Officewear for first 6 months of pregnancy
April 17, 2010 6:26 AM   Subscribe

Maternity fashion question plus new job conundrum. What kind of officewear can I buy that will make it through the first half of my pregnancy?

After a very long job search, I'm finally starting new work -- the trouble is, I'm 6 weeks pregnant and have very few office outfits. I need to greatly expand my wardrobe for this new job while also taking into consideration that my size is going to be changing and eventually I'll need maternity clothes. How do I handle this transition? It would be great if these clothes could be worn after I return to work, too. I'm just so confused about how to size myself and what I should be looking for. Help!

(Anonymous because I'm not planning on telling them about the pregnancy until I have to. You never know... could miscarry... they could do layoffs at some point this year. You just never know.)
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Once you are really pregnant and showing, you're going to be wearing about 3 outfits to work. This is normal, expected, and nobody will comment on it. Dressy maternity clothes are expensive and you only wear them for 5-7 months, so nobody expects you to have more than a couple outfits for work. (You can change around shirts a lot under suit jackets for more looks; I also find pregnant professionals wear more cotton knit tops -- like they may wear a suit with a cotton knit maternity camisole or V-neck T-shirt underneath, instead of a buttondown; this gives you more flexibility with non-work clothes, and they're cheaper and more comfortable.)

It will vary based on body, but I found that I could wear my pants/skirts quite a long way into my pregnancy, because I generally wore things low on my hips so they could be under my belly once it started growing. However, I needed new fitted tops very quickly because my boobs were growing. (Plus, the fitted tops for the early pregnancy -- before I needed belly accommodation -- also fit well when I was breastfeeding and my breasts were still large but the belly gone again.)

Until quite late into your pregnancy you can wear normal suit jackets/blazers/etc. unbuttoned with maternity slacks and a maternity top. Obviously you can't close the jacket but it makes you look dressier. I ended up NOT buying any maternity suit jackets because I found that the more pregnant I got, the HOTTER I was, and I was wearing short sleeves in mid January so I didn't die of the heat. I ended up wearing dressier slacks than normal and mixing them with loose, dressy maternity tops and forgoing jackets unless I absolutely HAD to wear them.

Hope some of that is helpful.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:37 AM on April 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I hid my pregnancy for four and half months at work. Tops and dresses with empire waists work well. I wore my reguar pants done up with an elastic band looped through the button hole for a long time. For work I had two pairs of black maternity pants and a khaki pair, plus several tops. I borrowed a lot of maternity clothes from friends and family who were happy to have someone get use out of them. Many places have second hand and consignment stores for baby goods, and many of these places have maternity wear as well. Good luck in your new job and hope you have a great pregnancy!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:00 AM on April 17, 2010

A Baby Bump Band (or any of the dozens of similar things) will mean you don't have to get new work trousers.
posted by Coobeastie at 7:41 AM on April 17, 2010

Skirts with stretchy, spandexy waistbands are your friend here. And empire-waist tops. I might start wearing those styles now so it doesn't immediately scream PREGNANT.
posted by amicamentis at 7:44 AM on April 17, 2010

I'm 17 weeks along and I'm really glad you asked this. While I'm just learning as I go, I want to stress that it's not just your belly and boobs that will grow. All-over weight gain and water retention will happen. None of my normal pants fit anymore and same goes for most of my tops. My strategy has been to buy just a few items every 3 weeks or so, and buy them a bit large. I've been choosing cheap stuff ($15 - $30 range, as in nice-looking but poorly made with inferior fabrics) and haven't needed anything 'maternity' yet. There are tons of clothes out there that will accommodate and flatter (at least sort of) a growing belly.

Later, when I get really big, I plan to do things as Eyebrow McGee suggests (thanks for that!).
posted by kitcat at 8:41 AM on April 17, 2010

Oh and seconding amicamentis - watch it with the empire-waist stuff. So far only one person (and it was someone who I barely know) has 'figured it out' and commented "You're pregnant!" and I was wearing one of those at the time. It was even a shirt I owned and wore before I was pregnant.
posted by kitcat at 8:48 AM on April 17, 2010

I hid my early and mid pregnancy under clothes cut to skim over and flatter middle-aged spread. These had the advantage of not having the maternity silhouette that empire waists can give. Specifically, I recommend Eileen Fisher (expensive, but check Ebay -- and the fabrics are very nice and work appropriate), or J Jill (some items are just too frumpy and/or loungey for the office, but there are good items). Long thin scarves also break up the line of your midsection and fool the eye.
posted by redfoxtail at 9:49 AM on April 17, 2010

Belly band + flowly tops should work.

2 things to consider:

- you're going to need nursing tops. Might as we get 'before and after' tops. Japanese Weekend (thanks AskMe of 2008) is a great brand for this and are on eBay all the time.

- Post-pregnancy (I have a 17-month-old) I'm at my high school size. All my dressy clothes are too big. Don't make any investments based on your current size.
posted by k8t at 10:45 AM on April 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would check out some of the consignment kids clothing stores. They often have a rack or two of maternity clothes that will be much cheaper then new. You are right that you won't need the mat clothes right away as a lot of lower cut pants can be worn for the first half and belly band would help you out even longer. - Mrs Jaybo.
posted by Jaybo at 10:48 AM on April 17, 2010

A Baby Bump Band (or any of the dozens of similar things) will mean you don't have to get new work trousers.

Well, it might, but not necessarily. Women "carry" differently. Some pregnant women look just like they always did but as if they had a basketball smuggled under their tops. Others find their hips widen as well.

Loose blazers or long drapey sweaters can cover a multitude of sins. You WILL get hot as the months go by, though.

I wore a wrap-around style dress throughout my first son's pregnancy and still wear it now (he's 17!). You want something that has a little give at the waist as the natural flow, rather than completely ignoring your curves, like an empire waist dress, which gives away the pregnancy early on unless you've always been prone to wearing them. Think draping or sarong-style rather than tightly fitted.

Long shirts with slacks can also work well. Throw the blazer on when you are not at your desk.

Wear comfortable shoes!
posted by misha at 11:09 AM on April 17, 2010

The maternity wear category for Academic Chic was very helpful to a friend of mine who needed ideas for professional maternity clothes through all stages of her pregnancy.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:45 PM on April 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

My recently pregnant colleagues seemed to invest in a couple of smart jersey dresses and wore these with their pre-pregnancy blazers. The dresses expand as you go and whilst they will not hide your pregnancy you still look professional and that kind of strechy dress is also very comfortable.
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:09 PM on April 17, 2010

I wore my usual clothes through most of the pregnancy with the addition of maternity t-shirts + 2 pairs of maternity pants. It depends on how you carry both the baby and if you gain any weight/where/how. The maternity shirts i lived in were ones i'd bought before the pregnancy because they were nice and long without being oversized - they had gathered elastic at the waist so they saw me from preconception to post-birth. I had one dress that was lovely too but it was an a-line dress so it hitched up at the front by the end. If I'd been able to get jersey dresses with the gathered waist i would have lived in them and the maternity jeans - I couldn't find any though.

And I second the 'don't assume your size' - I'm well below pre-pregnancy weight now and have had to buy and entire new wardrobe for my return to work.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:20 PM on April 17, 2010

What no one else has mentioned yet--get some forgiving office-y shoes. LifeStrides are good, they make nice thick-soled flats that wear well.

Also avoid things with slippery soles, because falling is more scary when pregnant.

Your feet will not only swell, they may go up a whole size...and stay there (yep, happened to me).

Depending on where you live, you may have trouble if you have to start wearing a coat in early fall through January (when you are due?)--my son was a Nov. baby in NYC, and I juuust barely was able to get by w/out springing for a new coat.

But then if you have a winter baby, it's easier to get loose sweaters than summer clothes that accomodate big bellies.
posted by emjaybee at 5:30 PM on April 17, 2010

I found that skirts fit me longer than pants during my pregnancies, I think because I put weight on my thighs and bottom, and pants tend to be more fitted in those areas than skirts. Then, also, skirts can sit a little lower on the waist, especially if paired with the kind of longer, flowy top that is fashionable right now, so they can be a little more adjustable than pants.

So my recommendation would be to go with skirts and tops with a bit of give, paired with cardigans and blazers that may work throughout pregnancy (or may not, if you gain a bunch of weight in your upper arms, as I do during pregnancy, and your old cardigans look like sausage casings, and you need to size up). I've seen skirts lately with fold-over waists -- something like this -- and that could last you right up until 7 months or so, when your belly gets so big that non-maternity skirts get too short in front.

My other piece of advice is not to be hard on yourself if you basically need to buy, like, 3 sizes' worth of stuff -- the size you are now, the size you'll get to in the later stages of pregnancy, and the size you'll be after giving birth -- because that's totally normal, and impossible to predict right now, and just part of your body adjusting enough to grow another human being and release that human being into the world. It's not because you didn't plan well enough, or over-bought, or whatever.
posted by palliser at 8:06 PM on April 17, 2010

Also, as I was bouncing around Lands End, I found this on clearance. Cute, especially with a cardigan and flats, and shaped but not fitted in the waist. And $20.
posted by palliser at 8:15 PM on April 17, 2010

> you're going to need nursing tops

No, not necessarily. I never did, and I spent years breastfeeding (not all at one sitting). I would postpone getting them until they're needed, which might be never.

Back when I was pregnant and working in an office, I got clothes from Target and H&M. Basic black dress, unremarkable skirts, and few boring other pieces, and then a few shirts and a dress that were loud and colorful to break up the monotony.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:08 AM on April 19, 2010

(Maternity clothes from Target and H&M, that is.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:09 AM on April 19, 2010

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