Fancy Pants: Tips for Dressing All Three Trimesters

Hey y'all, my name is Catherine and I am currently pregnant with kiddo number 4(!). I love all things fashion and style, and have a maternity clothing obsession. That means I am *totally* qualified to write this, right?? Pregnant women are GORGEOUS, and glowing, and full of life, we all know this. But here is the deal, dressing a changing pregnant body and feeling amazing while doing it takes a little work and some trial and error. I want to share a little of what I've found helpful over the course of my 4 pregnancies to hopefully make it a little easier. 

Concepts To Remember Through Your Whole Pregnancy

  • Stick with your style!  No need to go all matronly with colors and styles that you wouldn't normally wear simply because you are pregnant.

  • Invest in the quality pieces early on! Don't cheap out on basics you are going to wear constantly. The better quality pieces will look better in the long term because remember you are going to wash and wear the living hell out of these pieces. Save your nickels and dimes and buy (or borrow!) the good stuff.

  • Only buy and wear what makes you FEEL GREAT! If you think it is just "Meh" in the store, by the end of your pregnancy, you are going to want to set that shit on fire

  • Your body will change, often in ways that you may not be expecting. Embrace your curves, celebrate them by investing in or borrowing pieces that help you feel like the amazing and gorgeous woman you are.

  • Don't blow your budget all at once in the purchases department, spread it out over the whole pregnancy. You would be surprised at what a small new clothes purchase will do to lift your mood at 5 million weeks pregnant. 

Trimester 1

Otherwise known as the trimester where everything is too tight from bloating and maybe a beginning bump, but you aren't big enough to wear maternity pants. AKA the "Make It Work" trimester. 

1) Soft, skimming, flowing tops are your friend. You won't need actual maternity tops for a while longer most likely but longer tops that hide a belly band, rubber banded pants, or maternity pants work well, particularly if you are waiting to tell people your exciting news until the end of your first trimester. Stay away from empire waistlines if you are trying to hide a pregnancy because those will scream it from the mountaintops even if you aren't pregnant. Yup, this happened to me once. 
2) If you are concealing your pregnancy, accessories are your friend for distracting away from your middle. Scarves, "statement" jewelry, a bright POP! of lipstick, a top with a funky pattern are all good choices for bringing the focus to your face and will (hopefully) keep the nosey Nicks and Nancys from sniffing out your secret. 
3) Wear your "period pants." You know the ones! Those pants you save for the first couple days of your cycle. You can totally rock some leggings right now too. If your normal ones are too tight, buy either a maternity version or ones that are a size bigger to allow room for your bloat (er, I mean baby). If your pants are a little tight at the beginning of the day, they will be torture devices by the end of the day. Don't do this to yourself. 
4) I, personally, like to invest in some maternity pants right around the middle to the end of the first trimester so I can get my money's worth out of my "investment pieces." Be sure to buy them a little "roomy" so they will (hopefully) work until the end of your pregnancy. Secret fit (full panel) work well for all three trimesters as you can fold them down and that helps to keep the extra volume at the top of the pants under control until you actually have the extra belly to fill them out. I have found (all 4 times) that the 1/2 panel under belly styles are cute for first and some of the 2nd trimester but that by the time the belly gets really big, they are too tight and cause gas and contractions which you definitely DO NOT WANT. 
5) Flowing jersey dresses, wrap dresses, and knit skirts will also be great comfortable pieces that will stretch your wardrobe.
6) The only real "don't" here is: don't go to the store and expect to buy everything you need for the entire pregnancy. Your body and belly are going to change in ways you cant always predict even if this isn't your first rodeo and you have had a child (or four) before. Every pregnancy is different. 

Trimester 2

Ready? Ooo-kay! Let's DO THIS. This is the "good" trimester, the fun one where the morning sickness has (hopefully) gotten better and your energy levels are coming back a bit. The one where you are probably sharing your awesome news and everyone is all excited for you and you look all cute and glowy and shit. This is when you will likely feel your best and things start to get fun.

1) You most likely will need to actually walk into a maternity store by now so DO IT. Get out there and see what is on the market and what styles fits you best. If you don't have great options, don't worry, online retailers are pretty great. For online shopping, Gap Maternity, ASOS, and Target can't be beat for their fantastic return options. Motherhood and Pea in the Pod (i.e. Destination Maternity) do have decent selections, but their return policies aren't all that great: you have to return within 30 days and you have to pay for shipping both ways, boo, hiss. I still order from them but grumble the whole time. At a higher price point, I seriously love some HATCH and Isabella Oliver--if you can afford to invest, do it!
2) This is the trimester when your "bump" (I kinda hate that word, but let's just go with it, shall we?) is going to be at its cutest, so play it up with more fitted clothes. Stretchy tops really work well during this trimester because they accentuate the bumpiness of the bump. For both casual wear, I like tops that have some "width" at the top, like boat necks, wider scoop or v-neck, batwing, or dolman style sleeves will work to visually balance your proportions. Many women (including me) find that they look pregnant in their thighs and butt right around this time too. The curves are beautiful and amazing but visually, sometimes it helps to lift the focus to the face and shoulders when you are feeling "bottom heavy." 
3) If you haven't already, buy some maternity pants. I know the rubber band and the belly band *seem* like such a brilliant idea but you will be SO much more comfortable in pants that are made for your body as it is right now, TRUST ME on this one. The different waist band styles can be confusing but by far and away, Secret fit/ Full Panel ones are the most comfortable and versatile. Embrace the lycra, love the elastic, be one with the stretchy pants. 
4) Skirts are an awesome and more comfortable option, and jersey knit skirts are my favorites. For professional environments, pencils skirts are an amazing, flattering, and versatile staple. The overbelly ones are smoothest under skirt and with a woven top and a cardigan, you will look polished and put together.
5) On a frump day, my go too outfit is something fitted in all black, a really cool accessory like a scarf or statement necklace or earrings, and a super fab pair of patterned shoes. This *never* fails to help me feel chic. Also *always* a great go-to for professional environments.
6) Lots of ladies find it is also time to adjust their footwear right about this time to lower heels. You don't have to, of course, but your back may thank you. A cool pair of patterned or colored flat or lower heels always look great, as does a trendy pair of metallic shoes. You don't have to get rid of heels entirely, but you may find a that a 2-inch or kitten heel works better than a stiletto ;)

Trimester 3  

The "big" trimester. The one in which shock and awe descends because you had no idea that *anything* on your body could get that big. But you are glowing a gorgeous and also freaking the fuck out because the small person has to exit your body one way or another. And HOW IN THE WORLD did my pants shrink two sizes because there is no way my thighs could have expanded that much?? Ooorrr that could be a bit of projection on my part, ahem. A LOT of the tips from the 2nd trimester will carry over into the third trimester.

1) You are really, really not going to want anything binding or tight right about now so if you have gone up a size (again), you may have to revisit the maternity section to purchase just a couple...more...things... to get you through.
2) By the third trimester you will most likely need to buy some new bras, but for some women this happens earlier so don't feel the need to wait. Bra extenders can work if your cup size has stayed similar, but most women increase in cup size too. Some women choose to buy nursing bras at this point but I prefer to wait and buy those *after* baby has arrived for a couple of reasons, which are: a) your breasts will likely change size after your baby comes and you may need to go up a size (or two) yet again and b) nursing bras really do take a beating and are harder to come by and are more expensive than regular bras. I prefer to help them last as long as possible by only wearing them when I need to. 
3) Don't be surprised if by this time you find almost all pants, including maternity, to be torture devices. Try to save pants for professional environments and change into loose flowy dresses and skirts for comfort. 
4) Sometimes by this time, even maternity tops are riding up and exposing bare belly. If this is not your jam and you don't want to buy all new tops, you can either break out that belly band you used in your first trimester or buy some long maternity tanks to "close the gap." 
5) If you have any casholla left in your budget, try shopping for just a few last items to get you through the last couple of months. It can help your mindset immensely to have a few new things to look forward to wearing when you are sick to death of everything else. 
6) Treat yourself to some new makeup, a manicure, a haircut, etc during this time as a way to relax and focus on yourself. You will be much more ready for the marathon of labor and newborn-land if you have cared well for yourself during the home stretch. Plus it will help you feel like the pregnant goddess you are at a time when most women feel a little... rough around the edges. 

So there you go, fabulousness for every trimester. You got this. Rock your pregnant goddess self OUT!

Peace, love, and style, y'all. 




Catherine Sibuma is a parent, a fashion enthusiast, and a shopping enabler. Once upon a time, she graduated from NYU with a Masters in Costume Studies, worked museum textile preservation, costumed in film and television, and predictably transitioned into sales and medical recruiting. She is a proud resident of Atlanta, Georgia and a stay-at-home parent to three small children with a fourth on the way.