HOW TO BUILD A SUSTAINABLE MATERNITY WARDROBE

What makes a good maternity wardrobe? Lots of things go into curating a closet that’ll make you feel good as you do the hard work of growing a tiny human. Whether your clothes are getting snugger by the day or you just got your first positive test (snaps for planning ahead!), you’re going to need a serious strategy to create a wardrobe that is comfortable for you. 

The prob with maternity fashion? It's often fast fashion. it’s hard to imagine there’s any way to shop sustainably. When you purchase a whole new wardrobe just for nine months of wear, or impulse buy tons of pieces you’ll literally wear once, you’re not only causing unnecessary impacts on our environment but also taking part in the bigger eco-crisis that is hurting the world our little ones will inherit. 

When pregnant, many women get serious about all the ways their actions will impact their babies’ futures. Sustainability may be more important to you than ever before. Or, on the flip side, you may be feeling exhausted and overwhelmed at the thought of keeping up a sustainable lifestyle while also preparing for your little one’s arrival. Whichever boat you’re floating along in, don’t fret. We’re here to help you create and curate a sustainable pregnancy wardrobe one step at a time.

STEP 1: SHOP YOUR CLOSET

First things first, take a look at what you already have. We know, duh. You’ve already looked. Your favorite high-waisted jeans don’t fit and your go-to cropped tanks are lookin a little too, well, cropped. Take a closer look. When finding pieces that still fit, you’ll want to make sure you’re utilizing everything at your disposal. 

Great news for you: many current trends are actually pretty pregnancy friendly. Empire waist tops? Smocked bust dresses? Babydoll dresses with the cutest puff sleeves? If you’ve updated your wardrobe at all in the past couple of months, you most likely already have a few favorite pieces that will work just fine throughout your pregnancy. In addition to recent trends, we suggest you sort through your whole closet and pull out anything that will fit your growing bump, like…

LONG SHIRTS

This is one of the more obvious ones but, of course, shirts that cover the whole torso down to the bum will work just fine throughout your pregnancy. Anything that has a flowy silhouette like babydoll-cut shirts, oversized sweaters, or flouncy tunics should be able to accommodate your changing body for quite a long time, in addition to being able to cover up any pant adjustments you need to make with the help of our Bellaband.

leggings

Aah, leggings. As if you needed another reason to be living in your lucky pair right now. With the waistband folded under your bump, they should work no matter how rounded you get. Keep ‘em around for days you can stand to be more casual or just hanging around the house.

DRESSES

Don’t forget your favorite dresses! Well, maybe not all of them. If your collection contains lots of no-stretch sheaths and natural waists, you may not get quite as much use out of those pieces. Be on the lookout for flowy sundresses and even soft bodycons with lots of stretch; those will be amazing for showing off your new curves. Smocked busts and empire waists that hit well above your growing bump should be good to go throughout your nine months as well. Pull those aside.

CROPPED SHIRTS

Okay, this one may seem a bit counterintuitive given we just advised you that long shirts are amazing for pregnancy… but hear us out. Cropped tops still have their place. Many maternity pieces are high-waisted or made to cover your full bump. This goes for dresses (obvi), leggings, and lots of skirts, like this cute midi number. Because these pieces already give you ample coverage, you may find days when you’d like to be showin’ what you’re growin’ with a cute crop top moment. 

STRETCHY FABRICS

Simply put, pieces with stretch are your BFF. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning because it will truly save you from performing a complete wardrobe overhaul. Any fabrics that are jersey, contain spandex, or have elastic seams in place of no-stretch thread can work for quite a while, if not your whole pregnancy.

STEP 2: CLEANSE YOUR WARDROBE

Okay, so you’ve set aside all the pieces that work with your bump. Now you’re left wondering what to do with the rest of your wardrobe still hanging up—mocking you. Don’t let them stare back at you as you dream about what it was like to wear those adorable leather pants while you still could. It’s best to hide away all the non-maternity-conforming offenders. Why? Because if left in sight, you’ll be much more tempted to impulse-buy all of their maternity counterparts, and end up with a whole new wardrobe trying to replicate the one you once had.

In total you’ll be pregnant for approximately nine months (probably not breaking news). Sure, you won’t be back in your pre-pregnancy clothes immediately and, believe us, you definitely want to take the time your body needs to heal and get back into motion slowly (tap here for a week-by-week postpartum guide to exercise). The pieces you’ve set aside will be perfect for this transition, along with a few maternity essentials you’ve picked up along the way.

So, what should you do with the rest of your wardrobe? Store it all away. Whether it’s in the spare closet, basement, or attic, for the most sustainable approach to your pregnancy wardrobe an outta-sight-outta-mind attitude is going to work best. To keep your clothes in tip-top shape, just make sure you store them properly.

STEP 3: FILL IN THE GAPS

After you’ve gone through your closet and cleansed your wardrobe of all the not-so-bump-friendly pieces, what next? Don’t worry, this is where you’ll get to do a bit of shopping. Start piecing together staple outfits: looks that will go with many different occasions. Think about what you usually wear on a weekly basis. Are you a leggings and T-shirt kinda mama? Will you be working at the office or from home throughout this pregnancy? Would you be comfortable wearing dresses on the daily? Once you have these answers, you should be able to see what in your closet is ready to go and what will work just fine with the addition of a few essentials. 

For example, you may be a mom on-the-go who fits into all of your day-to-day workout clothes thanks to their stretchy nature. Just one thing: at some point during your pregnancy, there literally won’t be enough fabric to keep your bump under cover. If this is you, you may want to have our Seamless Cami on hand to layer under tops so no one gets an accidental bump show. 

Before you pack up all your jeans, you’ll also want to add the Bellaband to your wardrobe. It keeps your pre-pregnancy bottoms up once they’re no longer zippable, and seriously extends your pant collection.

Once you snag a few key pieces to layer with your already-existing wardrobe, you’re all set to wear your favorite outfits on repeat and get some seriously sustainable wear out of your pre-pregnancy closet, bump and all. 

STEP 4: SHOP SUSTAINABLY

Now, we know there are some of you that will still want or need to shop a bit for your maternity closet. Maybe your pre-existing wardrobe really isn’t cut out for much maternity wear or you just want to invest in a couple fun maternity-specific pieces to really feel all the special pregnancy feels. This totally makes sense. Definitely no mom-shame here. Here are our top 4 tips to help you shop for maternity pieces in a sustainable fashion.

SHOP USED

Guess what? Over 3 million babies were born in the United States in 2020 alone (source:The CDC). That means there are millions of women out there who already bought pregnancy wardrobes. Sure, a good portion of those women may have saved their pregnancy pieces for the next time they’re expecting (a great way to stay sustainable btw!).

However, many of them are all done with the whole birthing thing, which means millions of modern, gently used maternity pieces are out there. They’re at your local thrift shops. They’re in your friends’ closets (literally just ask!). If you want a more expedited used shopping experience, check ThredUp and Poshmark. They have so many great used maternity options at affordable prices—including Ingrid+Isabel and Isabel Maternity :) 

Something else to keep in mind when you’re looking for used maternity clothing—and it goes back to when you shopped that pre-preggo closet. If you thrift a smocked midi dress, even if it’s not specifically maternity, it will most likely fit you all the way through your pregnancy! So, don’t narrow your search to solely maternity clothes. Keep an open mind and you’ll be able to give some real gems a new home rather than ending up in landfills.

think versatile

The same goes for your new maternity wardrobe. Wouldn't it be great if you could wear those pieces long after your pregnancy, too? Lucky for you, that's kinda our thing. Our Now + Forever design philosophy means you can wear the vast majority of our pieces with a bump or without it. Since we fit everything on preg and non-preg models, you know you'll look good wearing them too :) Who says pregnancy clothes need to be temporary? 

CONSIDER RENTING

If you thought buying was your only option, you gotta get with the times. There are tons of maternity friendly rental services out there (shout out to our partner Nuuly—check out our collection here!). Choose from as many or as little clothing pieces as you’d like then simply return them when you’re done for the next mama to use. We love the pass-it-on mentality of clothing rentals and that they prevent you from having a huge pile of maternity clothes just waiting to be dumped into landfills.

Renting is also a great idea if you’re looking for a specific event like a baby shower, wedding, or even a gala. If you weren’t pregnant, it might be justifiable to invest in a gorgeous gown or theme-specific outfit that you will most likely only get to wear a couple other times in your life. When it comes to re-wearing a maternity evening gown, or really anything that is out of the ordinary for your day-to-day wardrobe, the chances of you getting extra miles out of it are pretty slim (how often are you a bridesmaid or attend a gala when you’re pregnant?!). 

Consider finding a cost-efficient rental option instead so that you can wear what you need, and then pass it on to the next expecting mama. The clothes get so much more wear this way than if they just lived in your closet permanently, which is, you guessed it, *way* more sustainable.

LESS IS MORE

You know the three R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Well, we’re taking reuse to heart and recommending that you re-wear clothes as often as you can when you’re pregnant. Outfit repeating is 100% encouraged these days thanks to capsule wardrobe trends, but when you’re pregnant there’s no way to have a sustainable wardrobe if you’re not constantly repeating your go-to looks.

You can always switch things up by mixing and matching separates, or throwing on a sweater or blazer, but definitely do not be afraid that someone in your office will notice that you wore the same shirt last week that you’re wearing today. You’re pregnant. If it looks good and feels good, wear it on repeat.

On the other hand, you could have just invested in a staple maternity LBD like our EveryWear Tank Dress or Satin Slip Dress that will look adorable for that birthday dinner with your fav heels or super trendy for running errands in comfy sneakers. Bonus: our tech team worked really hard to ensure the silhouettes still fit once babe is born.

We love a less-is-more approach to maternity and definitely encourage shopping minimal pieces that will go with everything and work for anything. Scroll through our curated collection of maternity essentials plus, we’ll be honest, a couple of fun pieces that’ll let you spice things up. They’re comfortable enough for you to want to wear all the time throughout your nine months and way beyond. Plus, they’re made to last so you can count on them for post-postpartum period, your next pregnancy, your friend’s pregnancy, the women you just sold your maternity clothes to’s pregnancy, you get the idea.

THE TAKEAWAY

We hope these four steps to building to a sustainable maternity wardrobe has inspired you, enlightened you, and given you hope that you can actually be pregnant while staying conscious of your environmental impact. On top of all the hardships, weaknesses, and trying times pregnancy will bring you, it will also show you just how strong you are. Your body is literally growing a human so you are pretty much capable of anything you put your mind to. Being pregnant does not mean you need to accept defeat in the sustainability department. With the help of these simple tips, you can take care of Mother Earth while also taking care of your new, beautifully-changing body. You got this, mama.