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How to Build a Capsule Maternity Wardrobe – Without Breaking the Bank!

How to Build a Capsule Maternity Wardrobe – Without Breaking  the Bank!

Image Credit: Allie Ware

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Maternity Wear.

What does that phase conjure up in your mind? I know what I thought when I first became pregnant.

Huge flappy dresses that would make me look like a ship in full sail.

Sweatpants with saggy T-shirts.

Cropped leggings.

Ugh. Not really my style.

From pretty early in my pregnancies, I felt nauseous and tired all day long, and I certainly could not face going round the shops, and I really did not feel like trying clothes on.

Plus, when a baby is on the way, you have a lot of expenses. I really did not want to spend a lot of money on clothing that I don’t like and will only get a few months use out of anyway.

How to Build a Capsule Maternity Wardrobe – Without Breaking the Bank!

But most of all I wanted to look good. I like colour, I like prints and I like to mix and not match. So here is the problem. How do you find nice clothing to wear when you are pregnant, without spending too much money?

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The Plan

I needed a plan. How to keep my usual style without spending too much money or having to spend too much time shopping?

Plus I did not want to have to think too much about what I was going to wear every day, especially when I had slept badly and even getting up seemed like hard work.

I needed a maternity capsule wardrobe.

Hold the Credit Card Just Yet!

A pregnant woman doing yoga

Image Credit: Mediamodifier

Before you hit the shops however here are a couple of things to consider.

When you have had your baby it is unlikely that you will fit into your old clothes straight after the birth. So unless you want to wear your maternity stuff for another nine months, you will need some clothes in a larger size.

If this is your first pregnancy, do not know how big you are going to get. Some people just seem to develop a neat little bump while the rest of their body remains slim. Some of us closely resembled a whale from about 4 months.

So if you follow the advice often seen on maternity clothing to “buy your normal size, it will fit you all through your pregnancy”, you might just end up with a lot of clothes that you can’t wear for the last 4 months of your pregnancy. Don’t buy a lot of stuff too early.

Think Ahead

Navy Knitted Maternity & Nursing Dress with Pockets from Seraphine

Start by buying a couple of items of non-maternity clothing in a size larger than you usually wear. Choose things in your usual style that you will want to wear after baby is born. This will also put people off the scent if you are trying to keep your pregnancy a secret!

You will have something really comfortable to wear early in your pregnancy and you will also have something nice to wear home from hospital, as you will probably be a size or so bigger straight after the birth.

Invest in Classic Maternity Basics

A pregnant woman using a laptop

Image Credit: shaila19

Every fashion magazine will tell you the same thing: Invest in classic clothes to underpin your wardrobe. Yawn. Pre-pregnancy, my wardrobe would not have known a classic basic if one came up and bit it.

However this is a really good mantra to adopt when you are building a maternity wardrobe. I went for the most basic classics – a good pair of maternity jeans and a pair of smart but comfortable black trousers.

Actually, that is not strictly true; early in my first pregnancy I bought a lovely pair of maternity chinos (they were fashionable that year, OK?) in my usual size. (Remember that favourite joke of maternity wear retailers “buy your usual size”?) When I first bought them they looked enormous and I was swamped by them. By 5 months I could barely get them past my knees.

Finally I bought a couple of plain maternity tops in my favourite colours, which I wore with both a suit that I bought for work, and my jeans. And that was it. That was all the actual maternity wear I bought.

My Top Shops For High Street Maternity Wear

These are the current best places on the high street to buy good, affordable basics for a capsule maternity wardrobe. Often they will only available at larger branches or online, so if you are travelling to go maternitywear shopping, check if the maternity range is actually available in that branch.

Shop Your Own Wardrobe

A pregnant woman in a cool leather jacket

Image Credit: Daniel Reche

The best way to save money on your maternity wardrobe is to use what you already have and love. A lot of your current wardrobe will be wearable for some or even all of your pregnancy.

Most women do not feel as cold as usual while pregnant (I didn’t have to wear socks in bed all winter. Yay!), so you may not need to splash out on maternity knitwear at all. If I did feel cold, I just wore the cardigans I already had and didn’t do them up. The same goes for coats and jackets.

Inevitably, when you are pregnant, your boobs will get bigger. So it will depend on how much bigger your boobs get, as to whether you will be able to wear many of your tops. As a rule, small boobs may only go up a size or two; big boobs can get much, much bigger.

Finally, accessorize, accessorize, accessorize. If you are bigger you can wear bolder prints, brighter colours and chunkier jewellery. Work those scarves! Jingle your most fabulous jewels!

What Do I Wear To Work?

Lavender Blossom Knot Front Maternity Dress from Seraphine

I also spent stupid money on buying a maternity suit for work, because this was a few years ago and that kind of thing mattered then.

Office dress codes are much more relaxed in most industries these days, so unless you are a captain of industry or a lawyer, you probably won't need a suit, which is lucky, because it is almost impossible to find them. I wanted to add a link here to buy one, but I couldn't find any for sale in the UK.

A black maternity blazer is something you will be able to find from many maternity ranges, which you can wear with a skirt, trouser or over a smart dress.

Maternity Underwear

The absolute most important undergarment that you are going to need are your maternity bras, and later nursing bras. And you should really get fitted for this, just when you least feel like going to a shop and taking off all your clothes. So yes, I bought my maternity bras online, guessed the size and hoped for the best.  All I can say is that mostly it worked out……

One bra-related money-saving tip that I can recommend is to buy nursing bras straight away rather than maternity bras. That way, you will already have them available for when baby arrives, if you plan to breastfeed.

Freebies for UK Mums

Go Plus Size

Desperate for something affordable to wear to a Christmas party, I finally had a brainwave and for the first time in my life crossed the threshold of my local branch of Evans (Evans are online only now). My prejudices about plus-size clothing were swept away in an instant; there were lots of lovely party clothes, and they would fit me!

I bought a reasonably priced glitzy, glamorous and most importantly, stretchy top to wear with my trusty black trousers and danced the night away.

OK, I actually danced for three songs then headed off for a sit down for the rest of the evening, but you know what I mean.

Shop Other People’s Wardrobes

I was rather lucky because my sister had a baby seven months before me, and so she gave  me a bundle of her old maternity wear. They were a bit random – she had thrown out anything too badly worn – but there were a few very useful things, including a plain black stretchy skirt, which was perfect for work (lycra is your friend wardrobe-wise in pregnancy).

The bundle included a couple of dresses in a colour I don’t wear, so I tie-dyed one of the dresses into a fabulous hippy dress that I loved to wear as it was loose and comfortable, and just dyed the other one to a better colour for me. I used Dylon washing machine dyes.

Here’s a very good tutorial on how to get started with tie–dye.

Accept all offers of used maternity wear with gratitude! Your friends will be glad to offload them, and you never know what might end up being your go-to garment.

Can You Buy Second-hand Maternitywear?

I usually love to save money by going to charity shops for clothes, but for maternity wear I would suggest that unless you are feeling very strong I would not honestly recommend bothering. Charity shops rarely have much maternity clothing – I guess everyone wears it to destruction – and the chances of finding anything, let alone something in your size, are very, very small.

However it might be worth looking in charity shops at the plus size clothing section, although my current experience of charity shops is that there is very little choice much above a size 16 these days.  My best tip would be to check out the men’s section and hunt for cool oversized T-shirts and knitwear.

The best place for used maternity wear is the online marketplaces such as eBay, Vinted or Depop which all have loads of affordable maternity wear. Even designer reseller Vestiaire Collective has a collection of affordable secondhand designer maternity clothing. There is usually a big enough selection of clothing that you should find something in your size that you will like.

The downside of course, is that you can’t try anything on and it can be a pain to return if it doesn’t fit. If in doubt, go for a brand you know, check measurements if they are included in the listing or go up a size.

Buying second hand will be a massive cost saving, especially if you need an outfit that you will only wear once for a special occasion such as a wedding, party or other special event.

One Night Stand

A pregnant Woman in A Red Floral Dress

Image Credit: r P

The other brilliant solution for when you need an outfit for a special occasion when you are pregnant is to rent something.  Yes, there are a small but growing number of businesses that will rent you a designer maternity number for your special day, from a perfect floral for Henley or Ascot, a little black dress for a cool party or even a wedding dress for your big day.

Some will even rent you basic pieces such as hoodies, basic black skirts and classic Breton tops.

Some of the best known places to rent maternity wear are Isabella Oliver and Girl Meets Dress

Be The Most Stylish Mum-to-Be

With these tips you should be able to feel relaxed about what to wear, and look good while not spending much money. When you are pregnant you’ve got lots of other important things to do - from preparing the nursery, buying all the kit that baby needs, going to check-ups and pre-natal classes and keeping yourself healthy too.

If your wardrobe is sorted, it’s one less thing to think about.

A Favourite Book on Maternity Dressing

One of my favourite books with advice on what to wear when you are pregnant is What You Wear Can Change Your Life by Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine, which has a section on what to wear, and of course what not to wear during pregnancy.

Although this book was published over 20 years ago, when both the authors were expecting, most of the advice stands the test of time, even if some of the outfits don’t.

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