Monday, March 17, 2014

Nine Ways to Clothe Your Growing Baby Bump Without Going Broke

I hate spending a lot of money on clothes; in fact, my wedding dress only cost $99. So when I first walked into a popular mall maternity store (which shall remain nameless) and spotted a simple t-shirt that I liked - only to discover that it cost almost as much as as the dress I wore when I married the man of my dreams - I was more than a little shocked. Maternity clothes can be expensive, and if you don't know where to look, you might feel like you have to choose between taking out a second mortgage on your home or wearing one outfit for your entire pregnancy.

When I was pregnant the first time, my "largest" months took place in the winter. This time, I'll be most pregnant in the summer. Which means I'll need to supplement my pregnancy wardrobe. In case you need to work on yours, too, here are some tips for dressing our pregnant bellies without going broke.

1. Check out second-hand and consignment stores.

When I was pregnant with Lucas and bemoaning my inability to find inexpensive maternity jeans, a friend recommended that I visit Clothes Mentor. Clothes Mentor sells gently used women's clothing - including maternity clothes - for a fraction of the price you'd pay if you bought them new. The first time I visited, I bought three pairs of maternity jeans, one pair of maternity dress pants, and two shirts - all for less than I would have paid for one pair of maternity jeans at the mall. Clothes Mentor has stores in 25 states, but if there's not one near you, try calling around to other second-hand and consignment stores to see if they have a maternity section. Most good second-hand stores (that buy clothes instead of accepting donations like thrift stores do) will only take clothes that are less than 3-5 years old (unless they sell vintage clothing,) so you won't have to sift through a bunch of 80's maternity muumuus before you find something you'd actually want to wear. The other great thing about these stores is that they'll buy back your maternity (and other) clothes when you're done using them, so you can get some cash to spend on new things when you no longer need maternity clothes.

2. Don't limit yourself to the maternity section.

Believe it or not, you can actually find a lot of clothes that aren't designated as maternity clothes that will last you well into your third trimester of pregnancy. I felt a little silly checking out the clearance racks at Charlotte Russe and Forever 21 with a giant pregnant belly, but I actually found some things that fit me (for way less than I would've paid for maternity clothes.) Look specifically for stretchy fabrics, ruching, empire waists, and cardigans.

Old Navy Perfect Tanks paired with shirts I bought from (left to right) H&M, Charlotte Russe, and Clothes Mentor.
I didn't like Old Navy's rib-knit maternity tank tops (they stretched out throughout the day so that a shirt that fit me nicely in the morning looked about four sizes too big by that evening.) But their Perfect Tanks (not the ribbed ones) in the regular women's clothing section are extra long and extra stretchy, so they accommodated my growing belly all the way until the end of my pregnancy (you may have to buy them one size up from your pre-pregnancy size.) Plus they often go on sale for $5 or less, they don't lose their shape, and you can keep wearing them after you're pregnant! Since Lucas was born in February, I needed warm pregnancy clothes. So I bought a bunch of the Perfect Tanks in solid colors and paired them with cardigans or other open-front shirts that I bought on clearance in non-maternity stores or with shirts I already owned. Which brings me to my next point...

3. Shop in your own closet

You might be surprised at how many of your pre-pregnancy clothes still fit when you're pregnant. Besides the obvious (like open-front shirts, cardigans, and button-up shirts without all of the buttons buttoned,) I found that quite a few of my pre-pregnancy tops lasted me at least through the end of my second trimester, if not longer. This pre-pregnancy sleeveless dress:

Three years pre-pregnancy.
(Sorry, I couldn't find a better picture!)
ended up being one of the few things that could adequately cover my 39+ week pregnant belly (as a shirt.)

Same dress/shirt three days before I had Lucas.
I even had one pair of really low-rise pre-pregnancy pants that somehow miraculously fit me throughout my whole pregnancy. Also try on your maxi dresses and skirts to see if you can still wear them (you may have to roll your skirts down below your belly.) Just a warning - if you end up wearing a pre-pregnancy top as a maternity top, you might have trouble wearing it again after you give birth without feeling like you look pregnant (even if no one else thinks you look that way.)

4. Give your pre-pregnancy pants a little extra room.

There are products out there that can help you wear your pre-pregnancy pants even after you can no longer button them. Several companies sell stretchy fabric bands that are designed to let you wear your pre-pregnancy pants unbuttoned and unzipped without them falling down. I'll be honest, I wasn't crazy about the bands (I bought two BeBands from Target) because I thought they had a tendency to roll down and need to be adjusted, but a lot of women love them. There are also elastic straps that attach to the button and button hole of your existing pants to give you a little more room. Or you can try pulling a thin ponytail holder through the button hole of your pre-pregnancy jeans, pull one end back through through the rest of the holder, and then looping it around the button. (For pictures on how to do it, click here.) It probably won't make your pants last you for nine months, but it might buy you an extra month or two.

5. Shop in your friends' closets.

Unless every mom you know happens to be pregnant at the exact same time, there's a good chance that some of your friends have maternity clothes they're not currently using, so ask if you can borrow (or buy) some. If you don't want to put any one friend on the spot, just post a general inquiry on Facebook. I've lent maternity clothes to several of my friends, and friends have lent clothes to me. Since maternity clothes get worn for such a short period of time, many moms are just glad to know they aren't going to waste.

6. Try discount stores.

While many discount stores have a limited maternity section (or no maternity section at all,) some stores might pleasantly surprise you. If you live near a Gabe's (aka Gabriel Brothers,) call to see if the store nearest you has a maternity section. I'm not sure that all of them do, but I was able to find some majorly discounted brand-name maternity clothes there when I was pregnant with Lucas. Shopping at discount stores may mean doing a bit more searching than if you shop at stores that exclusively sell maternity clothes, but the prices might make it worth your time. Check with your local Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart and Sears to see if they sell maternity clothes. Don't forget to check nearby outlet stores, too!

7. Browse online consignment and resale shops.

I'm not always a fan of shopping for clothes online, because it can be really difficult to tell whether something is going to fit you. But if an online retailer has a reasonable return policy and low prices, it can be worth the gamble. Check out ThredUpNine Little Months, and Bump to Bump.

If you need a specialty maternity piece (like an evening gown or a suit) that you'll only wear once or twice, there are even sites (like Mine for Nine) that let you rent clothes for a month at a time for a fraction of what you'd have to pay to buy them new.

8. Go garage-sale shopping.

I like to use Craigslist to find garage sales, because the site allows you to search within the category for specific keywords. So do a search for "maternity clothes," and you can narrow down your garage sale visits to just the ones that might offer a good selection of maternity clothes for you to choose from.

9. If you do go to the mall maternity stores, head straight for the back.

While the specialty maternity stores are often ridiculously overpriced, you still might be able to find some good deals in the clearance section at the back of the store. My parents gave me a gift card to one of the higher-priced maternity stores while I was pregnant with Lucas, and I was able to get several shirts from the clearance racks for fairly reasonable prices.

So there you go: nine ways not to go broke while dressing your rapidly expanding belly! Do you have any other suggestions for saving money on maternity clothes? Please share them in the comments!

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Disclosure: The Amazon and ThredUp links in this post are my affiliate/referral links. For more information, click on the Disclosures tab at the top of this page.


  1. I shared this post too...
    I thought it was perfect!!

  2. Umm I love this! When I was pregnant, I stayed in a lot of my same clothes as before the first however many months. I ended up being sick most of my pregnancy, so now that I've had the baby, there are some clothes I can't even look at without getting nauseous! I ended up tossing them, all bc I didn't want to spend a ton of money on maternity clothes. Dang it. I'll have to remember this for next time!