style of the garment.
  2. If you have a big belly and nothing else, then you may need to go up a size or two, but be careful it doesn't look too big in other areas, like the shoulders. Again, it's about the style.
  3. If you put weight on all over, then going up in size will work.

Limited budget?

  • Buy plain colour and styled clothing and create different outfits using accessories - different coloured/styled necklaces, scarves, bangles and earrings.
  • As mentioned above, buy regular clothes that you can wear after the pregnancy, as long as the size still works.
  • Look out for clothes swaps.
  • Borrow clothes off family or friends.
  • Buy pre-loved. A reminder that there women who go crazy and buy tonnes of clothes as soon as they're pregnant but end up not wearing half of them - these are the sellers you're looking for.

What to wear post-pregnancy

  • Some of you will return to your pre-pregnancy figure just like that, for others it may take a long time, or never.
  • The clothes you wore through maternity will serve you well for the initial post-pregnancy period at least, while your body adjusts.

Dressing for breastfeeding

Think about styles that make it easy for you to unclip your bra and easily (and discreetly for those that need privacy) feed your baby:

  • A-line tops, with easy access to the bra from underneath or via the neckline.
  • Front-button shirts.
  • Loose fitting, flowing tops.
  • Wrap/cross-over tops.
  • Dresses can be a bit awkward, unless the top allows access to your bra and makes it easy for feeding.
  • You may also want to think about the colour of your top as some women are prone to leaking. Depending on the fabric, dark colours will tend to highlight a wet patch. Mind you, there are of course fantastic breast pads to save the day.

Lisa Lyford is the founder and stylist of Gorgeous Me, DIY personal styling guide.

- Fairfax NZ