How to build a vintage style maternity wardrobe

how to build a vintage style maternity wardrobe

Apologies to those of you who read regularly and have zero intention of ever becoming pregnant… this post is obviously not going to be all that helpful to you! I know that the vast majority of my readers are not pregnant, but perhaps there’s some among you who might be thinking of it one day and the tips I include here might be worth bookmarking – or whatever it is we do with content we want to save these days…

My main takeaway from trying to dress myself while pregnant in a style that in-keeps with my preferred vintage-inspired one is… it’s HARD. I mean, first world problems an’ all I realise, but I’ve found the experience of keeping myself clothed these past months a pretty demoralising and disappointing one. When nearly all of your favourite looks feature a nipped-in waist, it’s quite hard to adjust to the fact that a) none of your old clothes will fit because you don’t HAVE a waist anymore and b) without this defining feature, your whole style kinda changes. I’ve seen lots of talk from pregnant women who feel like the minute they grow a baby they become ‘mum’ and lose their identity to the baby’s, who takes priority over everything before it even arrives. I’ve felt like the main way I’m losing mine is because I’ve lost the way I like to look.

Superficial? Probably. But it’s true. And for me my style is such an important part of who I am, if I was totally ok with the fact it’s so much harder to feel good in what I wear now then frankly I would be a totally different person.

All this being said, clearly, I’m still here, I’ve been blogging maternity style and I’m obviously finding some ways round this challenge that work for me. I wanted to share some things I wish I knew before I started on this journey – and other smart things I did that made it that bit easier.

New Look maternity shorts‘Modern’ maternity shorts from New Look – in this post

*Be prepared to shop ‘modern’… a lot

This has been one of the biggest things for me. It’s not impossible to shop from your favourite repro brands, but as most of them are online-only, it’s a challenge. The big problem is that many 50s-inspired brands feature fitted waists in most of their styles, with varying stretch. Your waist is one of the parts of you that will expand the most rapidly and not always consistently – and something you fit into one week you won’t be able to do up the next for the difference of an inch (like the shirt in the above photo). If an item has an empire line, is made out of entirely stretch jersey or has an elasticated waistline, you might get on a little better, but they’re not all that common finds from the likes of Collectif, Hell Bunny et al. I’ve got a Collectif dress with a very stretchy waistband that I can still squeeze into, but nothing they’re selling this summer looks as flexible as this dress is.

But it’s possible to find cute retro-inspired styles on the high street – who seem, to me, a lot more likely to use stretchy materials in their items or size them appropriately for maternity fit. ASOS completely win at cute summer maternity dresses and some Sainsbury’s non-maternity jersey styles have been fab (I didn’t manage to resist just buyingย this dress), while New Look, George @ Asda and Peacocks are my main choices for separates and basics.

Wax Poetic leopard print dressWax Poetic dress as in this post

*Shop with your bust

This took me too long to figure out but once it dawned on me it changed my whole approach. It’s really, really hard to know what size to buy when you’re pregnant. For a start, it’s not a constant. But secondly, maternity ranges build room into their standard sizing (of totally inconsistent amounts), so the bust of a size 8 maternity will be considerably larger than a standard size 8, because brands know that everything gets bigger with a baby on the way. But what happens if your bust out-grows your bump? My bust grew so rapidly at the start that it was several sizes bigger than pre-pregnancy (and I was already top heavy) while my bump was still tiny and most people had no idea I was pregnant (but were probably wondering when I’d had the boob job…). I immediately found that most of my more fitted size 8 maternity-wear was too small – and a check against the size guide confirmed I should have bought the next size up. Here’s the thing though, most maternity-wear has a stretchy or expansive part to cover your bump. I can’t think of anything I own that doesn’t have some kind of excess fabric or built-in stretch like a whole jersey panel or shirring there. But NOT usually at the bust. If I was designing maternity-wear I’d definitely have elastic built into the seams there too…

So, my bump has fit both the size 8 and 10s in maternity-wear I’ve bought quite happily (and in fact, even two size 6s which I can promise you I wasn’t pre-pregnancy!), but my bust is absolutely refusing to get into most 8s I bought. I learned my lesson – I check the bust measurement on the size guides and I size up to fit it.

Sainsbury's maxi dress as maternity wearMy stretchy non-maternity baby shower dress as in this post

*Shop as early as you can

If you’re a fussy shopper like I am and you don’t want to totally lose your sense of style, one of the best tips I can give you is to buy things when you see them and not when you necessarily ‘need’ them. One of the good things about how long pregnancy is (and believe me there aren’t many) is that you’ve got a lot of warning before you absolutely need to change your wardrobe. While I don’t recommend buying things too excessively early, when you’ve got your first scan out of the way and everything’s fine, it’s a good time to see what end of line sale stock you can find that would work for many months down the line when you’re going to be in a different season. In the New Year I was buying summer sale stock that I’m now wearing.

If you know what you like, I can promise you if you do happen to need an occasion dress for e.g. a wedding you won’t find something that you like and fits in a week’s window when you need it! Acquire pieces you love ad hoc early on and you’re not only spreading the significant cost of changing your wardrobe, you’re also snapping up pieces you won’t be able to get later, sometimes for a bargain price (like my supermarket baby shower dress bought for no purpose at the time, as shown above). It feels like you’re jinxing things, but for the majority of us who have normal pregnancies it’s a sensible risk to take. Bonus points if it’s from a standard range and with a waist belt could be worn post pregnancy.

*But don’t overstock on non-essentials

On the same note, one actually can have too many pretty and impractical summer maternity dresses… I definitely went a little overkill with buying cute stuff I wouldn’t wear just knocking around the house at the expense of comfy basics. I mean, I’d do it again because that’s what I’m like, but don’t be like me! It’s really expensive having to replace your whole wardrobe, from underwear to sometimes even shoes if your feet swell and grow (that’d be me – the only shoes I can now wear are flip flops), so being savvy in what you’re acquiring is the only way to get through it on a limited budget.

Try to think ahead as well to things you would be happy to wear post-baby, when your body is still bigger than normal and if you’re breastfeeding you might need something that both accommodates a tummy and is suitable for nursing. I’ve written another tip on shopping for nursing below…

Joanie Clothing striped dress with beltBelting a loose shift dress as in this post

*Belts can still be your friend

I got a real shock the day I found most of my waist belts no longer did up… Belts that I always used the smallest fitting on before suddenly not even being able to touch ends… it’s a scary, scary time. But all those hip belts I never wore but for some reason held onto anyway have suddenly come into their own! They now make great belts for wearing at the top of my bump. And no, it doesn’t ‘define’ a waist that isn’t there, but it does help make some baggier maternity clothes look a bit more shapely.

I remember my youngest sister asking perplexed why pregnant ladies often wear belts on top of their bumps, but looking like you’re wearing a loose tent when you’re pregnant probably only works on very particular people and I’m not one of them. Add a belt and suddenly the whole look looks a little more put together and you look less of a weeble.

*Turn cardigans into shrugs

None of my cardigans do up anymore, which is not the surprise of the century, but actually I’m finding ways to still wear them. Some of my older cardigans that have lost their elastic a little or were always looser to start with do a great job when tied up and knotted at the top of my bump now. There’s something about a tied up top that looks a little bit retro, so it’s great to throw this on over a basic stretchy tshirt dress and suddenly it’s not quite as basic.

I’ve got no picture examples of what I mean here, but I don’t think it’s too hard to picture a cardigan tied up above a bump ๐Ÿ™‚

Maternity dungareesMy favourite maternity dungarees as in this post

*Invest in some expanding maternity dungarees

When I wore the above dungarees, I wasn’t really visibly showing at this point as I was only just over three months pregnant. But the secret of these dungarees is that they’re actually a maternity pair and they have adjustments you can make at crucial points on the bump. Both the three side buttons you can see have a separate row to be let out onto, and on the inside there is a stretchy elastic band that has further buttons to give expansion room. I’m still wearing these now (or would be if it wasn’t 1,000 degrees outside), and they look super cute with a bump.

Dungarees are such an easy nod to retro styles – no one really wears them anymore, and they’re easy to put a 40s/50s spin on with the right top underneath and maybe a cute headscarf. Bonus is they stay up rather than wriggle their way off you like a lot of trousers with bump pouches.

Karina Dresses geometric print dressOne of my many jersey dress as in this post

*Jersey dresses are your forever friends

You’ll have seen me wearing a lot of Karina Dresses styles on the blog throughout my pregnancy and that’s for good reason – they’re made of stretchy jersey and they have so much flexibility they’ll keep on stretching with me until the end. A good quality, thick jersey like these dresses have I really don’t think is going to stretch out of shape either, so chances are they’ll be able to stick with me post pregnancy too.

Apart from anything else, jersey can come in some cute prints like the above and it’s so comfortable (and quite often creases minimally) you won’t regret getting a few.

Peacocks leaf print midi dressDress with bust shirring as in this post

*Keep nursing in mind

I’m not planning to stock up my wardrobe with clothing specifically designed to be ‘nursing wear’ as I think to be honest it’s a bit of a con. And if you’ve seen typical nursing wear you’ll realise it’s not exactly the height of style. The baby industry would love you to believe you need all this extra stuff, but I’m pretty confident that (nursing bras aside) all I need is some items of clothing that can be easily pulled down on top, or moved to one side.

I’m particularly investing in things with top halves that are scoop, v-necks or bardot/off-shoulder styles, with a lot of elastic, stretch and shirring. My thinking being that if I’m breastfeeding in public, I will have some sort of scarf/cover-up with me anyway and I just need something I can move out of the way easily on one side at a time. If I’m at home, all bets are off and I just want something easy to wriggle out of!

So there you have it, those are my main tips and how I’ve stayed as true to my style as possible throughout this pregnancy – posted just as I’ve gone over 40 weeks. I bought more clothes than I ended up featuring here, more through slight self confidence issues than for any other reason, but I have no doubt that without some items that made me feel more like my old self those issues would have been a lot worse!

Anyone who’s gone through this, feel free to add your own advice in the comments!

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8 Comments

  1. Mary Louise
    July 25, 2018 / 3:46 pm

    I’m 16 so I won’t be needing this advice for YEARS…but yeah, eventually I’ll probably be struggling with vintage maternity style and find myself coming back to this post. So thanks in advance! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • CiCi Marie
      July 25, 2018 / 4:23 pm

      Ha will the internet even exist by the time you need this advice?!

  2. July 25, 2018 / 4:05 pm

    Well I’m sure this will be such a useful post for loads of women, it seems very comprehensive. I can’t imagine how hard style and shopping has been for you, it’s bad enough usually with inconsistent sizing in brands! Xx

    • CiCi Marie
      July 25, 2018 / 4:23 pm

      It’s also tough when you’re petite to add into the mix, but I decided not to go there!! xx

  3. July 29, 2018 / 9:26 pm

    Brian and I just recently had “the baby talk” – I’ve never really thought that I wanted to have kids, and he’s recently realized that he definitely does, which has meant that I’ve been having a lot of conversations with my friends who have children about what it’s like, and trying to figure out how I really feel about potentially becoming a mother. I think one of the things that has always freaked me out a little bit is what you mentioned, about how it feels like what makes you you gets subsumed underneath all of the motherhood stuff. I’m sure this sounds a bit weird, but it’s reassuring to see someone wrestling with this, and finding ways to stay connected with who they are and what they like beyond making and raising a tiny human.
    To return to the subject at hand, I think your maternity style has been adorable! I’ve been reading your blog for quite a while now, and all of the looks that you’ve featured in the past few months have definitely felt like a continuation of your typical style. The tips really seem helpful, and I’ll definitely have to keep this bookmarked for the future.

    • CiCi Marie
      August 6, 2018 / 12:42 pm

      I’m glad to have someone else relate to that feeling, really. There’s a lot of mum guilt and this is certainly an area that feels too superficial to be something you should be caring about, but I don’t think that’s fair at all. Exciting that you’re thinking about it though – they tell me it’s rewarding ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. Sarah Premachandran
    July 30, 2018 / 8:24 pm

    Long time lurker, I just got finished with my first pregnancy a couple of months ago and I agree with all of this! wish I’d read it before I got pregnant haha. Also agree about nursing wear – why is it that you can get so many cute bump dresses but the nursing stuff is mostly frump city? What I have found useful as well is tucking a basic plain-coloured form-fitting nursing tee into a skirt, as when I get spit up stains they tend to be on the top half and a t-shirt is easier to wash than a whole dress. Anyway I’ve really enjoyed following your vintage-styled pregnancy and I’m looking forward to seeing the next chapter ๐Ÿ™‚ good luck and I’m sure you’ll do great!

    • CiCi Marie
      August 6, 2018 / 12:47 pm

      It’s a mystery! I’m stocking up on form-fitting vest-tops and buying cute things to wear over them, like kimonos and flutter sleeve wrap tops. It’s more difficult to find bottoms at this stage a week post-delivery, because I’ve got literally no idea what size I am other than too small for my maternity clothes and too big for my regular clothes…

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