If you’re 14 weeks or so you may be wondering, “when am I going to look pregnant? Now I just look wide!” Pregnancy weight gain is an uneven thing, with many women only gaining 5-10 pounds in the first 20 weeks, then putting on another 20-30 in the second half of pregnancy. By the last month the baby may be gaining as much as a half a pound a week, and you may gain as much as a pound a week yourself. It’s typical to gain a centimeter around your waist per week, which works out to a total extra 15 1/2 inches from your pre-pregnancy size.
What this means to your wardrobe is that until the second trimester you’ll probably be able to wear your regular pants, and you’ll be able to get away with wearing draped dresses for a little while longer, but after that you will want to invest in some actual maternity wear.
Most women start with maternity underwear– the most versatile kind is a bikini or hipseter cut that just drips a little lower in the front to make room for your belly. You’ll be able to wear it for your whole pregnancy, postpartum stage and beyond. You may also want some leggings or bike shorts that will let you wear your looser pre-pregnancy dresses until the front hemline starts rising. Pregnancy also makes it harder to get up from sitting down, so you’ll want some coverage if you don’t like people seeing your maternity underwear!
If you shop tops in the second trimester, note that tops that convert to nursing will have a longer life if you plan to breastfeed. Designers have gotten quite crafty about hiding nursing panels. Try to pick tops that are able to expand as much as a foot in the front without exposing your waistline.
You can add pieces one at a time, but it’s helpful to have a color palette in mind. You don’t want to get too matchy-matchy, but it’s easier to get dressed in the morning if you have tops that coordinate with your dresses, and leggings and pants that coordinate with your tops. Consider finding a perfect pair of pants in a neutral tone like khaki, navy, brown or black and then buy tanks and shirts that go with it, then add a skirt that goes with the tops so that whatever you pull out of your drawers will go with whatever else.
And let’s talk pants, because they can be the hardest to get right. The first issue is the length– not many maternity-wear designers make pants in petite or tall sizes. If you’re short you may have to go with wearing capri pants as slacks, or have cuffs taken up by yourself or a tailor. Then if you’re tall you might need to wear slacks as capri pants. Then there’s the panel: for the first half of pregnancy a below-belly band offers your best fit, but in the third trimester the size of your belly will push a shorter panel down, so you’ll want a panel that holds your pants up by going over the bump. The best panels have spandex blends, and extra elastic at the top can help keep them from riding down. Remember your hips and thighs will grow, so if you go for a skinny style make sure the fabric has a lot of stretch.
Another issue with maternity pants is that because they have to expand for growth not many come with pockets, or if they do it’s a cargo pocket that is less convenient for stuff like phones, money and keys. A cardigan or button-down shirt with pockets can be a big help, or you can use a purse– backpack-style purses will let you have your hands free and help you keep your balance better than a fat over-the-shoulder bag.