Whether you're a fashionista or not, one of the first thoughts you may have upon seeing that little blue line is "what am I going to wear." And the concern only increases if also happen to be a working woman. Knowing how to find good maternity clothes for work is a struggle more and more women have been facing over the years. And not just because Human Resources implements a strict dress code. According to a 2015 report from the Pew Research Center, the number of working pregnant woman has increased over the years, going for 40 percent in the 1960s to almost 70 percent in the late 2000s.
Luckily for working women of today, maternity work clothes aren't as boring as they were back in the day. Robin Otto, a maternity fashion expert for online retailer zulily, tells Romper that she has seen a shift in the maternity styles over the years and it's all thanks to the moms-to-be.
"Moms started to actually speak up," she says. "They want to see clothes that they actually want to wear." As a result, Otto says brands started asking, "how do I take some of the best sellers that women love and then make them for maternity." Of course, that's not to say things are perfect. The options are still limited, especially for plus size pregnant women, and the bigger brands tend to sell out of items very quickly. That's where, Otto says, a site like zulily comes into play.
In addition to featuring the big name brands, Ottos says zulily features "boutique brands that are difficult to learn and know about. We have the luxury of being able to feature any and everything and I think that’s what our moms love about it." But even with the growing number of options out there for working moms-to-be, Otto knows that finding comfortable, flattering, and fashionable options are not always easy. To help you maintain your office style throughout the next nine months, here are some of Otto's tips to building a good maternity wardrobe for work.
1. Learn To Layer
Pregnant or not, Otto says layering is the key to looking stylish in an office environment. "Looking professional is kind of that layered put together polished look," she says. "But when you’re pregnant, look for things like a sleeveless vest or something like that where you’re not going to add a huge amount of heavy weight or heat." As an added bonus, Otto says layers allow you to hide your bump when you're not ready to tell the entire office that you're expecting.
2. Opt For Knit Fabric
Believe it or not, you can rock non-maternity clothes during your pregnancy. You just have to look at the labels. "Looking for knit is really important," Otto says. "In the earlier months it’s going to drape and give you a little more camouflage. Then as you grow it has that stretch ability to it." Otto adds that woven items are also a good option, but you have to be careful with the cut.
3. Utilize Non-Maternity Pieces
Let's be honest — maternity clothes can be expensive and one way to save for the important items is to use what's already in your closet. To get the most mileage out of your pre-pregnancy wardrobe, Otto suggests pairing a non-maternity blazer or sweater with your more bump-friendly items. This keeps you looking professional without having to spend hundreds on a maternity blazer.
4. Embrace Colors & Patterns
No matter your office environment, it's possible to be pregnant and not wear all black. After all, having a baby is no reason to go into mourning. Otto says adding pops of color or patterns not only makes your outfit more eye-appealing, but it can create a more flattering silhouette. And one pattern she wants more moms-to-be to embrace: horizontal strips.
"We’ve always been programmed that horizontal stripes make you wider," she says. "But really when you’re pregnant there’s a narrowing effect at the top of the waist and it makes you look smaller than you are." And if you're looking to flaunt your growing belly, Otto adds that horizontal stripes "give definition to your baby bump."
5. Invest In Maternity Pants
You may try to avoid it, but there will come a time where you have to buy maternity-specific pieces. There's no shame in that fact. But knowing where to spend your money is part of the challenge. To make your decision easier, Otto says a good pair of maternity pants can be a huge life saver, especially in the office.
"I can’t tell you how many women that I work with, when they finally put on a pair of maternity jeans, said 'Why did I wait this long?'" Otto tells us. But finding good maternity pants can be just as tough as finding non-maternity pants. Otto suggests looking for pants with "full panels that go all the way up." Additionally, she says if you have narrow hips you may be better off getting the underbelly pants, as there is "nothing for the full panels to grasp on to."
6. Look For Clothes With A Surplice
Another thing to keep in mind when browsing the non-maternity section. "Anything with surplice is great, because you can adjust them as you grow," Otto says. She adds that these clothes, like a wrap dress, will also serve you well in the postpartum phase.
7. Seek Out Nursing Clothes
If you plan on breastfeeding, Otto says you should start searching for clothes with a nursing function now. Whether it's a maternity or non-maternity pieces, she says, "if it has a nursing function it allows it to be worn for much longer." Plus, you''re gonna need some time to figure out all the clips and components of a nursing top.