Maternity Wardrobe without Breaking the Bank, Part 1

Hey all! So, I’m pregnant, due in December with Mini Thrifter #2:

We’re really excited, especially Mini Thrifter #1 who will get to be a big sister:

Thrifted shirt, natch.

When we started trying to conceive, I admit I was super psyched about the idea of thrifting a maternity wardrobe. It seemed like a great excuse to go thrift a whole bunch of clothes without having to think about whether I really needed them.

And then a funny thing happened – I suddenly had no desire to thrift. I mean, if a friend had suggested we hit up a Goodwill, I would not have said no – but I didn’t feel the need to initiate anything myself, and even inside a store, didn’t feel much desire to buy. Proof: the last time I went thrifting, all I grabbed was pants for my kid because I had neglected to bring anything but shorts for her on a trip to Maine. (Note: even if it’s the middle of summer, Maine always requires pants. And a sweatshirt. Always.)

In other words, I suddenly felt content with my closet. Hormones?

In part I just couldn’t be bothered, so I started looking for ways my current wardrobe could stretch (pun intended) to cover at least part of my maternity wardrobe. I already favor looser, fall-from-the-shoulders type silhouettes, so tops were pretty easy to find in my closet. And thanks to growing up in the 90s and feeling like waistbands anywhere near my actual waist are anathema, my shorts all button closer to the hips and a few are still doing maternity duty:

Pants only made it the first couple months; I am now done with them until the cold weather comes back. Dresses have picked up the slack and are doing a great job of keeping me cool on hot days:

I have one new (to me) piece which is not actually maternity but regular Uniqlo – a skirt with a nice wide elastic waistband, on hand for days when the shorts are too casual or don’t want to button:

And I have one new (to me) dress waiting in the wings for August-September when things start to get a little bigger around here:

Pockets! Thrifted J. Jill, found in the regular dress section.

I have no doubt I’ll need to thrift more for colder weather; I don’t have any pants left over from last time and the few maternity sweaters I needed in Atlanta are in eye-burning color combos like electric purple and chartreuse (what was I thinking??). I’ll keep you all up to date!


Tips for building a maternity wardrobe

Thrifting (or shopping secondhand in other ways) is a great way to save money on a wardrobe you won’t need forever. Here are some strategies to help you thrift maternity clothes:

  • Shop your closet – don’t assume all your current clothes won’t work, particularly if you favor roomier styles.
    • Pull out the pants/skirts/shorts that have always seemed a little loose or needed a belt – they’re your friend when your waistline starts to expand!
    • Dresses with any kind of stretch in the fabric are your friend – they can bridge from pre-pregnant through your first few months and give you time to scope out maternity clothes for when things really start popping.
    • Use the rubberband trick to keep regular pants in rotation longer.
  • Hit up maternity consignment stores. This is what I’ll do for my winter clothes because they have the advantage of a) a lot more selection in one place and b) more modern, up-to-date styles. If you don’t want to abandon skinny-cut jeans, for example, go consignment. All I ever see in thrift stores are bootcut styles. Pro tip: many children’s consignment stores have a maternity section that’s worth checking out.
  • Shop secondhand online. Same as consignment, you get a wealth of current style options. Downside: you can’t try on for size and often can’t return, so look for pieces like dresses and stretchy tees that can afford to give a little either way.
  • Look beyond the maternity rack at your local thrift store. You can easily find pregnancy-friendly tunic tops/dresses and skirts/pants with elasticated waistbands in the regular racks; empire waists are also great at adapting to pregnancy. Look in the PJ section for cute shorts for sleep or play, or fashionably oversized pj tops. Size up for regular shirts/sweaters, or snap up one of those normally frustrating pairs of jeans that leaves you swimming in the waist but fits everywhere else. Shoes that are wider than your normal size (particularly sandals, mules, clogs) are a cheap thrift score to give those expanding feet more room.

If you’ve thrifted for a maternity wardrobe, what are your strategies and tips?  Or any specific season in your life – when you’ll need clothes for a certain purpose but you know you won’t keep them forever?

13 thoughts on “Maternity Wardrobe without Breaking the Bank, Part 1

  1. Aw, congrats! When I mentioned I was pregnant back in the day, hand-me-downs from moms started coming in. It helped that I was the last in my peer group to become a mom. I guess those women didn’t know what to do with all those maternity clothes in their closets, so I was their method of decluttering.:-)

    Um, is that a dolphin sticker on your knee?

    1. Thanks Priscilla! Someone at my church just gave birth; the last time I saw her before the baby was born, she said “I’ll be done with all my maternity clothes just in time to give them to you!” I benefited from the same phenomenon last pregnancy; thank goodness women are willing to pass those on!

      And yes, that is a dolphin sticker. My child’s favorite thing to do with stickers is put them on people’s bodies :)

    1. Thanks Jeanne! My first kid loves to thrift books, which will hopefully one day transition into clothes…startin’ ’em early! :)

  2. Hey Leah – Congratulations! My only was born in December, and by this time I was solidly into maternity clothes. I only gained 13 pounds (was terribly underweight, actually – oh, those were the days!), but I couldn’t fit into “normal” clothes to save my life. I was too small pre-pregnancy to be able to share clothes, unfortunately, so I had five outfits I rotated and wore awful maternity jeans on the weekends. I am glad to see you have much better options!

    1. Thanks Sandi! Good for you for making good use of a small amount of clothing without breaking the bank. Last time, in my third trimester, I ended up with about the same number of outfits and also got away with one pair of maternity jeans, which I’m hoping to do again this time – nobody really seems to notice and they’re for such a short period of time, relatively speaking.

  3. Congratulations! My granddaughter’s sporting the same big sister tee as we await the arrival of her little sister next month :=) Such a pretty, vivid color !

    My tips would be to enlist friends/family who thrift to keep an eye out and be specific about colors and types of garments you need. (Tops, bottoms, dresses, tenty/floaty vs snug fitting, season, etc). As a thrifter who enjoys the thrill of the chase but has a substantial wardrobe, I always have extra bandwidth to be “on the lookout” for someone else. Some of our best maternity finds are not hanging in the maternity section– some items aren’t obviously maternity, and thriftshop staffers are plenty busy to be familiar with all the maternity brands. Get to know those brands, and as you rightly point out, shop the regular racks with an open mind, and you’ll be surprised at how many actual maternity items you’ll find tucked away there along with “maternity appropriate.”

    Nursing clothes are expensive and hard to find. And, like maternity clothes, range from super awkward/ugly to really cute. Now’s the time to start looking. If you’re nursing your baby, they can be lifesavers especially in the early weeks. Also think pumping access if that’ll be a need. Not just tops and the rare dress, but cami’s, nightgowns, even barely or never-worn nursing bras. We surprisingly found several and you can kind of guess at what you’ll need if you eyeball and go up a band size and up one or more cup sizes– you’ll be going thru several sizes after delivery until settling down, and you can always give them away again! Ditto for regular shirts that are nursing friendly, like loose fitting tops you can lift or pull aside, maybe with a cami underneath.

    Nursing and maternity clothing is worn such a relatively short but special time– my daughters and I have also found that sharing/passing on is a sweet custom among friends and family.

    Finally, I’m curious. Why oh why in the world do thrift shops always put scrubs and maternity together? Or is that just a Colorado thing?!

  4. Congrats on the upcoming grandbaby, Ursula! How exciting :)
    You’re so right that maternity clothes often are stuck elsewhere – and that thrifting friends can really multiply your reach. I’m like you – I thrift frequently but have pretty much everything I want, so I *love* keeping an eye out for things other people need.
    I hadn’t even started to think about nursing-friendly wear yet…those are great tips! I have (hand-me-down) bras leftover and a few easy-access dresses that I wore in hot weather, but if I’m staying inside most of the time anyway and can wrap a cardigan around a sleeveless dress, it hopefully won’t matter!
    Around here scrubs end up in a different section, but maternity is often placed near/mingled in with plus-size clothes – which makes just as little sense! :P

  5. You’re adorable. Also I love the dolphin knee sticker. I was scrolling through my Facebook feed like ‘aw look at that cute little mama belly’… then it dawned on me that it was you.
    Love the post. It made me crazy buying clothes I would only wear for 4 months. Especially when I had several weddings (in different climates) when I was pregnant. I just gave all my maternity stuff to my SIL. Because free clothes are even better than thrifted ones, right?

    1. Thanks Megs! Dolphin sticker on my knee (which I either didn’t notice or forgot to take off before the pic) is so emblematic of my life right now.
      Free clothes for the win! So much good stuff to be had, particularly for a time in your life when what works is far more important than spending time and money finding what’s perfect. I bet your SIL loved the opportunity to find some good stuff!

  6. Congratulations! Sorry I’m late to the party here – summertime yard work has become an intensely loathsome chore – but this happy news was so lovely to read. Quick flashback – when I was pregnant with my kids wa-aa-y back in the early ’90’s, the maternity “fashions” were hideous beyond belief. Lots of 1980’s Princess Diana influenced sweet pea type ruffled dresses of the hugely floaty variety. Thank God my mother was an excellent seamstress and sewed me some very simple and really beautiful dresses. Lots of linen and cotton which I appreciated, being pregnant both times during a Midwestern summer. I also found some items in our local Salvation Army (really plain tent dresses and oversize cotton button-down shirts) that saw me through. After my second baby, I knew I wasn’t going to have any more children, so I donated all my maternity clothes. I still enjoy looking back at pictures from that time and trying to believe how fast time flies!

    1. Thank you, Sophie! It’s been fun to share the news, especially when people really enjoy hearing it :)
      It’s funny, maternity clothes have tended toward stretchy and body-hugging for the last while, but I’ve started to see a few of the looser, floaty “tent” dresses come back into style (though minus the ruffles). Especially in a hot summer it makes so much sense – particularly the linen and cotton dresses your mom made for you which sound just divine! I love that you have pictures to look back and remember both the fashion and the fun of growing a person. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *