At this time last year, I was a few months into my pregnancy with Plumblossom. My goal had been not to purchase a single piece of maternity wear, and rather make do with what I already had.
Naïve and ambitious, I know—but I’m proud to say that I almost achieved it.
The first trimester was easy. Although I never had any morning sickness, I also didn’t have much of an appetite. I’m glad I didn’t run out to the nearest Motherhood store after my positive pregnancy test, because my normal clothes fit perfectly fine for the first few months. And as I wanted to keep my pregnancy secret for as long as possible, my attire didn’t tip anyone off (though declining wine at dinner raised a few eyebrows!).
In the second trimester, some items started to feel a little tight around the waist. Uh-oh. Fortunately, it was summer, so I lived in three shift dresses. Their A-line shape was ideal for my expanding baby bump, and actually looked quite chic with a pair of ballet flats. I also had two pairs of linen drawstring pants that accommodated my growing waistline.
It was in the third trimester, though, that reality hit. My dresses still fit, but temps were dropping; and although I’m no fashionista, I don’t do linen with snow on the ground. I had a pair of yoga pants with an elastic waist to wear around the apartment; but without any bottoms I could leave home in, I finally broke down and hit the maternity section of my local department store.
I came away with two items: one pair of black maternity pants, and one pair of black maternity leggings. They both had a wide elastic (and oh so comfortable) band around the waist, enabling me to wear them right up until delivery. I paired the pants with my tops and sweaters that still fit, and wore the leggings with my shift dresses. I also fashioned a “maternity cardigan” from an old ribbed turtleneck: I cut it straight up the center, and added a tie closure at chest level—leaving the bottom to fall open around my belly.
I had one other item that served me well in those final months—what I now call my “Superdress.” A little background: in 2008, I did a “No Clothes Shopping” challenge for the entire year. I then spent the holidays in Italy, and on Jan. 2, 2009 (a day of huge sales in Rome) I bought a gray sweater dress. The stretchy knit clings to my normal figure—but on a whim, I tried it on in my sixth month of pregnancy, and was pleasantly surprised to find it stretched to fit my bump…and still did so in my seventh month…and eighth month…and ninth month as well! I only gained 22 pounds during my pregnancy, but still…that’s a pretty impressive dress when you have a basketball-shaped belly.
I know only a small percentage of my readers are currently pregnant, or plan to be so in the near future. However, the minimalist strategies I used for maternity wear can be applied to any situation for which you think you need new clothes (such as a new job or social event):
Scour what you have. Dig deep in that closet, and give what you have a chance—that’s how I discovered my amazing, expanding Superdress.
Repurpose what you have. Be creative: for example, a short dress can become a tunic top with a pair of leggings.
Remake what you have. Even if you’re not a skilled seamstress, a pair of scissors and a needle and thread can go a long way.
Borrow. Whether you need a dress for a cocktail party, a tie for an interview, or a maternity top for a few months, consider borrowing from a friend. The bonus: you can return it later and save space in your own closet.
Don’t buy until you’re desperate. When your only alternative is going naked, it’s time to go shopping.
I did get a little extra mileage out of my pants and leggings the month after Plumblossom was born. However, I was back in my regular clothes rather quickly, thanks to the excellent fitness program she devised for me: doing thousands of laps around our tiny apartment trying to get her to settle and sleep.
Since I don’t know if I’ll have another child, I’m glad I didn’t accumulate a lot of specialty clothes; otherwise, I’d now be faced with the dilemma of whether to store or declutter them. To be honest, my two-item maternity wardrobe is actually still wearable. I can fold over the belly band on the leggings, and they fit just like a regular pair. The pants, on the other hand, are a bit frumpy and relegated to the back of my closet—for those days when everything else is in the laundry, or when I eat a particularly large meal.