How to Create a Maternity Wardrobe on the Cheap

I’m not someone who spends a lot of money on clothes–I get easily overwhelmed while shopping, and I’d rather spend my money on food, anyway! However, four months into my pregnancy, it was amply clear that I needed to start gathering maternity clothes. Not only was I looking ridiculous trying to squeeze into my regular jeans, but I was acutely uncomfortable.

My issues: one, I had recently become a convert to the idea of the 10-item wardrobe, advocated by Jennifer L. Scott’s Lessons From Madame Chic (an awesome concept that both simplified my life and jibed with my own desire for the perfect “packable” wardrobe, and something I’ll write more about at a later time), and two, I didn’t want to invest a lot of money into clothing that I would only wear for five or six months.

NOTE: The one thing I didn’t do, which I wish I had tried, was shop consignment or secondhand. There are even a couple of shops here in Portland that specialize in maternity wear. Unfortunately for me, I kind of put this off until I needed maternity clothes right away, and therefore I didn’t want to spend the time browsing–I needed some sure things.

So here are my recommendations to save some cash while compiling a maternity wardrobe:

Cheap maternity dress

Actual maternity dress I got at Old Navy for $19.99.

1. Shop at Old Navy. I was a little surprised by this, because I find their regular clothes to be fairly unflattering and a little too young for me. However, there’s an Old Navy right by my work that had a maternity section and was super convenient–and cheap, especially if you shop on sale. I found a great pair of maternity jeans there for $20 that have lasted my entire pregnancy, and their dresses were cute and also very cheap (shopping in late summer meant getting their clearance prices).

While their maternity section didn’t have a huge selection, I was able to find enough pieces to get me through and then order additional items online.

2. Buy a couple of pairs of maternity leggings and tank tops. Preferably black. You can find these items at all price points–leggings are leggings are leggings, in my opinion. The advantage to having these in your wardrobe is they can be the basis for several outfits. For example, I had a few non-maternity button-front shirts and cardigans that I could throw on over these (unbuttoned, of course) to create different “looks” (um, mostly just looked like a pregnant woman) that stretched my wardrobe.

Inexpensive maternity clothing

Me at about seven months, in an old sundress and non-maternity cardigan.

3. Shop your closet. Along with the aforementioned button-front shirts and cardigans, I had a few loose blouses that worked for the first two trimesters, as well as at least three summer dresses that I’m still wearing at 38 weeks. Chances are, you have some sundresses or other items that include some room to grow.

4. Get a belly band. It’s basically a six-inch-tall tube of fabric that . . . covers your belly! I would not have recommended this until about two weeks ago, when even my longest maternity t-shirts were suddenly a little too short. I have no desire to look like Mr. Weatherbee at the beach (sorry, Bee!). Using a belly band both extends the life of your maternity wardrobe, and gives you a little extra security.

Bra Extender

The best thing I bought for my maternity wardrobe, for real.

5. Buy a bra extender. Seriously. The price of a new bra? $30-60. The price of a bra extender, which you can find in the notions section at your local fabric store? About $3. Your ribcage will expand to make room for the baby, but if you’re like me, your cups won’t run too much over. You’re going to have to bite the bullet and buy nursing bras later. Don’t blow your budget on a new maternity bra wardrobe, too!

Putting together a maternity wardrobe ended up being a pretty fun project to puzzle over: for the record, I ended up purchasing one pair of jeans, one pair of linen pants, one pair of shorts, one skirt, three dresses, one button-front shirt, four t-shirts, a tank top, a belly band, and one bra extender. My lovely mother bought me two pairs of leggings with tank tops. Wow, that looks like a lot now that I’ve typed it up! However, this took me through spring and a super hot summer at an office job that is, thank goodness, very casual, and I still had a couple of pretty things to wear for weddings and parties. I also expect to wear a lot of this after the baby, while I “transition” into god knows what shape (oh please I hope I don’t have to buy another wardrobe after this).

So these are my ideas on putting together a maternity wardrobe inexpensively, but I’m no expert–if you have any tips, please share them!

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