I mean, there's the fact that Meghan Markle announced her pregnancy this week, but as someone whose closest friendship circle is currently full of pregnant and/or new mothers, I'm already well on my way to learning a lot about the joys and the trials of having a bun in the oven. I'm also an editor who is always on the lookout to help those in need of fashion advice (that's the reason we set up our private Facebook group, So… Should I Buy This?, which you can be a part of), so I'm acutely aware that this is one of the trickiest times to know what to wear, what to buy and how to feel like yourself.
In some ways, we can be thankful for the rise of social media and the sharing habits of pregnant women on Instagram: it can provide some IRL intel and inspiration. On the flip-side, there's the chance that an unrealistic and unobtainable view on how one might be expected to look during those nine months can be portrayed instead, which seems rather stress-inducing.
Rather than blindly plucking pictures from the internet without any knowledge or context, I sought out expert information. That help comes in the form of super-stylist and Who What Wear UK columnist, Avigail Collins. Her little boy, Che Bobby, is now a (very very adorable) toddler, so she's able to look back on that time with total fashion clarity—noting what worked, what didn't and offering some solid instructions around the basics of feeling right in your maternity fashion choices.
1. Shop for what you'd normally buy, only bigger. At Zara, for example, she opted for the kind of items she'd normally buy but a few sizes larger. Post-maternity, you can often style out oversized pieces in relatively simple ways (tucking in big shirts, belting bigger dresses, etc.).
2. Stretchy fabrics are key. "I took a leaf out of Kim Kardashian West's book and found the Wolford stretchy boob-tube dresses did look fitted and chic. Some people don't like doing it, but for me, it just worked with my curves," Avigail Collins tells us. "I was seven months pregnant when I wore it first and it still fits me now and I've lost all my baby weight. I wore it once as a dress and once as a skirt, and it works really well as a skirt with an oversized shirt."
3. Long layers and open shirts or cardigans are reliable. "During pregnancy, the thing I wore the most—and I heard this from a lot of other pregnant women—was long cardigans and open shirts. You just get wider and wider around the bum and the hip area. You find that with any top you buy, the bigger you get and the more it rises, so you end up looking like you're in a crop top. I didn't want that for work, so having a long cardigan saved me. I invested and went quite expensive with a Dries van Noten one and an Acne Studios one, and I lived in them. When I'm not pregnant, I'm happy with high street, but I wanted something that was really nice and 'a piece,'" says Collins.
4. You don't have to wear leggings if you don't want to. Avigail advises in the one maternity-specific item you should really buy: jeans. If you're not a leggings girl at heart, there are other options out there, like cool track pants, for example. She says, "Something that really helped at the four- to five-month stage was a look I did with oversized velour wide-leg tracksuit bottoms from Zara (with an elastic waistband), which I wore with little thin knits."
5. Why not experiment with menswear? Avigail doesn't think you need a dedicated "maternity" coat, and that instead, you're better off looking in the men's department for something with a little room. "Why would you need a maternity coat? Why is there a market for that? Can't you just wear a man's coat or oversized faux fur? I wore a man's shearling jacket and I didn't understand why people would think I'd need a maternity coat!" says Collins. The bonus is that afterwards you can use these in the depths of winter for layering purposes, but also it's very chic to belt a big overcoat into shape.
6. Your feet will expand, so your shoe choices have to as well. "I wore Gucci loafers before my feet expanded, and then I wore Nike Air Max trainers, which is funny because I'm not a trainer girl," says Avigail. "My feet got so wide and they were so much comfier. I lived in them, so I got two pairs: a velvet pair and a black shiny pair." As her maternity developed, she found that her swollen feet would only be comfortable in Adidas slides (which the hospital nurses thought were ultra-stylish). This is harder to do during the colder months, but if you can find wider, roomier boots and shoes (many stores now offer wide-fit options), there should be a solution.
7. Little accessories are key. "Something I did a lot during my pregnancy in the spring months was wear a bandana or beret. All of my clothes were really plain and it made my outfits more chic and interesting," says Collins.
For more inspiration, keep scrolling to see some cool, easy-to-copy maternity style outfit ideas below.
Style Notes: There's no better way to make an outfit more exciting than by adding some eye-catching accessories. Take a tip from Clementine McVeigh and go all-out by adding a statement bag, a headpiece and sunglasses.
Style Notes: The supremely well-turned-out Eva Chen balances a short, floral dress with flat shoes for a city look that's practical yet pretty.
Style Notes: Pandora Sykes looked incredible in this Galvan dress.
Style Notes: A jumper and jeans still stand up as a reliable outfit—just add great accessories.
Style Notes: Our very own assistant editor, Elinor Block, is currently on maternity leave. But she made the most of this year's loose-fit dresses and sneakers during her pregnancy.
Style Notes: Belts aren't entirely out of the question, you'll just need to wear them a bit higher up. Great idea with the knit and pleated skirt combination for a night out, Alex.
Style Notes: A trench coat has never looked so cute.
Style Notes: A slinky maxi dress is a great wear-now, wear-later option.
Next up, the best maternity jeans in Topshop, put to the test.
This piece was published at an earlier time and has since been updated.