Pregnancy: My First Trimester Maternity Clothes Expedition

When is it time to start wearing maternity clothes? Well, if you’re like me, you peed on the stick, booked your midwife and then went shopping for maternity clothes. I mean, you’re pregnant and when you’re in your pregnancy you wear maternity clothes, right? Better stock up… and fast!

when to start wearing maternity clothes. Rose gold maternity gown.

I went to Thyme Maternity in Market Mall, Calgary. Sadly it doesn’t exist anymore (which is really too bad because they had some good staples). I bought some simple maternity T-shirts (black and white). I chose the ones without ruching down the side – personal choice. I picked up some maxi dresses. I also bought some weird stretchy seamless fabric tube that you can put over your belly and over top of your unzipped pants – I guess this is supposed to make you able to wear your regular pants longer into your pregnancy? And, last but not least, I bought a thin black leather bow belt that goes across the top of your belly. It’s purely decorative; I don’t know why I bought it, it’s totally not my style. It looked very cute on the mannequin, though. 

Did I need to buy maternity clothes in my first trimester? No, I did not. With my body type and with it being my first pregnancy, I didn’t get to the point of wearing maternity clothes in the first 13 weeks. I jumped the gun a bit. 

Pregnancy: Wearing Maternity Clothes in my 2nd Trimester, 3rd Trimester and Post Birth

Completely, 100%, by fluke I timed my second and third pregnancies perfectly (for maternity clothing, not for summer heat). I had my second baby close to July and my third in August. Maxi dresses were my best friend. Maxi dresses and flip flops. Maxi dresses have so much room. You don’t have to worry about the size of your thighs your thighs or your butt, your swollen legs or stuffing your bump into pants or shorts. Dresses during pregnancy are total freedom – at least they were for me. You can wear them to the office, too, with a little cardigan. I could have even worn them with that silly thin bow belt I bought… but I didn’t (the mannequin did).

The best thing about the T-shirts from Thyme that I bought were that they were excellent post partum as well as during my pregnancy. The were basically just regular t-shirts. I wore those things until they were ratty and I sadly had to say goodbye. I’m still sad that I can’t buy those t-shirts anymore. I loved them. 

Nursing bras are a must post baby. I always opted for the comfy, stretch, totally unsexy ones (sorry hubby). You can buy very nice looking nursing bras, I just never did. Again, with these, don’t buy them too soon. You never know how big your boobs are going to get. Some women’s boobs get super huge during pregnancy. Others might be their regular size during pregnancy then balloon up once their milk comes in. Others might not change that much in size. You won’t know what kind of boobs you have until you’re in the thick of things.

To go along with your nursing bras, nursing pads can be amazing! I didn’t leak for my first but I did have to buy them for my 2nd baby (and used them for my 3rd as well). I bought BamBoobies – OMG they are ridiculously cute heart-shaped pads in shades of pink. They slip nicely into your nursing bra and handle being washed (in the washer AND dryer) well. Mine still look brand new. And, yes, I do realize that someone who likes heart boobie pads should like a bow belt, but the heart wants what it wants. 

pregnant woman in pink tube dress

Every woman’s belly and body is different in pregnancy: when to start buying maternity clothes?

So, the question is still, when to start wearing maternity clothes? Unfortunately there is no universal answer. Every woman’s body is different. Every woman’s belly is different. Every woman’s style is different… and so is her comfort level. The only thing that women’s bodies have in common during pregnancy is that they ALL rock!

The goal in pregnancy is to grow a strong, healthy baby. We women are amazing! The whole process is seriously miraculous (I could write a whole article about how amazing I think pregnant women are). How our bodies do it, though, is really up to our genetics.

Some women get a teeny baby bump immediately after the egg and sperm connect. If that’s you and you like to wear tighter clothing, you might prefer to move to maternity pants or leggings with a softer, wider elastic waist pretty soon into your pregnancy. If you like looser clothing, you might be good for awhile.

Some women “show” earlier in their pregnancies and some “pop” later. I recommend waiting to buy maternity clothes until you start to need them. If you think you’ll need them at 13 weeks pregnant and shop ahead of time, you might find that you are still comfortable in your own clothing. By the time you find you need maternity clothing, the seasons might have changed and you will need to buy maternity clothes all over again.

Some women seem to go for ages without “showing”. If that’s you, you might never really need maternity clothing. If you’ve pre-bought a huge wardrobe, you’ve wasted your money. This is money you could have invested in your maternity photography session – don’t waste it!

Note that no matter how you “show” your pregnancies, you tend to show your belly quicker and it tends to be a bit bigger with consecutive pregnancies. 

What maternity clothes do you really need?

Basic staples are good to have. With t-shirts and tank tops, in my opinion, you’re looking for length and stretch. You want a shirt that will comfortably cover your growing bump and the last thing you want is for it to creep up and flash your belly button. I mean, maybe you do what that, I suppose I can only comment on what I wanted.

Some of the best items I found for that in between phase of being totally comfortable in your own clothes to needing maternity clothes were Lululemon staples. I had quite a few of Lululemon’s Cool Racerback tank tops. Some of them were so old that the luon fabric had stretched out – THOSE ARE PERFECT!! Don’t toss them. If they’re already stretched out they’re perfect for covering your bump while it’s in that in between phase. Those stretched out Cool Racerback tanks are also perfect post partum. After your baby arrives you’ll still have a belly so the longer tops will give you coverage while the stretched out neckline allows you to yank it down so you can pull out a boob and breastfeed.

The other Lululemon item that I loved was their leggings that had wider fold-down waistbands (I’m sorry, I don’t remember the legging name). I wore them pulled up over the belly sometimes or folded down underneath the bump. Either way they were super comfy and perfect maternity wear. Depending on your shape it might be possible to wear them throughout your pregnancy.  

As I mentioned earlier in the blog, maxi dresses were my staple. I bought 3 maxi dresses and wore them in all of my pregnancies. It’s more cooling if the maxi dresses have a bit of a slit so you can get air flow under the dress. Depending on the style and size of the maternity maxi dress it might even be something that you’ll wear when you’re not pregnant. Mine stretched out (in the straps, not the width) and so I didn’t wear them after my babies were born. 

Depending how your body is showing the pregnancy and where you are gaining your weight, you might be able to buy a size or 2 up in clothing rather than buying maternity clothes – this can give you more options. For my last pregnancy one, of my favourite things to wear was a racerback ribbed tube dress from Zara. I bought a couple of sizes larger than I would normally wear and it covered my bump until the end. Let me tell you that thing had good stretch! I pushed it to its limit!

Maternity clothes style has come a long way from the empire waist tents that our moms wore. Maternity clothes can be really flattering on pregnant women. We want to look cute while wearing functional and stylish clothing. We don’t want to hide our bumps and look like whales. The style of your maternity clothes can make a HUGE difference in how big you look. Stylistic details like ruffles, pleats and excess ruching can add A TON of extra fabric. While you might think it’s hiding your shape, it might actually be adding to it. The bulk of the fabric can look like your bulk. It’s about finding that fine line of what makes you feel comfortable.

Speaking of comfort… when you’re carrying around an extra 30-70 extra pounds and have a massive ball of baby pressing against your ribs and expanding your pelvis, comfy shoes are a must. I wore my Havanians everywhere but I would have been smarter to wear sandals with more foot support – at least that’s what my Osteopath and Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist told me. Maybe it would have helped my S.I. Joint and Sciatic pain? Unfortunately we will never know since I won’t be having any more babies.

Bathing suits allow your body to breathe during pregnancy and can really help you get comfortable. (Think of lounging in a cool kiddy turtle pool with a glass of ice-cold lemonade.) I think there are 3 camps of pregnant women: 1) wear a bikini and let it all hang out; 2) streamline in a one piece or tankini-style swimsuit; and 3) no way am I wearing a swimsuit. I just wore a bikini – a body is a body… and a pregnant body rocks no matter what shape it is! My word of caution, though, is that I seemed to burn more easily while pregnant so make sure you use a lot of sunscreen and reapply regularly. There was a heatwave in Calgary while I was 8 months pregnant with my 3rd baby. I was living in a bikini (as well as maxi dresses and my Zara tube dress). I used sunscreen but I got a bit of a sunburn on my belly and quite a bad one on my chest/boob area. The hormones that are working in that area were heating it up so the burn, which I think would have been mild at best (worst?), kept on burning after I was out of the sun. It blistered and I got a bit of heat stroke. All was okay, everyone was healthy, but I learned my lesson and wanted to share that tidbit. 

Where can you buy maternity clothes? 

A lot of large chain retailers actually have maternity sections. H&M, Gap, Old Navy, etc. I love Ella Bella Maternity (I bought a few items from them, including some nursing bras). Google maternity clothes and your city as there are often boutique retailers with some nice clothing. If you’re buying online, check out the return policy. Items can fit strangely and it’s nice to know that you can easily return items that don’t make you feel your best.

Dresses for Maternity Photography

As a maternity photographer I’m often asked about what women should wear for their maternity photos. My studio, Studio James Photography (in Calgary), is a full service studio and we supply all of the maternity dresses and clothing for expecting mothers (and mothers of newborns as well). Life is busy enough without having to run around and try to find special clothing for your pictures. Not only that, I want you to look and feel amazingly glamorous! We take all of the pressure off of you and find the best boutique shops worldwide. What better feeling than to come into the studio, have your hair and makeup done, and slip into a fabulously stunning maternity dress from Italy?

pregnant woman in calgary maternity session at studio james photography

In summation, my best advice is to start shopping for maternity clothing when your pregnancy bump is starting to demand a bit more space. Remember that this varies significantly from woman to woman so when to start wearing maternity clothes is different for everyone. If you pre-shop you might end up with items that you won’t wear. Also, I recommend not going overboard. Buy staples and do laundry a bit more often. You really don’t wear maternity clothing for a long time. You can grow out of them and consecutive pregnancies might be in different seasons (hence you’ll need a whole new maternity wardrobe). Aim for comfy and functional – trust me, you won’t want to be fussing around with your clothing when you’re in your 3rd trimester. 

Oh, and I’m not knocking pregnant women who want to (and do) glam it up on a regular basis. If you rock dresses and heels while pregnant, you are my hero! 

jaime sword calgary newborn photographer