I am not a clothes horse, a fashion victim, or someone who spends very much time getting dressed in the morning. During my clerkship in Boston, I got in the habit of bargain-mining at Filene’s Basement — the original one, at Downtown Crossing, back when it existed — and, for the first time in recent memory, found myself in possession of a wardrobe of legitimately nice clothes, rather than the jeans and ratty sweaters that had seen me through law school.
It was nice to look nice. But that was, and I guess is, the extent of my fashion consciousness.
Upgrading from a law clerk’s salary to a federal employee’s salary didn’t do much to broaden my spectrum. There is Filene’s Basement to be had in DC as well, with a convenient location between my home and my office. Yippee!! Once again I could spend little, dress passably, and rest easy. No need to shoehorn a large clothing allowance into my budget. I was free to blow my salary on my mortgage and at Whole Foods.
Given my past efforts at fashionability, I found myself dreading Maternity Clothes. They do not sell these at Filene’s Basement. Was I actually going to have to shop retail?? For “fat clothes” that I couldn’t even wear for a whole year? Expensive mall-crawls have not entertained me since I was in high school. But what other options did I have?
More than I knew, it turns out. Nearly six months into the pregnancy, here are my tips and tricks for dressing while pregnant:
1. Borrow stuff. Preferably from your best-dressed friends. My friend Ana was the first to come to my rescue. She’d had both of her baby girls while employed at the same federal agency where I currently work, she and I were the same pre-pregnancy size, and she has magnificent style. I came away from an afternoon at her place with the trunk of my car stuffed full of gorgeous maternity wear.
Ana, however, did a much better job of staying near her pre-pregnancy size than I have. Within a month I had trucked all of the nonstretchy size-small stuff back to her closet, and now I’ve started returning the mediums as well. Whenever I see a pregnant woman who still has the bust, glutes, thighs and upper arms of a size 6, I sigh in envious admiration. That sure ain’t me. I’ll reduce again after Mayhem arrives, no worries, but for the next few months I am irreversibly upward bound. Still, the loaners got me this far.
2. Pick up used bras on eBay. You don’t need maternity/nursing bras yet. Long before I noticed any physical changes below the waist, my bust happily announced my delicate condition to the astute observer. “Are you pregnant?” a female colleague asked me midway through my seventh week. “Because your boobs suddenly look a lot bigger!” She was right; I went up a cup size in the first trimester, and have broadened through the ribcage in the meantime.
Problem is, I’m now out of the universe of easily-located bra sizes. I found two in my new size on my last trip to Target, and a whopping none at Filene’s. Maternity stores will gladly sell you a $30 bra with no underwire and no padding, but I wasn’t ready to go there just yet. This time, it was eBay who had my back (er, front). You can find any size you need there, and even the less-than-new items tend to be in full working order. At $10 a pop (on average) for impressively nice ones, you can’t beat it.
3. Get a belly band. Far and away the most amazing maternity item to be developed in the past [decade?], this item rivals Spanx in its utility and effectiveness. It’s a fitted (but not super-tight) elastic band that goes around your waist, and it is a godsend. Round about week 8 or 9 when your tummy is starting to pooch out and your pants no longer zip comfortably, the band will hold them up, and hide the open zipper, and cover your entire pooch. It doesn’t pinch, doesn’t squeeze, doesn’t overheat you…it’s just awesome in about a dozen different ways.
The original version will run you something like $25, or you can get the one at Target, which is just as good, for ten dollars cheaper. I even wore a black one, over my (unzipped) black suit pants, to a motion hearing in federal court. It was perhaps the most comfortable I’ve ever been in court. Pure brilliance.
4. Find a local thrift shop and give them your business. I went looking for a Goodwill with a maternity section, but came up chumps. Next on my list were the higher-end consignment shops in Dupont and Georgetown, on the off chance that they might have maternity sections, but I never got that far — because I discovered Wiggle Room. This store, up in Bethesda, consigns ONLY maternity and baby clothes. (And stuff like strollers and Baby Ergos and Itzbeens and Baby Plus.) It’s the kind of neighborhood business that I love to patronize — and, thanks to their clientele and location, the stuff they consign is perfect for a DC office.
Mom and I paid the place a visit several weeks ago, when she was in town, and went bonkers. For the price of a nice Mimi Maternity suit, we came home with a nice Mimi Maternity suit AND two full bags of other stuff, including a crisp white Japanese Weekend blouse to go with the suit. (Despite my best efforts, the high-end maternity wear brands have insinuated their way into my judgment.) The next time I appear in federal court, in a little over three weeks, my outfit will be almost entirely courtesy of Wiggle Room. If you live in the DC area, you must go. (Even if you’ve already had your baby and now have your own clothes to consign.)
5. Clearance sales! I did not know that Motherhood, Mimi, and Pea in a Pod were all operated by the same corporate mothership. Surprise! The maternity wear cartel stocks not only these stores, but also the maternity sections of several major department stores. Fortunately for those yuppies who look at malls and see tacky artifacts of our suburban youth [looks around innocently], the cartel also runs a one-stop website called Destination Maternity. And that website has a clearance section. And their stuff is NICE.
Since finding this (along with the maternity clearance sections on the Nordstrom, Overstock, Target and Old Navy websites), I’ve lost much of the inhibition that previously characterized my shopping. Suddenly it’s *exciting* to snap up this stuff, which I no longer consider “fat clothes,” even though I only have four months left to wear it. When it costs less than a trip to Whole Foods, who can argue with that?
Besides, I’m sure that once Mayhem has arrived, someone will be interested in borrowing a lot of this stuff. And if not, I can always consign at Wiggle Room myself.