Minimalism hasn’t always come naturally to us, and we still struggle with different zones of our home and life but once my husband and I started using capsule wardrobes, clothing hasn’t been an issue. In fact, it’s been a catalyst for so many other strong decisions made in other areas. Paring down our clothing and focusing on reuse and secondhand before purchasing new, and then being thoughtful about new purchases is also in line with our zero waste home goals. Check out True Cost for more information on the human and environmental toll of the fashion and textile industry.
I just had my second child in January and couldn’t be happier with our sweet new addition. And now that it’s over and I can reflect on my (not so easy) pregnancy, I wanted to share all about my maternity wardrobe. While my husband set up his Fall capsule wardrobe (we use the Project 333 system), and then Winter, I sat on the sidelines.
I didn’t need to set up my seasonal capsule wardrobes, because I already had my wardrobe all set. By layering a few different items I was comfortable from the hottest days in summer through the cold Vermont winter.
I wore pretty much the same handful of items from my maternity wardrobe regardless of season. Even though it feels really (realllllly. But seriously, really.) long, pregnancy is actually temporary. I work remotely and usually from home, so this may not be the perfect formula for someone who is in an office every day but I hope all moms realize that a huge maternity wardrobe is not necessary to get through the 9+ months and beyond.
I’m willing to bet that even if you work out of the home 5 days a week, people you see daily won’t notice what you’re wearing, and you could wear the same maternity dress over and over again with no problem.
More truthiness coming at you: you’ll likely pare down to only a few items at the very very end. Even some maternity-specific items may not feel comfortable or fit well in the last few weeks of pregnancy. That’s okay! Just wear and wash(if needed) the few things that fit over and over again. Your comfort matters but there’s seriously no need to go out and buy a set of new clothes just for the last couple weeks. In other words: trying to make your whole maternity wardrobe work for your whole pregnancy just isn’t feasible.
Do your best and air on the side of too little. If you absolutely need to add something to feel comfortable and confident and more easily get through your weeks, go for it.
This list doesn’t include the random t-shirt of my husbands I threw on while lounging around the house, or other things like that. However, let’s be real, most of this stuff is pretty much loungewear. 🙂
How to build a maternity capsule wardrobe:
Step 1: Review your existing closet
Are there items you can wear during all or certain trimesters? Maxi dresses, for example, are often great during pregnancy even if you don’t buy a maternity-specific style. Looser tops, stretchy pants, tank tops also fall in this category. Certainly accessories like scarves and jewelry will work no matter how much your body changes.
Think outside your normal closet, too. I stole a few t-shirts from my husband to use as loungewear and sleepwear at the end. I also “stole” from my gym and lounge clothing to wear in more day-to-day life for a spell.
A word of caution on this step: Try not to get too caught up in trying to make non-maternity stuff work for you if it just doesn’t feel comfortable. Or if you’re worried about stretching it out. Pregnancy-specific clothing is designed for a pregnant woman and it can be way more comfortable …and in turn make you feel confident in your changing body.
Step 2: Begin to build your capsule:
- Either list on paper or lay out your clothing – all of it
- Write down or imagine a handful of ways you could wear each item. As you can see from the photo, I included black, white and blue items in my maternity capsule. And that’s pretty much it. Those are the colors I like, and they go well together. If you have more colorful pieces, I’m sure you’ll still be able to find multiple ways to wear each item.
- I can’t tell you to have “5 tops and 4 pairs of pants.” I don’t know how you like to dress, in what kinds of fabrics (some need to be laundered more than others) and in what colors. Here’s my advice: You can go with an established capsule “plan” like Project 333, or you can simply think about how often each item will have to be washed if it’s worn under normal conditions (aka doesn’t get soiled or stained somehow) and think about how often you typically do laundry … and do the math. Do you have enough bottoms/tops/dresses/full outfits to get you from laundry day to laundry day?
- Identify any holes that will help make your wardrobe more versatile and long-lasting.
- Air on the side of too few items at first and fill in as needed.
- Make a wishlist
- Proceed with caution to the next steps.
Step 3: Purchase maternity clothing secondhand
Maternity items at secondhand shops tend to be in like-new condition because they aren’t worn for very long. Secondhand shops are usually full of good-condition maternity clothing but if you strike out at local brick-and-mortar shops, check on eBay or thredUp (this link gets you $ off your order). psst…For those of you in my area in Northern Vermont, check out Dirt Chic and Karen’s Kloset.
Optional Step 4: Purchase new maternity items
This is going to hurt, but… only go for items that are high quality and will work for postpartum/breastfeeding or longer as a part of your regular wardrobe. I cannot stress this enough – especially if you hope you’ll wear maternity items for future children, go for the nicer brands. It shouldn’t be surprising but cheaper/fast fashion maternity clothes will behave the same way regular sized fast fashion will and you’ll end up with stretched out, misshapen clothes filled with holes and rips.
When you’re pregnant it’s just so much more comfortable and yes, economical, to wear items that are higher quality. If you find the higher-end pieces to be out of your price range, go back to Step 2 and try to find what you need secondhand. Otherwise, choose a few items carefully.
If you research a handful of versatile, high-quality pieces that you just have to buy new, take the plunge. The stuff I bought new during my first pregnancy held up for a lo-oong time after my daughter was born, held up well during my second pregnancy and I’m still wearing some of the pieces postpartum this time around. I have had to mend a few holes and certain fabrics are a little more worn than when I bought them, but I’m still calling it a win and would recommend these products and brands to friends (that’s you!)
Check around locally to see if you can try things on but in my experience I mainly had to purchase the specific new maternity clothing I wanted online. I like Figure 8 Maternity – excellent selection, good frequent sales and even excellent-er customer service. I also found that Amazon had a surprisingly good selection and good prices.
The only thing I think everyone should consider buying new if you can’t find secondhand are high-quality maternity leggings with the “secret-fit panel.” That’s the panel that goes all the way over your belly up to your boobs. Trust me, it’s like heaven for your bump during every trimester – even when you don’t really have a bump per se (just some lumpiness that strangers might mistake for a large lunch.)
If you’re not a “leggings as pants” type of dresser, the high-quality maternity leggings are not sheer AT. ALL. and can be worn with anything in my opinion, including longer-length shirts, dresses, around the house, on walks, or even to the gym.
I am a fan of Blanqi leggings – I wore them pretty much every day – and I’ve also heard similar raves about Ingrid & Isabel leggings. I purchased two pairs of boring leggings from a mainstream maternity store during my first pregnancy and I had to mend holes in them pretty much immediately. Since I already own them, I am still wearing them – and mending them – this time around but compared to my Blanqi leggings, they are just all around lackluster. And shapeless. And thin. Which is not what you want from pants when you’re pregnant.
Here’s the list of all the items I drew from for the late summer, fall and winter months while I was pregnant:
Some items may be pretty much ignored depending on the season (like the sweaters in summer) but most of these items were worn on regular rotation. For example, I’d throw on a t-shirt dress and sandals pretty much every day in summer, and I’d pair that same dress with leggings if it was a little chilly, or that same dress with a cardigan. In the colder months I’d layer a dress under a shirt and/or a heavier sweater.
Black maternity t-shirts
Black long tank top and Beige long tank top (not maternity but very stretchy)
Black tunic shirt (not maternity but worked pretty much the whole pregnancy)
Striped long-sleeve t-shirt (not maternity but pretty stretchy, will work almost until the end)
Gray long-sleeve tunic top (not maternity but very stretchy and thin)
Gray Boob Design Ruched Long-sleeve maternity/nursing shirt
Black Boob Design Ruched Long-sleeve maternity/nursing shirt
Gray maternity tunic sweater
In the early days I also wore a handful of my regular wardrobe t-shirts but I stopped once I thought they might be stretching out… or you could see the “secret fit” panel on my jeans – haha! I wore a lot more of my “pre-pregnancy” clothing during my first pregnancy for too long and some items did end up a little stretched out. This time I stopped wearing my regular clothes much earlier on and repeated the same maternity-friendly items more often.
Maternity jeans by AG (a splurge but very high quality, made in California. You can also try to find on eBay for a cost savings)
2 pairs other leggings
p.s in my first trimester I wore a few pairs of my normal leggings but maternity leggings are way more comfortable, even in those early days in my opinion.
p.p.s. I never loved this trick, but you can extend the life of your standard-sized pants with this hair tie trick.
Cotton t-shirt dresses x 2 (not maternity but very stretchy)
White t-shirt dress with eyelet pattern (not maternity but very stretchy plus two layers of fabric so pretty supportive)
Black maxi dress (not maternity but roomy and has a great empire waist)
Black 3/4 sleeve dress (not maternity but basically a flowy tent – I add a belt to cinch the waist above the bump)
Storq caftan dress (made for postpartum but I sized up to wear during pregnancy as well)
Outerwear and layering pieces:
Elbow-length black cropped cardigan
Tissue-weight white open-front cardigan with lace back detail
Lightweight open-weave wrap cardigan
Heavy wrap sweater, which I used as a coat throughout the winter. Technically not maternity but had a ton of fabric so it was very warm and cozy. I’d also sometimes wear my regular Patagonia coat, unzipped over my belly. Not the warmest for super-duper cold days but it was totally functional.
Shoes and Accessories:
Wool beanie hat
Chunky circle scarf
Sun hat (sun protection is important all the time but pregnancy can do weird stuff so … protect your skin!)
Soft Star Merry Janes
Gray low-heel boots
Belts – one thin black and when that no longer fit, I went for a stretchy tie-belt that I stole off a different non-maternity dress that definitely didn’t fit me. But the belt did!
I’ve said this before about shoes during pregnancy, but it’s worth repeating. You might carry weight differently and therefore need to wear different shoes than normal. Or limit your shoes to only a couple. Or only one pair. See above re: clothing. No one will notice if you wear the same shoes over and over again. I promise. Even in an office. And if they do, they need to get a freakin’ life because you are GROWING ONE. And you can tell them I said that.
So here’s the deal: Before you go out to your local mall/discount big-box shoe store (oh, you know the one) to find new shoes that will work with your new body, try on everything you own. Don’t look at them and think about them, try. them. on. You might be surprised at what works and what you like. During my first pregnancy I was actually really comfortable for a while in wedges and other high heels. They supported me in the ways I needed and felt great, so I went with it even though my instincts would say to avoid those types of footwear. My doctor confirmed that wedges and heels are totally fine as long as you feel comfortable.
If you do want to get a pair of new shoes that will be super versatile, work well for pregnancy and beyond, consider getting “barefoot” or “minimalist” shoes. This is a great brand, and I also recommend Soft Star. I have a pair of their “Merry Janes” that I got right after my first was born and I wear them non stop. They are beautifully made in Oregon and their customer service is awesome.
If anything in my maternity wardrobe still has any life left when I no longer need them, I will pass along the items to friends, sell or donate.
You might also be interested in reading:
- My hospital bag packing list
- My minimalist, zero waste hospital bag packing list
- How to build a minimalist, eco-friendly baby registry
(p.s. I’ll be sharing my multi-season breastfeeding friendly minimalist wardrobe here on Meredith Tested soon so stay tuned!)
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