Tips on Buying Professional Maternity Clothes

Updated September 5, 2019
Pregnant business woman

The need for professional maternity clothes demonstrates that the challenges of being a working mother start long before your baby even arrives. But, don't despair! With the proper planning, you can maintain your sense of style throughout your pregnancy.

Why Should You Buy Maternity Workwear?

Professional maternity attire is made specifically for a pregnant woman's body. These clothes will feel more comfortable and help keep your body covered at work. Many maternity pieces are also made with your post-baby body in mind, so they last for months and even years if you breastfeed. You're likely to be slightly distracted by your new body and your clothes don't have to be another distraction.

When Should You Start Buying Professional Maternity Clothes?

In most cases, you won't need a new wardrobe of professional maternity clothes until you are three to four months pregnant. Some women don't appear to be visibly pregnant until the end of the second trimester. When to buy maternity workwear is a personal choice that depends on how and when your body changes throughout your pregnancy. When you start to notice these fit issues, it's time to think about a new wardrobe:

  • Pants don't zip or button all the way
  • Shirts buttons are pulling creating gaps
  • Skirts seem shorter than before
  • Bare cleavage is becoming borderline racy
  • Movement is restricted by clothing

Tips on Buying Professional Maternity Clothes

When it's time to buy professional maternity clothes, there are a lot of factors to keep in mind. Before shopping, consider the formality requirements for your workplace and discuss any questions about specific allowable styles with your boss if needed.

Find Your Size

Maternity clothing sizes mirror standard clothing sizes in most cases, so you'll wear about the same size in maternity wear. The best thing you can do is try items on to see exactly how maternity clothes fit your particular body type. Some maternity stores even carry fake bellies so you strap them on and see how the clothes will look and feel as your bump grows.

Choose the Right Fabrics

Even though you'll only wear these outfits for a short time period, don't skimp on quality. Suits made from high-quality fabrics are a necessity for any professional woman, regardless of whether she's expecting a new addition to her family. Stretchy materials will be your best friend, but you need to make sure they don't become transparent as they stretch. Light-weight fabrics will feel more comfortable as you'll already be carrying more weight than usual. Pants and skirts that use Lycra for the belly will accommodate your changing shape without unsightly fabric puckers or bumps.

Create a Versatile Wardrobe

Make daily dressing easier and less stressful by filling your closet with only the items you know work with your pregnant body.

  • Use what you have and purchase additional items that are easy to mix-and-match with your current pieces.
  • Consider purchasing a small selection of basic items in neutrals such as tan, black, white, and gray.
  • Accent basic pieces with seasonal colors like cranberry, brown, or red.
  • If you're trying to downplay your pregnancy, purchase one or two new items at a time and gradually introduce them into your wardrobe by pairing them with tops or bottoms that are familiar to your colleagues.

Professional Maternity Outfit Ideas

Depending on your body size and where you're carrying your pregnancy weight, these outfit ideas can get your new wardrobe started. Creating cute maternity outfits you'll love helps you remain confident and efficient during your pregnancy.

Dress With Open Blazer

In the earlier stages of pregnancy like the first trimester, an open blazer can help conceal your new bump especially when people see you from the side. Many pregnant women find dresses and skirts more comfortable when pregnant, so pair a dress with the blazer to keep it professional. You can wear an open blazer at any point in your pregnancy, but the bigger your bump gets, the more accentuated it will be by the coat.

pregnant woman walking around downtown

Turtleneck With Cardigan and Slacks

Any shirt with a high neckline, like a turtleneck, will keep your growing chest adequately covered for work. A professional-looking cardigan gives you the look of a blazer and the comfort you're after. Pair the tops with your favorite maternity slacks for a pulled-together look.

Turtleneck With Cardigan and Slacks

Tunic With Leggings

If you're trying to hide a pregnancy at work or your belly is growing out of control, a tunic can help keep it all under wraps. Pair the loose-fitting, long top with a comfy pair of work-appropriate leggings to complete the look.

Tunic With Leggings

Mid-Length Patterned Dress

An all-over pattern helps take the focus off your baby bump. Mid-length, or calf-length dresses are ideal during most phases of pregnancy for those times you need to squat or bend. Shorter dresses may ride up on your bump and get a little too short as the day goes on.

pregnant businesswoman in her office

Loose Button-Up With Blazer and Pants

Button-up shirts in larger sizes or made with an empire waist work great as a flowy top for work. Get the suit look by pairing the top with an open, oversized blazer and some maternity slacks.

Pregnant woman working

High-Waisted Skirt and Blouse

Keep your professional style with a maternity high-waisted pencil skirt and blouse. Since the skirt sits under your bust, it won't irritate your bump. This look works well in the first and second trimester, but the bigger your bump, the shorter the skirt will get.

High-Waisted Skirt and Blouse

Comfortable Pant Suit

When you hit the third trimester and value comfort above all else, look for drawstring slacks with a tapered leg to stay on trend and professional. Top off the outfit with a plain, comfortable shirt and an open blazer for a comfortable, modern maternity suit.

Comfortable Pant Suit

Loose Blouse With Slacks

Top leggings or maternity slacks with a loose, flowy blouse to hide a pregnancy in the first trimester or keep your bump concealed later on. If you can't stand tight-fitting clothing around your bump or chest, this is a great professional option.

Pregnant businesswoman smiling

Styles That Complement Pregnant Bodies

Every pregnant woman's body is different, but there are many cuts and styles that compliment almost any body type.

  • Leggings give your legs a slimmer look while also providing comfort. Look for faux-leather leggings or tuxedo strip leggings paired with heels or booties for a professional look.
  • Tunic blouses are made to fit loosely and are longer than most shirts so they'll cover your bump and look cute.
  • High-waisted skirts and bottoms take the eye off your bump and raise it up to your face. Choose a top in a contrasting color and a bottom in black or another neutral to draw the eye upward.
  • Elegant maxi dresses give you full coverage and the waistline typically sits under your bust so it won't bother your bump.
  • If you want to accentuate your bump, a calf-length, form-fitting, short-sleeve or long-sleeve dress is appropriate and cute. Add a blazer or cardigan for a more professional look.
  • A-line dresses compliment almost any body type, so they'll likely fit your bump at every stage.

Where to Shop for Maternity Workwear

Many busy career women dread the thought of rearranging their schedules to accommodate several hours of shopping for professional maternity clothes. Fortunately, there are a number of retailers that have maternity sections and online retailers selling exclusively maternity clothes to make shopping easier.

  • Seraphine offers affordable professional dresses and separates in both traditional workwear and modern work trends for the mom-to-be. Prices range from $45 to $400.
  • Find a wide selection of stylish suits, pants, and blouses which are perfect for the workplace at A Pea in the Pod for $50 to $300.
  • The maternity career wear section at Figure 8 Maternity ranges in price from $40 to $200 has mix-and-match suit separates that work well for a number of office settings.
  • With prices from $50 to $250, Rosie Pope maternity clothing includes basics in neutral colors perfect for creating a mix-and-match work wardrobe.
  • If you love high-end pieces, but don't want to invest in new items you'll only wear for a little while, Rent the Runway now has a maternity section where you can "borrow" designer professional maternity wear.
  • From maternity dress pants to tunics and dresses Motherhood Maternity carries all your professional maternity wardrobe needs at affordable prices ranging from $20 to $50.
  • Old Navy's maternity clothes include beautiful blouses and dresses for work all within the $30 to $40 price point.

How to Avoid Buying a Maternity Work Wardrobe

Maternity clothes can be expensive and obviously suit your body best when pregnant, so you won't get much use out of them over time. It's totally possible to update your professional wardrobe during pregnancy without spending any money or by spending very little.

Repurpose Your Existing Wardrobe

To minimize the strain on your clothing budget, try to repurpose your existing wardrobe for the awkward in-between stage of your pregnancy in the first and second trimesters. Unless your bust size has changed dramatically, most of your blouses should still fit properly. Pair these tops with skirts or pants with elastic waistbands to create a look that's comfortable, yet professional. You can also consider wearing some of your suit jackets open over your blouse for a slightly more formal look.

Borrow Your Husband's Work Clothes

The menswear look is trendy for women in the workplace and if your husband is bigger than you, it's easy to get that look. Wear his button-downs with a high-end pair of faux-leather leggings or don his suit jackets with your elastic-waist skirts. The fit you'll get with men's clothing will be more androgenous and masculine, but you can also modify pieces with hidden safety pins if you want a feminine look.

Ask Friends for Hand-Me-Downs

Chances are you know at least a couple women who were pregnant before you. Ask around to see if anyone has maternity clothes or clothes that no longer fit them. Most women are happy to help by passing these items along and it's easier for them than trying to sell those clothes. Mix gently used maternity pieces with staples like loose cardigans and your one pair of maternity dress pants for a seamless transition to your personal style.

Buy Regular Clothes in Bigger Sizes

Depending on your body type and how pregnancy affects it, you might be able to get away with simply buying larger sizes in standard clothing. Maternity clothes tend to be priced higher than normal clothes because of the extra fabrics and design elements. Women with smaller frames or who are petite are most likely to find this method successful since the range of larger sizes available will be bigger. The best part is these clothes can easily help you transition from your post-baby body back to your pre-baby body. Add a belt around your natural waist or under your bust so they look intentionally loose as opposed to baggy.

Don't Forget the Finishing Touches

While you're pregnant, don't become so focused on finding professional maternity clothing that you overlook the rest of your appearance. Tasteful jewelry, fashionable shoes, carefully applied makeup, and well-groomed hair will go a long way towards presenting the professional image you desire.

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Tips on Buying Professional Maternity Clothes