Staying stylish all the time is a challenge—especially with our constantly changing bodies. Most of us gain a little winter weight, then drop a few sizes during bikini season. And we all have a small section of our closet reserved for that magical time when we lose 5-10 lbs. Now, what if you’ve just had a baby? Imagine saying goodbye to 80% of your closet.
Post-pregnancy bodies take a bit longer to bounce back. You just spent nine months creating a life—things are going to be…um…different. Anyone who is fitting comfortably into their skinny jeans a month after giving birth is a freak of nature. Ignore them.
And stop googling images of celebrity moms. The media praises actresses and models for looking fabulous post-baby, but what they fail to acknowledge is that being in shape and looking stylish is their JOB! And they’re all rich—dropping thousands of dollars on designer duds to wear for a few post-preggo months is nothing.
If everyone had obscene amounts of money to spend on clothes and a wellness pit-crew on hand to cook health meals, force us to work out seven days a week, give us massages, perform daily spa treatments and tend to crying baby so we can get beauty sleep—we would ALL look amazing.
New moms probably can’t imagine looking and feeling like themselves again—let alone runway ready—but there are a few basics that every new mom should have in her arsenal for a stylish maternity leave.
Most of the items are inexpensive, so you won’t feel bad shedding them once your body is back (they’ll probably be covered in milk and spit-up anyway.) The pricier pieces can easily work into your existing wardrobe and are worth keeping.
OK, they don’t count as a post-pregnancy item because technically you will buy them pre-baby (but you will definitely use them post.) I was lucky enough to wear most of my regular tops and dresses throughout my pregnancy, but the only major piece I would highly recommend while pregnant that will take you into post-pregnancy is nice (read: pricey) maternity pants, specifically jeans. The look above can work for pregnancy and post-pregnancy.
Clockwise from left: J.Crew Maternity Toothpick Jean ($145), H&M Long Tank Top ($6), J.Crew Infinity Scarf ($55) and K. Jacques Sandals for J.Crew ($280)
I was desperate for something other than black leggings so I purchased a pair of Gap maternity jeans. I wanted to save money (since I thought I’d only be wearing them for a few months) and buy cheaper jeans. BIG mistake. I ended up throwing them out after a month because the fit got worse with wear.
Moms always say (and you won’t believe them) that you will wear your maternity jeans AFTER you have the baby. I laughed at the thought of maternity jeans after pregnancy. Well, at four months post-pregnancy my pre-pregnancy jeans still give me a muffin top and I want to cry at the sight of black leggings! I wish I had purchased GOOD maternity jeans.
Style advice: Invest in an amazing pair of maternity jeans with the elastic side panel not the full belly. J.Crew has several great maternity styles around $145 that look like regular jeans. And THIS JUST IN…Zara sells maternity now!
Here are the six must-haves for maternity leave (clockwise from top left: Leggings (Lululemon Ebb to Street in Black Grape $92), Button down tunic (Uniqlo $20), Deep v-neck t-shirt (American Apparel $24), Stripe tank (H&M $6), Print scarf (Zara $30), Draped cardigan (Zara $60)
1. Good Leggings
I have always been a fan of cheapie cheap leggings from fast fashion retailers (shhh) because I just didn’t see the point in spending a lot of money on leggings or tights. Then I splurged on a pair of Lululemon leggings and I haven’t looked back. I still want to smack myself for paying nearly $100 for black leggings—and I probably should. But my tush looks amazing.
The fabric on the basic styles is super opaque (no peek-a-boo underwear) and doesn’t have that strange shine when stretched…you know what I’m talking about—that cheap-looking elastic hue you see on jersey garments when they are too tight. Plus, the high-waisted versions completely obscure the mid-section muffin top! As any new mom can tell you, the belly situation is not cute for a while. Wearing fold-over or high-waisted yoga pants is a must.
My favorite pair of Lululemon pants are the Ebb to Street. The texture and ribbed detail at ankle and waist makes them look like a cool street pant. And they are super comfortable. I wore these throughout my pregnancy. The Ebb to Street come in a very versatile heather black that is a nice departure from basic black. My new favorite color is the black grape. You might be thinking Purple? Yes. Purple. But not a WOWZA purple, more of a chic, understated purple hue. They are my new basic.
2. Button-down Shirts
If you’re breastfeeding, you will inevitably find yourself in a public situation with a hungry baby and an awkward shirt on. If your belly still hasn’t slimmed down yet you might be a little uncomfortable pulling your shirt up to nurse—even with a nursing cover or swaddle. Button-down shirts are a life saver. You don’t have to stretch out the top or bottom of your shirt wrestling out a nipple to sooth your crying babe. Go a size or two larger so you have a bit of extra fabric to cover up. Tunics can work, too, but just make sure the opening is deep enough.
Uniqlo sells good quality (and inexpensive) button-downs in just about every color on the spectrum. Stock up.
3. Deep V-Neck T-shirts
Sometimes you just want to wear a soft t-shirt when your breasts are leaky and you get the sweats. American Apparel sells a deep v-neck t-shirt deep enough that you can easily move it to the side for nursing. Sometimes lifting the shirt isn’t an option, especially if you are toting around your offspring in a baby-carrier. Feeding your baby while you’re wearing her is much easier if you have quick boob access.
I highly recommend pairing the American Apparel v-neck with a sleep-bra that you can also just pull to the side, rather than unhook. Ingrid & Isabel makes a great seamless cross-over version ($28)
4. Striped Tank Top
Any long or boxy tank will work with leggings, but a striped tank brings a bit of style to your look. Plus the stripes will disguise your middle and camouflage milk leakage and spit-up stains.
Yipes stripes, clockwise from top left: Long tank (H&M $6), Cotton strappy tank (Zara $10), Linen tank (H&M $13), Tank top (Zara $8), Jersey tank (H&M $4), Long cami (H&M $6)
5. Draped Cardigan
Nothing creates the illusion of toned abs and slim hips like extra yards of fabric flowing around your body. The drapey cardigan is also a built-in nursing cover. You might have several of these in your closet already, but if not, we’ve found a few we love.
From left: Draped cardigan (Zara $26), Long Cardigan (H&M $25) and Wrap jacket (Zara $80)
6. Oversized Scarf in Bold Print
Instead of draping yourself in a baby swaddle with little safari animals or pink butterflies, why not use a beautiful oversized scarf as a nursing cover? Then you can wrap it around your neck and throw on a pair huge sunnies for the perfect disguise (because who has time to get eyebrows waxed or put on makeup?)
For scarves, Zara is a go-to because they are inexpensive and have great designs (the above scarves are all Zara). Every year they have fabulous fall plaids that sell out before I can get my hands on one—and their spring prints are even better.
You might already own several of these must-have pieces, but stocking up on a few extra is a good idea since you will be living in these for a few months and don’t have time to do laundry every other day.
Check out our Post-Pregnancy Style board on Pinterest for more inspiration!