E.’s Principles For Maternity and Nursing Wear

July 26th, 2011 § 20 comments

Given how differently women’s bodies experience pregnancy, post-partum, and nursing, I’m always a little leery of offering lists of “must-haves” for any of these particular wardrobe situations. When I have pared down my wardrobe to essentials, I’ve tried to emphasize how these are my essentials, an extension of my personal style, tweaked for the circumstances at hand. I readily admit that a pair of orange pumps might not be on everyone’s “must have” list. (But wouldn’t it be fun if it was?)

That said, a lot of you have asked for tips on dressing through pregnancy and nursing. I would like to recap a few principles, if you will, that have guided me in building my own wardrobe for those particular demands. How you translate them is entirely up to you…


E.’s Maternity Wardrobe Principles:


1. Be yourself. Find items that make you feel like you

6 July 2009

This was perhaps my primary guiding principle for my first pregnancy. I still love the outfit above because it just feels like “me.” Bright color combinations, interesting but not breakable jewelry, pop-of-color shoes…these are all things I love when I’m not pregnant, too. Together, they let me feel like “me,” even though I’m so-and-so-many pounds heavier, a bit puffier, and noticeably slower.

2. Challenge yourself. Experiment with items that play with the particularity of your pregnant shape

22 April 2011 - Pop

24 June 2011

This might sound like the exact opposite advice of the first point, but stick with me here. As important as it is to perpetuate aspects of your signature style through the pregnancy — whether in color mixing, pattern, jewelry, or overall “feel” — I’ve realized this time around that it’s also important to embrace your changing body by trying out silhouettes and patterns that you might have passed by in your pre-pregnancy days. I will probably not be wearing a form-fitting, wide horizontal striped dress post-pregnancy. But for this final trimester I’ve reveled in how particular and perfect this dress is for my body right now.

3. Do it yourself. Learn when to buy “maternity”…and when not to

9 May 2009 - Evening Shower

This is also related to the first two points. Sometimes maternity clothing retailers are simply not going to make the things that you want to wear. I wanted bright skirts this summer and all Gap maternity gave me was some putty colored neutrals. A thrifted peach midi-skirt and a dress cut into a skirt were both improvised measures. Or, during my first pregnancy, I refashioned a maxi dress into a drapey, punchy knee-length number because I wanted something bold and a wee bit sexy to wear.

20 April 2009

On the other hand, I said “yes” to maternity pants and bottoms. I carry very low when pregnant, and while some of my friends can wear their regular pants throughout the pregnancy using the rubber band through the button hole trick, my pants are the first things to stop fitting. Sometimes there’s this weird pressure to proclaim, “I did it all without buying maternity clothes!” as if it’s a sign of just how creative and adaptable you are. But I’m just letting you know, I bought maternity pants. I bought maternity shorts. And I’m really, really glad that I did.

4. Laugh at yourself. Sometimes it helps to have a little bit of a sense of humor.

29 April 2011 - Happy Last Day of Classes

Hey there, inner disco ball.


E.’s Nursing Wardrobe Principles:

If you decide to breastfeed after the baby arrives, your wardrobe will again have to meet some extraordinary demands. How do you adequately cover an expanded bust while still, well, being able to easily uncover said bust when necessary? Frankly, a lot of this depends on the particulars of your own anatomy and on your baby. Generally, though, you’ll need to be able to have access from either below, above, or the side. Access from below — i.e., lifting up my top — never really worked for me. I was pretty much a top and side kind of lady an

1. If you find something that works, buy multiples.

7 September 2009 19 August 2009 - Superhero Split

I loved how these nursing tanks from Old Navy worked (and I’m sad that there’s nothing being sold like them now) and I wish I had bought more. I got a LOT of mileage out of these two colors.

2. Button-downs aren’t only for shirts.

25 August 2009 - Shifty

Obviously, button-down shirts are among the easiest breastfeeding solutions. I’m not much of a button-down shirt wearer usually, but I did develop a deep love for button-down shirt dresses, especially since they proved to be eminently remixable.

5 November 2009 - Take One 20 January 2010 - First Day of School

3. Elastic and surplice necklines can be your friends.

25 February 2010 1 September 2009

This may be an obvious point, but looking for these necklines when thrifting and shopping let me bust out of a nursing tank and cami rut.

4. But, a cardigan might be the very best friend.

21 August 2009 - Sundance 16 September 2009 - Mom Uniform

Oh, my cardigan collection. My “new mom” uniform became an elastic waist skirt (to mitigate the post-partum belly), a nursing camisole, and a cardigan. Good thing I had a lot of colors to choose from. In fact, I started carrying an extra cardigan around with me in the diaper bag in case of disastrous spit-up situations.

I hope that those of you who have asked for maternity and nursing wear tips find these principles useful. In the end, they’re really not that different from the principles that guide my regular wardrobe-building mantra: dress the body you have in clothes that you love…and can throw in the washing machine.

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§ 20 Responses to E.’s Principles For Maternity and Nursing Wear"

  1. PF says:

    I agree that nursing tanks and colorful cardigans helped me a ton during the first year. And maternity pants are a must-have during pregnancy.

  2. Anna says:

    This post made me cry because I just realized that you won’t be around for my next pregnancy! I am going to miss your inspiration, E! Thanks for this parting gift; I know I’ll turn to it again and again. Best of luck with all your coming endeavors!

  3. HokieKate says:

    Thank you so much! I am days away from needing nursing attire, so I really appreciate your advice. I think I am going to go cardigan shopping now to distract me from being six days past my due date…

  4. Becky says:

    Oh, cardigans are the best for nursing. I was pretty good at the pulling-up-the-shirt to nurse, and then having an outer layer of a cardigan was a nice bit of body coverage. (I rarely used a nursing cover when nursing in public — only when my son was being particularly difficult or distractable. A cardigan gave me a bit of coverage and privacy.)

  5. Emily says:

    Oh please please please start your own blog. I will miss you so.

  6. Dara says:

    I’m so glad you guys will be archiving all of this and leaving it online. That way, when I get to a having-kids point in my life I know I’ll have a great resource to come to and inspire myself out of my fashion duldroms. I have loved my two years of reading y’all and I’ll miss the fashion pick me up I always get when I stop by to see what you’re up to any given day.

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  8. Bonnie says:

    I think I was right on the tail end of the Old Navy camisoles being available. I looked but they were all sold out. I found some great ones at Target, with a built in bra and all that. I wear them almost every day. In the summer I wore them by themselves, and now that it’s cooler I just wear them under whatever I’m wearing. I can do no-skin-showing nursing with even a teeshirt on, just by lifting the shirt and letting down the top of the camisole. I love them!

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