Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Summer Mamas: Maternity Fashion to Beat the Heat on a Budget

Pregnancy certainly seems to be in vogue this year! A number of A-list celebrities have either given birth already in 2012 or are due in the summer or fall this year, including Beyonce, Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Garner, Hilary Duff, Kourtney Kardashian, Alessandra Ambrosio, Uma Thurman, Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, Neve Campbell and Tori Spelling, to name a few. We see them in magazines and on TV looking quite chic with their baby bumps on the go, on the beach, at special events. Of course models, actresses and entertainers have the luxury of strutting their pregnant stuff in beautiful designer outfits. For those of us on a tight budget (myself included!) we need to improvise a little but we can still look hot and keep cool through the summer. It just takes a little planning and creativity.

I'm due July 23rd (76 days and counting!) so I'm going to be at my biggest in June and July. Not having air conditioning, I'm hoping it won't be too humid. My top priority will be staying cool and comfortable, but I'd also like to look good in the process. I thought it would be fun to do a blog post about maternity fashion and even do my own little fashion show.

When money is tight, you don't want to spend a great deal on clothes that you'll only be wearing a couple of months out of your life (unless you plan to have several kids. In my case this is the first, last and only!) You have to be resourceful. Once you put the word out about being pregnant often people will come out of the woodwork to offer old maternity and baby clothes that they no longer need. And if they don't offer, it can't hurt to ask. You never know. I'm grateful to have gotten bags of maternity clothes from family, friends and co-workers. They did me through the winter and have helped me transition through spring. I've even grown into the things that seemed too big months ago. The first time I put on a pair of maternity jeans I was IN HEAVEN! I love the big stretchy waist thing. What a brilliant invention! It is a godsend. In addition to these staples, I also luckily had several items in my regular wardrobe that still fit and I've picked up some great bargains here and there.

In my city, it is hard to find maternity wear anywhere. The clothing stores and department stores here don't have maternity sections. There is only one maternity store in town -- Thyme Maternity. While they do have some nice things, they tend to be a bit pricey. I was looking for real bargains (I was raised by a shopoholic bargain hunting Queen so I have a hard time buying things if they're not on sale! The cheaper the better!)
$3 denim skirt!
You can find some great treasures that won't break the bank by looking in thrift stores and second hand shops. My best buys were at a thrift store during a 50% off sale. They only had one rack of maternity wear but I managed to find some capri pants, a top and a cute denim skirt for $3 each! Can't beat that! Some of my favourite stores, where you can put together cute outfits inexpensively are Giant Tiger (only in small towns but a real gem with a huge selection of great clothes at low prices), Walmart and Old Navy (I also hear that we're getting a Target here soon! I'm so psyched! I loved that store in the U.S. but we've never had them here in Canada). While they may not have maternity departments (at least not in my city) they offer a wide variety of inexpensive options. You can get a top for $7 or pants for $15. It doesn't have to be maternity, it just needs to fit.

Sometimes it's just a matter of going up one size. (In my case from a medium to a large.) A lot of the styles now are loose and blousy anyway, which is just perfect. Rather than investing money into something you'll only wear while pregnant, you can choose items that will work for a bigger or smaller you. You may have some pieces in your closet from before you were pregnant that still work. It's all about design and fabric. I had some flowing skirts with elastic waists that accomodate my growing belly and a bunch of tops that leave room for the baby bump.

You don't want anything that's going to be too tight and restrictive. It makes you look bulgy and feel uncomfortable. Anything loose or that blouses out at the belly is ideal. Flowing blouses seem to be in fashion now anyway which is helpful. You can still wear some things that are form-fitting (might as well show off that belly while you've got it!) but that are soft and stretchy enough that they're still comfortable to wear. Sleeveless will be best for balmy summer days. With the extra weight I'm carrying I'm sure I'll be feeling the heat more than ever.

Some styles are ideal as improvised maternity wear. Sundresses work. Empire waists, babydoll tops. Oversized baggy pants. Elastic and drawstring waists. Soft, stretchy materials that expand. Through trial and error you can put together a wardrobe that works. There were a few of my old summer items I had assumed would work well because they used to be huge on me. Now that we've had a few warm days and I went to dig them out however I learned that no, some are now way too small! A lot of it depends on the fabric and style -- some are more forgiving and flattering than others. Comfort is key but if you can look stylish as well, that's the icing on the cake. Mmmm cake...

In the 70s and 80s we used to call them "boob tubes" those stretchy elastic sleeveless tops. They are great to wear when you're pregnant because they stretch for comfort, they're cute and they keep you cool. From casual to dressy, I have several different styles and colours to get me through June and July.   

I'm happy that my favourite dress still fits! In the early Fall of 2010 I was in Grand Bend and found this butterfly dress at a boutique on the strip by the beach. At the time it was symbolic to me. I was blossoming, taking risks, living life to the fullest and I felt like a butterfly. I couldn't have imagined the metamorphosis I would undergo a year and a half later! Because of the design, with it flaring out under the bust, it leaves room for my baby bump. Prophetically the butterfly is placed right over my belly! I have a few dresses in this same style (one in turquoise and another in basic black) and I love them. They are form-fitting without being too tight and ideal for keeping cool in the heat.

My favourite top happily still fits as well. It's one that I first wore while I was in Samana, Dominican Republic a couple of years ago, dancing the night away at the disco on the beach. (I miss going dancing! It's been too long!) There's even a video of that night on Youtube if you want to check it out:

I have several tops and dresses in these soft, stretchy fabrics -- Polyester, spandex, rayon, elastane. The great thing about them is that not only do they feel great but they're so easy to care for. Wash and wear. You never have to iron them (I seem to have something against ironing. I haven't done it in years! Clothes that wrinkled and needed ironing ended up in the back of my closet and eventually found their way out through charity clothing drives.)

Tan & bikini last year
One thing I was concerned about this summer is not only being heavier than I've ever been but also being more pale than ever. Being a natural redhead, I'm as white as it gets! I don't tan easily (I have to be cautious and use sunscreen or I can get a bad burn.) I tend to burn and freckle. I get a little pink and will get somewhat of a tan but in the past I've relied on self-tanners to help me out. Especially my legs. Being pregnant, I simply can't risk using any tanning products on my skin. I asked my doctor to be sure and she confirmed that yes it's best to avoid them while pregnant. There hasn't been enough research to know whether the chemicals in self-tanning products could harm the baby. If it's on your skin then traces could be going through your system. So this year not only are my legs bigger than they've ever been but now they are stark white!

Needless to say I'm not anxious to wear short shorts but I do want to be able to beat the heat. With capris, skirts and dresses I can keep cool and covered. Maxi dresses are awesome as maternity wear. Lightweight and flowing down to the ankles they cover up my big old white legs and are a lot more comfortable than wearing long pants. Maxi dresses are very fashionable and have been a popular choice among pregnant celebs.

in Samana 2010

Sarongs are so right as maternity wear! Obsessed with the beach, I had a number of them in my wardrobe already in assorted colours and styles. Most of them I picked up in little shops by the beach, both here at home and while on vacation. It was my dream to live on an island one day and spend every day in a bikini and sarong. Large fabrics that you can tie around you as a skirt, top, or dress, these versatile pieces are perfect to cover up while staying cool and comfortable on hot summer days. And you feel tropical in them! 

I still want to make trips to the beach this summer. I don't know if I'll be daring enough to bare the baby bump in public. Exposing the white legs will be scary enough. The good thing about bikinis is that you can let the drawstrings out so that they're not too tight. A lot of celebrities choose to go the bikini route and show off their bulging bellies. I will likely be a little more conservative and wear tankinis instead. This a silver crocheted one that I've had for years and it's perfect as a maternity swimsuit. It ties at the back so I can make it as loose as I like. It flares a little at the bottom to make room for my belly. And a sarong will help me hide the white swollen legs until I'm ready to get in the water.
The key to fashion at any time, but especially during pregnancy, is accentuating the positives. A good outfit should enhance your figure not overpower or hide it. You don't want to wear something that looks like a big shapeless sack. You also don't want to squeeze into something that makes you feel like a big sausage. In the first trimester, before I had announced to everyone that I was pregnant, I was trying to hide it. I camouflaged and covered up the boobs and the belly with oversized sweaters. It felt uncomfortable and unnatural. It was a relief when the news was out and I didn't have to hide. Now I'm not afraid to flaunt it. I embrace my new curves! I feel more feminine than I've ever felt. When I was a scrawny kid in junior high I never could have imagined how I would blossom one day. Definitely a very late bloomer! It still amazes me how the body transforms for a baby. It truly is a miracle. The ability to create life, to give birth is the greatest power that we have. I believe that pregnant women are radiant. Many people have referred to "a pregnant glow." It comes from within, from the precious life growing inside of you.

Several celebrities have proven just how beautiful pregnancy can be, even wearing nothing at all. I love this photo of Alessandra Ambrosio for Vivara Jewellery. A gifted photographer friend of mine was trying to convince me to attempt a black and white shot like this, of me. I don't think I'm quite that daring! Maybe if I looked like Alessandra! I am planning to get some artistic photos done toward the end of my pregnancy when my belly is at its largest, just to have as a souvenir. But I think I'll wear a little bit more than jewellery! I've seen a number of cute ideas for pregnancy photos. Being a photoholic, I always have to have photos to record everything. The moment is so fleeting but photos are forever. I'm grateful to have so many of my memories immortalized in images. Pregnancy is by far the biggest adventure of my life so naturally I want to commemorate it. That's part of the reason I started this blog as well.

Pregnancy is a magical time and it really goes by pretty quickly in the scheme of things. Back in November, nine months sounded like an eternity to me but it's actually flying by. Just a few months left now until I'm due. I can't believe it. Being an expectant mother is not always easy but it can be joyous. Despite some discomforts (swelling, heartburn etc mentioned in previous blog posts) I've been enjoying this experience. I've had some of the happiest moments of my life so far (hearing the baby's heartbeat and feeling her move.) It is a gift and a miracle. It still blows my mind.

I think it's important that we celebrate this special time while we're in it. Feel good. Look good. Even on a modest budget you can step out in style and show off that baby bump! 


  1. I wish I loked as good as you when I was pregnant...and I'm pretty sure that my "pregnant glow" was perspiration, lol!

    1. Thank you! :) Part of my glow may be perspiration too. And partly heartburn! LOL