Working through pregnancy is surprisingly common. Over half of American women work full-time and 4 out of 5 of us work into the last month of pregnancy…. What? But in addition to the typical “nothing to wear” sentiment, a working pregnancy will take you through 3 stages of wardrobe changes.
So many things will hurt over the better part of a year. You will feel it in your bones and belly as well as your closet and wallet.
My M.O. is always saving money and avoiding unnecessary purchases. During my two working pregnancies, I did NOT want to buy a bunch of overpriced, low quality *maternity wear* and get bamboozled by the suits who recognized a prime, evergreen market of working women in desperate need of temporary clothes. I was too busy saving money for the baby fund.
I’m going to walk through the bare necessities and do my best to answer the most common questions we all have. What do you need when? How do you keep it office appropriate? When do you get need to shop? What silhouettes work best with a belly?
I constantly found myself looking sloppy because I couldn’t tell when my baby bump would affect which items I wore. So I figured it out, took some notes, and got it together for you. Enjoy!
*full disclosure – this post contains some affiliate links. this won’t affect the price but I might get a small percentage of any sale that comes from a purchase.
the first trimester
At this point your pregnancy is probably still a secret. You’re trying to determine when you will notify your work so you gotta keep it under wraps (no pun intended). You need some belly bands, bigger BRAS, & flowy tops ASAP!
The good news is your belly won’t be very obvious right away. The bad news is your clothes will start to not fit and things will get a little too uncomfortable right around the button/zipper area.
All of my pencil skirts went into hibernation at about the 6 week mark. Pregnancy comes at you fast. However, I never gave up my traditional work pants.
1. Belly Bands
Thanks to belly bands, I’ve been able to wear my regular work pants throughout my entire pregnancy. Things started to get extra comfortable at the very end, but that is the general vibe at that point.. Granted, I have a solid stash of partially elastic (and not very high end) Ponte pants. So the cheaper/more easily replaced ones got to stay for the long haul. God forbid I blew a hole in them or something…
What’s a belly band?
It’s an awesome elastic pants holder-upper and it disguises the fact that you can’t get your zipper up (or button clasped..). You can use them through your entire pregnancy and they are so breathable and comfy that even I (the Floridian who hates summer) can enjoy them all year.
Basically, you need one, or two, or three.
It gives you the layered-look, but it goes to work more than a regular under-shirt would. It holds your stuff up and is thick enough to disguise ugly textures from ill-fitted clothes.
The best part? They can be reused while you are struggling to fit back into those pre-baby jeans in the flabby postpartum days.
The hair tie-button trick works well for pants, but most work pants aren’t really the button type? It’s usually that slim slide thing. No idea what to call that. Next.
2. Forgiving tops and dresses
Since those clandestine early pregnancy days are not the time to proudly display your miniature baby bump (you’re lucky to not mistake it for beer bloat).
You want things that are flowy, but discreet. Nothing obviously built for a big ol’ belly. So keep those regular pants going with a belly band and throw a new, less form fitted style into your closet.
Empire waists, and “boyfriend” style loose-fitting button downs are my go-to’s. Not to be crude, but anything with a v-neck is incredibly helpful. Your suddenly-more-robust bust and cleavage will distract away from any sight of a baby belly and everyone at work will be too uncomfortable to look too long.
These are the secrets, people! Don’t judge me.
3. Incredibly comfortable (and stretchy) bras
You might notice the change in your cup size before you even see 2 pink lines! It’s wild, but those puppies get to work FAST showing your new with child status. In order to accommodate the next couple trimesters, I recommend going with something slightly lined, wire free, and totally stretchy.
We really don’t know when they’ll stop growing or where your weight will localize (??) on your body so it’s nice to look out for a forgiving band in case your chest’s circumference takes after the cups.
I’ve bought a bunch of cheap bras and they are all fine, but my favorite (and the internet’s favorite too) is from TRUE.
They are well worth the price and definitely a long term buy. They aren’t even maternity specific lol! I learned to avoid most maternity wear because of that low quality I mentioned earlier.
the second trimester
This is around the time of your pregnancy exposure, and the beginning of cute bump moments!
Although you might be feeling great, out of the morning sickness stage and all,
What I mean is be careful with the materials you buy and think about the seasons you’re going to see over the next 6 months.
Your pregnancy might not be entirely obvious in the beginning of the 2nd trimester, but now is the time to get some bottoms to work with. God forbid you wake up one day and POP!
Which isn’t exactly how it happens, btw… but you will definitely notice the belly bands don’t cut it at some point!
You will need:
A couple pairs of Maternity pants
My favorite places to [reluctantly] shop for maternity clothes is Old Navy and Target.
Many stretchy shirts
the third trimester
Alrighty mama! At this point you can still work your second trimester goodies, but things are starting to fill out. Totally cute! Most days…
But on the days when you are really feeling that water weight, you need a dress and a kimono to keep it all together.
Dresses are prime because of they’re easy-bathroom-access and sweet sihouettes. But a kimono is a cheap and trendy way to keep your ego in check when you’re feeling reaaallllyyy pregnant. Those days were the worst. Being stuck in an office in front of people only beat my ego to a pulp instead of killing it…
The kimonos saved me by being cute and distracting everyone away from my mom arms…. yay
if you’re stuck behind a desk…
This was me! My pre-pregnant wardrobe was stocked with pencil skirts and oxford shirts. I Love It. That is just my everyday style, if I’m being honest. #BlazerGang
All of those essentials are knocked out almost immediately. The belly can’t stay hidden (or fit) in a pencil skirt, and the boobs just…. buttons aren’t the best.
But the bright side has to be the lack of walking around and forcing a smile. Even still, we need things that are neutral and easily combined with the minimal items we invest in.
Luckily blazers don’t need to be buttoned (yay!) but it had me feeling very Tommy Boy some days.
if you’re stuck in front of a crowd
Ahh the presenter. May god have mercy on your soul. JK! That talk is only necessary postpartum, when the milk leak sagas begin!
Not to worry you, but you will need to find some comfortable and appropriate clothes (no oxford shirts again… those buttons can’t hang) that also work at the head of a meeting.
A pregnant woman is endearing, no matter how crappy you feel. I have seen some high level ladies strutting pregnancy in the classiest, cutest, most sophisticated ways and it made me seriously envious! #howdotheydoit
if you’re service based…
Being client-facing, you need clothes that are not only comfortable but also presentable. Patrons and leaders will be the first to notice you’re wearing the same salsa-stained pants you wore yesterday, and they won’t always be courteous when they hear it’s the only thing that fits.
Nurses, teachers, servers, etc. You guys work HARD and you will realize your pants are going into hibernation crazy fast. And right after that will be your shirts and bras. Those puppies don’t stand a chance with pregnant boobs.
I imagine a nurse can just put those scrubs to work in a bigger size, but that doesn’t help your feet or knees. Since you probably aren’t getting an at-work foot massage, go for these bad boys.
Get your work-self ready to LEAVE