Buying Clothes (when you’re pregnant)

I started “showing” at a very early stage. My belly was big enough by eight weeks that I needed to start looking in to pants with stretchy waistbands. I also needed a new bra or two, as anything with an under-wire or padding was becoming unbearable. My mum, in her enthusiasm about becoming a grandparent for the first time, offered to take me shopping for some new things, and off we went.

There are not a lot of options when it comes to decent quality, reasonably priced maternity clothes in Edmonton. Sure, there are a few specialty, high-end boutiques, but why would I pay over $120 for a pair of jeans I’m going to be wearing for less than seven months?That just doesn’t make any sense. That leaves two options: Motherhood, a US company with branches in Canada, and Thyme Maternity, the Reitman’s offshoot for pregnant women. I had started browsing both companies online as soon as I found out we were expecting, so I had a pretty good idea which I would prefer before going in.

Our mall of choice at the moment (because it has the most selection and is the easiest to get to) is West Edmonton Mall. They have a location for both Motherhood and Thyme, so it made the most sense to start there. Motherhood was the first store we stopped at. First off, let me say that the service was outstanding. The girl who helped us was friendly, knowledgeable about the products they carried and able to make suggestions without seeming pushy. As someone who has worked in retail for most of my life, service is extremely important anywhere that I shop. I will leave a store that has terrible service, even if they have something that I’m interested in.

We started with bras. I had no idea what size I was sitting at, so the sales associate did a fitting and informed me that I was measuring in at a 34DD. What?? How is that even possible? The bras that I had just stopped wearing were a 34B, and looking at myself in the mirror, I would not have guessed I was anywhere near DD standing. I ended up getting a lovely no-wire nursing bra in a 36D, and putting it on was like heaven. It was a complete 180 from what I had been wearing, and it manages to offer support without pinching or pulling anywhere. No, it’s not fancy, but at this point I was more concerned with what felt good, and this bra feels amazing.

Next, it was on to jeans and tops. Maternity stuff goes by your pre-pregnancy size, which I didn’t know, and we managed to find a few pairs of jeans that I liked. This was a small miracle, seeing as finding jeans when I’m my regular size is an absolute nightmare. An added bonus? They carry different lengths, so I wasn’t going to have to pay to get three inches chopped off my pants. Yay! I ended up buying these beauties, and they have become my new wardrobe stable. Let me just say, for anyone who wasn’t sure, maternity pants are the best things ever invented. Period.

We also walked away with two side-ruched t-shirts, a whack of underwear (who knew having maternity undies would make such a difference?) and some amazing sour candies that really help with pregnancy sickness. All in all, it was a very successful trip. We got good service, and I snagged some good pieces that will work throughout my entire pregnancy. That’s another thing I loved about this store: everything they sell is designed to work for all three trimesters, so you’re not having to go back every time you change size and get a whole new wardrobe. It’s brilliant.

After a few weeks, I was starting to want a pair of pants that were a little lighter in weight. I was thinking chinos or a light-weight capri. We never did make it in to Thyme on our last shopping trip, so the next time I was at a mall, bumming around by myself, I decided to stop in and see what they had to offer. Right away, I wasn’t overly impressed by the selection. A lot of what they had didn’t seem very high quality, and honestly, there were far too many polyester blends for my liking. I’m having a hard enough time regulating my temperature right now as it is. Adding polyester to my clothes is not going to help.

After wandering around on my own for a few minutes, I was approached by a sales associate who asked if I needed help finding anything. I explained that I was just starting to build my maternity wardrobe, so I thought I would stop in and see what they had to offer. This is where things went way south. She started talking about belly bands and how most of her customers didn’t like them because they were too constricting. Fair enough, I said, but there was a full coverage belly band on the pants I was wearing, and I really liked it. Then she started talking about how I needed to avoid belts, because wearing a belt can cause you to go in to premature labour. Hold on a second… did a retail sales associate just try to give me (extremely inaccurate) medical advice? No. No, that will not do at all. I would like to point out that I have nothing against people who work in retail, seeing as I am one myself. I just have a problem with people giving out false, and possibly dangerous, medical advice to people who may or may not know better.

I’m pretty sure she picked up on the fact that I didn’t care for what she was saying, and switched tactics.

“So, is there anything specific that I can help you find today?”

“Actually, I was looking for a nice pair of chinos.”

Blank stare.

“You know, khakis?”

Blank stare.

“Cotton pants, light weight, in a beige or camel or tan colour.”

“Oh, we don’t have much like that, but I’ll get you something that I think might work.” She left and returned shortly with a pair of olive-green pants in linen. Not even close. I politely told her that I would continue to browse on my own and left it at that. I didn’t stay in the store for much longer, as nothing was really appealing to me. The tops, while long, didn’t have side ruching and all the pants seemed to be one standard length. Also, anyone who sells clothes for a living needs to know what chinos are. That double blank stare really lost points. I probably won’t be back, at least not to the Kingsway Mall location.

Shawn and I went back to Motherhood at WEM later on that week and I got a roll-sleeve sweater that will work for all sorts of weather, and a pair of light-weight, convertible pants in black that I can wear as capris now and long pants (with boots) once it gets colder. I’m all about the wardrobe extenders and using what I have and what I get for as long as I can.

Luckily, a lot of the tops I already had are more than long enough to accommodate my growing shape, and I have a hefty collection of cardigans that I can throw over a ribbed tank top to jazz things up a bit. Even I have to leave them undone, it still works, and it saves me from having to go out and spend more money I shouldn’t be spending on new sweaters. I also have a large collection of trapeze style dresses that are going to work for a long time. I just need to get a few narrower belts to go with them, as all my wide, waist-cinching ones are starting to be less than workable. Combine that with the two eyelet dresses I got from Old Navy before our honeymoon (they have a bit of a higher waist), and I’m doing fairly well in the clothes department.

One thing that has been bothering me, though, is the lack of inspiration in most of the maternity wear I’ve been seeing. Jeans are great. T-shirts are great. But, as anyone who knows me at all will be able to tell you, I’m not really a jeans and tees kind of girl. I like pretty dresses. I like fitted bodices and flared circle skirts. I love all the retro inspired pieces in my collection, and I know I’m not the only one. So, where are the fun, awesome clothes for the girls who happen to love fun, pretty clothes, but who also happen to be having a baby?

My quest for adorable, totally me preggo wear started when my husband and I were out on Whyte Ave with his mom and nana. His mom wanted to see one of my favourite stores, Rowena (see Retro Glam for more), because she was always fascinated by the great stuff I got there. I was poking around the many racks of amazing dresses when Shawn walked over with these. He knew I wanted more cute, flat shoes that I could wear when my centre of gravity got all messed up, and he happened to love the black mary janes with the adorable blue birds on the toe. Husband is picking shoes? Wife needs to ask if she can have them. Naturally, they are now mine and I wear them all the time. This got me thinking: Where else can I go to get nice clothes for my new body?

I didn’t really need anything, so I stopped looking for a while. Then, today happened. I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, and I needed to go out and get a thank you gift for my obstetrician. I know, it’s a little early for that, but if you guys knew how amazing she’s been, you would understand. Anyway, I knew exactly what I wanted: a monogrammed mug from Anthropologie, one of my favourite, ever, stores. I was going to get her the mug, fill it with chocolates, and be on my merry way. Well, I was also going to get some more undies from the maternity store, but after that, mug and then home.

I grabbed my underwear (on sale), and was once again very uninspired by the offerings for clothes. Oh well, I thought. You don’t need to be a fashionista when you’re pregnant. You can do jeans and tees every day for a while. It’s not going to kill you. Then I headed to Anthro, and my mind completely changed. That store is an oasis for me. Everywhere I look, I see sweaters, skirts and dresses that are dying to come home with me (I just know they are.) Surely, there had to be something maternity friendly in there?

I grabbed my mug and started to wander around. My eye kept being drawn to things that wouldn’t work with my current shape. Yes, the pink tulle and lace skirt was gorgeous, but it’s not for right now. Keep moving. Narrow grey tweed pants?  Divine, but there is no room in there for your belly. Next table.

That’s when I spotted it, hanging in the sale section. The Forget-me-not Dress: cream cotton, with blue embroidered flowers that let the sunshine yellow under-skirt peek through. And, could it be? Could this be a dress that will work for me? I picked it up. Yes, the front was pleated in all the right places, just under the empire waist line. Oh, and the back has stretch panels. Perfect. I had to put it on. I grabbed a few other hopefuls and headed to the change room, thinking that these couldn’t possibly be what I had been looking for.

The dress, the original dress with the flowers and the pleats, was perfect. It didn’t pinch, it has enough give to allow my rib cage to expand and my boobs to get bigger, and the front pleating will let my baby bump grow as much as it needs to. Finally! A dress that made my whole self happy when I put it on, that would fit me now and after the baby was born. I knew it could be done.

It wasn’t long before several staff members were on the hunt for more pieces that would work for me. I told them I was looking for bay bump friendly stuff that didn’t suck (how could anything from Anthro suck?) and they were more than happy to help. After much perusing of all the awesome stuff they brought me, I picked out two more shirts: a trapeze baseball tee in black and a braid wrapped v-neck in turquoise. Both tops will work now, later and after my pregnancy, and they’re gorgeous. I especially like the v-neck. It manages to show off my boobs and not my nursing bra, which is not an easy thing to do.

What did we learn? You don’t have to stop at a maternity store just because you’re having a baby. Yes, get pants there. You will be glad you did. Get a few tops with ruching at the sides. But don’t feel like you have to get everything from a store just because you’re pregnant. Here are the things I would look for when searching for non-maternity maternity clothes:

  1. In dresses, look for pleating in the front. Pleats are very forgiving and will allow ample room for your expanding tummy.
  2. Empire waists are your friend, whether in a dress or a top. Look for waistlines that will sit above your bump, and you should be good to go.
  3. Look for tops and dresses in a trapeze style with an a-line and no actual waist. You can always cinch above your belly with a belt (which is perfectly safe to do) or let things flow as they will.
  4. Smocking is great and allows for a great fit no matter what size you are. You know how some dresses have stretchy panels at the back or sides? That’s smocking, and it allows for some wiggle room when it comes to rib cage and boob size.
  5. Long tank tops and tees from just about anywhere (if they have enough stretch) will last you for quite a while. All of my ribbed take tops from the Gap and Eddie Bauer are still fitting really well because they have the length to accommodate my belly and not leave any bits sticking out.
  6. Cardigans are awesome. You don’t have to do them up, so get them where ever you’d like! You can also do with open front sweaters from just about anywhere. I’m planning on grabbing some cozy stuff for fall and winter from Simon’s, as they have some great stuff at really good prices.
  7. Invest in things you love. If you don’t love something, don’t get it. This tends to be a rule with me no matter what my body is doing, but right now it seems extra important. Things are expanding, hormones are going crazy, and I don’t always feel awesome, so I need clothes that I can put on and fall in love with over and over again. The dress I got today does that.

I think it was really important to me to keep my sense of style during a time when so many things about myself feel so foreign. It may seem superficial to some people, but I like getting dressed and doing my makeup. I don’t do it for other people (no matter what anyone else may think), I do it because it makes me feel awesome, and it’s fun! Just because I’m having a baby doesn’t mean I’m going to give that up.

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