Minimalist maternity wardrobe: what I worn during pregnancy and postpartum

I had seen lots of people experiment with “no buy” challenges in 2020, and had wanted 2021 to be my year of no new clothes when bam – I found out that I was expecting! I wondered: is it possible to buy no new clothes at all while carrying a baby? Well, at 9 months postpartum, I can tell you that no, I did end up acquiring clothes, but you really can get away with buying very few items.

In all honesty, if your goal is to spend the least amount of money possible, you can probably get almost everything you need from local mom or Buy Nothing groups. I did get a few items this way, but this was not the main route I ended up taking. I was ok with acquiring new and new-to-me things if they had staying power in my closet, and I wanted to be comfortable and presentable for work, even though I have been working remotely since the pandemic started. That said, I’m no style blogger, so this is not a “maternity essential” fashion blog post. I just thought it’d be fun to document what items/what quantity I ended up needing through pregnancy and postpartum, in case this is helpful for other expecting parents! I also included links when I can, though much of what I worn was old/used.

The sisterhood of the traveling (maternity) pants

Early in my pregnancy, I asked a few pals to see if they knew anyone who might have extra maternity clothes and scored two enormous bags of clothes within weeks. I wasn’t sure what I’d wear and was confused by the sizing, so I kept more than I should have from this pile. In the end, I learned that your pre-pregnancy size is a great gauge for your size for maternity clothes, and no matter how large my belly got, an L was still way too large. (For context, I was an xxs or xs pre-baby, so why I thought I could grow to a Large even with a bump is…anybody’s guess.) I also learned that if a piece of clothing isn’t my style before pregnancy, it is *shocker!* still not my style during pregnancy. So all said and done, these are the only things I actually used from this haul:

  • One short sleeve and one long-sleeve maternity tee
  • One pair of maternity corduroy pants
  • Two pairs of maternity leggings
  • Two belly bands

The belly bands were quite handy for the first few months when most of my tops fit but I was busting out of all the pants I owned, and the fact that most pants I had were high-waisted did not help. The belly band sort of looks like a bandeau top and goes over your pants so you can leave them unzipped/unbuttoned. Though if you find an extra layer annoying or don’t want to spend the money, the ol’ hair tie will also do the trick for jeans.

Everything I did not keep was passed along to another friend who was expecting…who told me she passed along what didn’t fit her. The thought of these bags of maternity clothes circulating in the greater Boston area really makes me chuckle!

Maternity checklists are helpful, to an extent

I browsed a lot of maternity fashion articles for fun in the last year, but it feels like no one really emphasizes the point that how much new clothes you’ll need depends a lot on what you already own! If your closet is full of boxy tops, flowy dresses, and pants with elastics – it’s very possible your existing wardrobe can fully accommodate a growing belly. This was not my case, so I ended up getting a few more things here and there on top of the clothes I got from friends. Poshmark was so helpful during COVID when going to the thrift shops wasn’t possible, and I love that it works for everyone’s budget. You can find super affordable maternity clothes from fast fashion brands like Gap and H&M, but if you wanted to splurge, they have limited items from brands like Storq and Hatch on the app as well!

  • TOPS: anything long is your friend! Most of my tops were fitted and on the short side, so on top of the 2 maternity shirts I got from friends, I rotated between the few boxy tees I had and occasionally, raided my partner’s t-shirt drawer 🙂 In my third trimester, I finally bought a relaxed button down shirt from Lululemon (no longer sold), and wish I had made the purchase earlier. It was comfortable, work-appropriate, nursing-friendly, and something I’d totally wear post baby.
  • BOTTOMS: I wore the hand-me-down leggings non-stop while working from home, and found that they were also great under sweater dresses. Even though the ones I had were maternity-specific, I know lots of people who simply size up on regular leggings, so “maternity” is definitely not necessary. In addition to leggings and the pair of hand me down pants, I bought 2 more pairs of pants on Poshmark – one pair of thin, drawstring pants for home/warmer weather and one pair of Madewell maternity jeans, both of which I wore postpartum as well. Currently, 9 months postpartum, the maternity pants are too big for me now but I can’t squeeze into most of the pants I owned before so I recently got two more pairs of jeans from the thrift store. I don’t know if I’ll ever fit in my old pants (nor do I really care), but I do know that it feels so good to wear clothes that fit! Highly recommend getting clothes that fit your current body!
  • DRESSES: if I was pregnant during warmer months, I might have attempted to get through my entire pregnancy in dresses; others certainly have! Besides the two sweater dresses I had, I didn’t get many opportunities for dresses during pregnancy, but I did treat myself to this linen dress when I was 3 months postpartum and still looked like I had a baby bump. The shape is so flattering, and I’m so looking forward to wearing it again this summer!
  • OUTERWEAR: since I gave birth in May, the weather had begun to warm up by the time I was really big, so I got away with an oversized wool coat from Muji I’ve owned for years. But a few months ago I also got this expandable down jacket so I can wear baby on our walks (pushing a stroller in the snow is…no, just no.) The link will take you to Amazon, but I got mine on Poshmark for $40. It’s quite warm, and totally would been bump-friendly had I needed a puffer during pregnancy.

When secondhand just wont’ do

  • BRAS: I learned early on that your size will change throughout pregnancy and postpartum, so I kept putting off on ordering bras and somehow ended up getting through my entire pregnancy in my sports bras. Then baby came along, and I was exhausted and sleepy and bleeding and overwhelmed and squeezing into bras that didn’t fit was just the last thing I wanted to do. Hence these bras because Target did same day delivery! They are fine – I continue to wear them now, and would totally have worn them during pregnancy. Moral of the story: don’t agonize like I did! If you like the bras you have, you can simply size up. Nursing bras and tanks can be quite helpful; I liked the seamless ones I had because they were comfortable to sleep in, and there were no clips that deal with. Just guestimate sizing – I ended up getting two sizes and wore them at different times. (For pumping, I got two new-with-tags Medela pumping bras from Poshmark. I mean, I don’t know if they are the best, I got them because Medela is the brand of my breast pump and I was too lazy to research. They get the job done, aka hands free pumping, just finnneeee.)
  • NURSING PADS: nursing gets so messy! IYKYK. I used these and give them a thumb up, but if you already have reusable makeup remover pads, give those a try first!
  • UNDIES: sizing up from the undies you already have will likely works just fine. I waited until I absolutely couldn’t squeeze into my underwear anymore and ordered these maternity undies last minute due to fast shipping. Do you sense a theme here? 😅 (If I had actually searched instead of impulse ordering off Amazon late one night, I probably would have gotten some from Pact.)
  • PERIOD UNDIES: I got tired of wearing maxipads pretty quickly after giving birth, so I ordered a few pairs of period undies, which are both more comfortable and less wasteful. For folks who don’t know anything about postpartum bleeding: it can last 2-6 weeks regardless of how you deliver, and in my case, it was actually 11 weeks due to complications. (And obviously, menstrual cups and tampons are a no-go after childbirth.) I’m happy with the ones I got from Thinx, but I know there are lots of brands out there! With 3 pairs of undies and 3 reusable cloth pads from GladRags, I was basically able to forgot pads all together. I’d say you need at least 3 pairs – ideally a few more – to make it to laundry day, unless you want to hand wash.

The unexpected wardrobe MVP goes to…

I want to mention one more thing that I have been using a ton, which is a robe! I never owned a robe before, but I got one in a pinch after giving birth (Thank you Target same-day delivery) because it was the fastest thing to put on when you are getting up 8 times a night, and there’s something oddly comforting about a robe when you are averaging 4 hours of sleep a day, ha. Since I got it, rarely a day goes by where I don’t use it, so it is truly the unexpected MVP in my maternity wardrobe.

There you have it – I hope this is helpful for anyone who is expecting and aspires to keep a small maternity wardrobe!