Maternity Dresses 101: A Guide to Everything Pregnancy Wear

Maternity Dresses 101: A Guide to Everything Pregnancy Wear

8th Nov 2017

There is a lot of pressure for women during pregnancy to look and feel good. Expecting women are supposed to have that “pregnancy glow” wherein women suddenly look refreshed, younger, more radiant and irresistibly beautiful.

While pregnancy glow can be true at times and for some people, but beautiful is the last thing most women feel like especially later in the pregnancy. In fact, many women feel unattractive during those three trimesters of pregnancy. Most feel huge, bloated and swollen in all the wrong places.

Because of the many changes in a woman’s body (not only in the belly area) many clothes that feel right for them no longer fit which adds to the disappointment and even despair.

Maternity dresses: the key to feeling good in your pregnant body!

There’s nothing much one can do with the body they have during pregnancy. Dieting without the approval of an OB-Gyn is highly unrecommended because of the effects it may have on the growth of the baby. Sometimes too, despite proper exercise and eating just right, pregnancy weight can translate in places that are least desirable such as in the arms, thighs and ankle areas.

The only way to go around pregnancy is acceptance: to be able to feel good and happy during those nine months. It is essential to find a way to feel attractive or at the least bit, put together enough not to break down in misery.

Depression during and after pregnancy is real. In fact, according to “About 13 percent of pregnant women and new mothers have depression.”

While it is true that dressing up can be very hard when pregnant especially when all your favorite clothes do not fit anymore. Plus, there are only a number of ways you can sport your significant other’s oversized clothes to fit yours-- especially if you go to work.

While it is indeed possible to go through the entire pregnancy with just regular clothes, maternity clothes still make pregnancy a more pleasant experience. Maternity dresses, for instance offer style, functionality and fits as if it was tailored especially for you.

Indeed, maternity dresses can be expensive at times but if you do it right, the few extra bucks you shell out will be well worth it. Inexpensive maternity dresses and multi-purpose pieces are the way to go if you are on a budget. You can read this article for some tips in saving money on maternity clothes.

What is a maternity dress?

Collins Dictionary very simply puts that a maternity dress is “a dress worn by a pregnant woman and which is designed to allow for the changes in body size which take place during pregnancy.”

The second portion of the definition, “designed to allow for the changes in body size” is what makes pregnancy clothing, not just dresses, different from regular clothes. They have been tailored keeping in mind that a woman’s body especially the belly changes all throughout the pregnancy. This is the most important quality a piece of clothing has especially when your body is changing in size and shape almost by the week. That, too, is the reason maternity dresses is worth the investment. 

Now that does not mean that regular clothes would not fit pregnant bodies-- just not the same. It is like wearing a coat you bought from a boutique versus one you had tailored for you. The first one can very well fit you but the second one fits you better.

Maternity dresses vs regular dresses

To wear maternity clothes or not has been a long-standing debate argued about by”experienced” and passionate women. Since everything about pregnancy is very personal-- from the food you eat to the clothes you choose to wear-- it is normal for many women to have strong opinions about it.

When it comes to pregnancy clothing, some say that wearing maternity clothes is unnecessary and that you can just use your pre-pregnancy clothes or even your partner’s loose shirts. Others are strongly advocating pregnancy dresses. Again, because pregnancy is very much personal, these choices are also yours to make.

The key difference between maternity dresses and non-maternity clothing is the fitting. While wearing loose shirts or wider dresses does cover up the bump, maternity clothes does give off better definition. It tapers where it needs to and shapes the clothes to best capture a woman’s figure so that you don’t look bigger than you have to and to emphasize your bump so that it does not look too boxy.

Though most of choosing maternity clothes over regular clothes has to do with aesthetics, some functions like provision for nursing in maternity dresses help make it more justified as a purchase.

Maternity dress size guide

During pregnancy, a woman’s body size changes by trimester. Because of the shift of mass in your belly and other parts of the body, it can feel confusing when buying maternity dresses. Fortunately, there is a way to make sure a dress fits your bump and the rest of your body just right.

International Size Guide
































































According to Size Guide, Australia and New Zealand also uses the UK size chart. The French sizes are also used in Belgium, Spain and Portugal. Austria, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway also uses German sizes.

Maternity dress sizes ideally correspond to non-maternity wear sizes. So, if you used to be a size 8 before pregnancy, then the pregnancy apparel will still be the same size. 

When buying maternity clothes, look for the same size you were before. So if you fall under medium size, look for the same size at stores. This also holds true when shopping online.

Good maternity clothing expands in the right places where a pregnant body also expands.

Body types during pregnancy and how to style them

There are four body types women usually have during pregnancy. Knowing which shape you are or how you carry your bump helps determine what style looks best for you. The same as how certain shapes and cuts help lengthen your legs or accentuate your curves when not pregnant, fashion rules differ too during pregnancy depending on these four body types.

1 . You’re big everywhere.

While some women only gain weight in the belly and bust area, others gain the weight everywhere. If this is you, don’t feel discouraged because you seem bloated from your feet to the face. There are so many styles and ways you can still look great while carrying the weight.

According to Babycenter, “Soft fabrics and longer lines are the best ways to help you feel great while still accentuating your beautiful bump.”



Look for patterns and lines going vertically to help create length instead of width. Wrap styling dresses has proven to be exceptionally flattering for almost any body shape and size, during and after pregnancy. 

Choose form-fitting fabrics to emphasize the baby bump. However,make sure the clothing does not restrict you from moving. 



Leggings and a statement dress

Leggings are some of the best fashion inventions ever. They provide comfort and coverage as well as emphasize shape.The darker bottoms elongate the legs. This is best matched with a flowy dress or top with interesting details and add a nice color to make the style pop.

2. Your baby bump is low

If your belly is sitting lower, styles that look well with your belly are below the bump types of cuts. For these types of bellies, form-fitting and simple styles complement better as it does not overwhelm the figure and emphasizes the bump. 



Deliberately choosing dresses that are fitted around the bump area helps accentuate the shape of this body type. Select dresses that fit the bump well and look simple. Bold colors work well but be careful of heavy patterns.

3. If your bump is in the higher part of your belly

“Separate bust from bump with high belts, ties, and color-block separates. Get creative and do quick, easy alterations to pieces you may already have in your closet.”

The key to body types like these is to separate the bust area from the bump because in the wrong clothes, the body will look too top-heavy.





4. If you look small everywhere

Some women are just small even when they are pregnant. For this types of body, women can be a little more experimental and play with different textures, cuts and patterns. Simple designs can also work well with this body type given that you accessorize and layer it up. 



Pregnancy dresses styles and functions

Cute maternity dresses… Is that even possible?

Technology is not the only thing that has changed drastically over the years. Maternity clothing has transformed from the once baggy, ill-fitting and tasteless designs to stylish designs you’ll want to wear even after pregnancy.

Designs vary from evening and formal maternity dresses, maternity dresses for baby shower,  maternity bridesmaid dresses, dresses for work, maxi dresses, maternity lace dresses, cocktail dresses, summer dresses and even sexier pieces.

Not only are cute maternity dresses everywhere, women from different walks of life can now afford quality pregnancy clothes. There are many ways to save up on maternity clothes and different techniques to style them.

Maternity work outfits

Looking good while pregnant can be a challenge especially if you are working and are expected to look presentable while at it. Though it can be a little bit harder than when you are not pregnant, it is not impossible to put together a corporate attire, well appropriate for work while pregnant. 

Dresses come in handy especially for these occasions.  Choose dresses you can mix and match with other pieces of accessories and outfits you have. Be mindful of the length and neckline of your dresses.

There are many ways to work maternity clothing especially when in a job. Apart from the obvious choice of appropriate work clothing, you can get expert tips on dressing up for work in our other blogs. Simple things like accessorizing and mix and matching makes such a huge difference in the way you look at work.

Special occasion maternity dresses

Attending special occasions or going to formal gatherings can feel daunting if you’re pregnant especially if you don’t feel as comfortable or stylish during this phase. Many moms to be opt instead to not attend these gatherings to avoid having to go through the struggle of trying out outfits that just don’t cut it.

Fortunately, there are tons of maternity clothes that can be used for formal events and many more that are a mixture of casual and dressed-up for social gatherings. More importantly, these special occasion maternity dresses account comfort and functionality so you don’t have to feel any discomfort when attending these events.

A lot of women look for dresses that can be used for their own baby showers, weddings and parties. Though there are great selections for pregnancy dresses, there are some factors you need to consider when dressing up for special events.

  • Check the weather during the day/s of the event

Make sure to check first the weather that day. Weather is one of the deciding factors for what you will choose to wear that day. Whether you will want to wear a short cocktail dress or a maxi dress when it is raining or a layered long-sleeved dress versus a sundress when it is reported to be a hot and humid day.

Always keep in mind too the season you’re in so you can prepare layers or lessen the fabrics you’re wearing. This does not only apply to the dress itself but also whatever you’re accessorizing it with and the shoes you are wearing. Weather and temperature also plays an important role in wearing make-up. If it’s going to be humid, make it light. If it is really cold, add some moisture to the make-up.

  • What kind of event are you attending? Check if there are dress codes.

Not all events require certain types of dresses. Some, you must attend with a complete formalwear, others can be dressy casual. What is the event you’ll be attending? Do they have dress codes?

Knowing this will help avoid awkward situations wherein you’re either too dressed up or under-dressed for the special occasion you’re attending.

Also, ask the host about the location of the event. Whether it is indoors or an outdoor event can affect your clothing choices. You would most likely want to avoid thin heeled-shoes when you are in an outdoor event. 

  • Know your body’s “problem areas” and “assets”

There’s always going to be an area in your body that you’re not very fond of. It might be that you’re having swollen ankles or your arms look twice as big. At the same time, you must have one or two things you really like about your new body. Maybe it’s your bump and the way it looks or a new-found appreciation with your breasts.

Identifying the areas you like and dislike will help you when deciding which types of dresses you would rather wear. Everything about pregnancy is personal, including your perception of your own body.

Casual maternity dresses

Dressing up for special events is one thing, but the real challenge usually comes with the everyday uneventful stuff. A casual maternity dress should be able to cater to the everyday demands of your life and should be built for wear and tear. Durability, functionality and style in addition to comfort are the qualities a good everyday pregnancy dress should have. Plus, it would not hurt if the pieces are reversible or can be dressed up in a variety of ways. 

For this, it is always best to opt for more simple styles of dresses with less busy prints that you can mix and match with other pieces of clothing.



What maternity dresses do I need?

Most women’s hesitation in buying maternity dresses is that you only use it for a couple of months. Since it is true that many maternity dresses are only good when you are pregnant, some serve their purpose postpartum. That’s the key: to look for maternity dresses that can be used after giving birth and best yet, have nursing functions or at least are breastfeeding-friendly.

In addition to that, there is really no need to splurge on maternity dresses. There are maternity clothing essentials in the bare minimum that you can use up for different occasions and trimesters.

Maternity clothing basics

Maternity leggings

This is a staple item every pregnant woman must have in their closets. Not only do they match everything you have, leggings especially maternity ones are so comfortable you would just want to live in them.


Comfortable camisole or tank tops

You want clothes that can be used on an everyday basis and is flexible enough to mix and match with other pieces of clothing. What’s more comfortable and easy to play around with than a simple camisole or tank top that is built and designed for your ever-growing bump?

These types of clothes can be layered with shirts and cardigans or matched with jeans, leggings or even skirts for a cute pregnancy outfit. Accessorizing is also easier as it will not overwhelm the simplicity of the top. Most importantly, it is easy to wear and easy to remove. Two things women tend to struggle with when in the last trimester of pregnancy.

To save money on these tops, go for nursing tank tops that are long enough to cover your bump so you can use them after giving birth to your baby. 



Cardigan and nursing cover wrap

Look for a loose cardigan that fits well on the arms and back but gives allowances around the front area of the body. These cardigans are great because they double as a nursing cover when you have the baby. 



Maternity lounge clothing

Look for comfortable maternity sleepwear that can easily double up as nursing pajamas after giving birth. Being comfortable when pregnant feels impossible sometimes especially later in the pregnancy. That is why wearing the right sleepwear that you can use as lounge clothing is a necessary part of your pregnancy wardrobe. 



What to have in the closet

Apart from the essential pieces you must have for your day to day pregnant body, there are pieces you can simply mix and match to look great any day or at least decent enough so you can go outside and have some fun without feeling sluggish.

Comfortable flats

Have a nice pair or two of comfortable flats you can live with. Choose colors that matches most of your wardrobe. Especially later in the pregnancy, you will need more comfortable clothes because your body gets heavier. Skip designer heels for a few months and go for flats that look good and feel great.

Maternity jeans

Thank goodness for maternity jeans! You can flaunt your leg shape in skinny jeans while pregnant thanks to maternity jeans. Choose one or two pairs that you really like and can pair with most of your wardrobe. Slacks also come in maternity fitting and are definitely handy for work. 

Maternity skirts

As important a pair of jeans are in a wardrobe, the same goes with skirts. They can make any look more put together and cuter or sexier depending on the style. Having one or two maternity skirts can make such a difference in your style.



A stylish tunic

Have a piece or two of stylish tunics and blouses that keep you covered yet offers style.This kinds of pieces can be bolder in pattern and texture. 

Little black dress

Formalwear should be easy. Have one little black dress especially made for pregnant women and you’re good to go. Having a few dresses can also help take the stress off in dressing up during pregnancy. Just pop in a loose dress and you have yourself an outfit.

Where and how to buy pregnancy dresses

Inexpensive pregnancy dresses

Finding cute, inexpensive clothing whether or not it is for maternity wear or just regular clothes can be a little challenging. However, it is not by any means impossible. Here are a few tips to finding inexpensive maternity dresses: 

Find a multi-purpose dress

Be it for nursing and maternity or a reversible dress, it is easy to find multiple functions in a maternity dress. Look for those instead so you can make the most out of your purchase. 

Get notified when there’s a sale

Look for items on sale and ask the stores (or subscribe to online notifications) to let you know when a sale is going to happen. You don’t need to buy items in their original price if you can buy them on sale. 

Join memberships for freebies and discounts

Many stores offer membership cardsupon a certain purchase. Some of the perks these membership cards have are the discounts you get. Online shops even waive delivery or shipping charges or have special events for moms to be.

Buy maternity clothes online

Everything is done online these days. Why? Because it is easier and there are tons more options. When buying maternity dresses online, just be mindful of a few things. 

Your size.

Know your size and understand how fitting works.Though essentially pregnancy sizes are the same as your previous size, if you feel that you have grown larger maybe you should double check first.

Learn about their return policies

Make sure to read the fine print and look for the return policy of the shop in case the item just is not right for you or you don’t feel good in the dress. Usually, once you’ve washed the clothes or removed the label, you cannot return the item anymore. So, make sure to read about it so you don’t do anything to void the return or exchange of your clothes. 

Make sure the website is legitimate and payment is secure

According to Google, there are a few things you can do to make sure a website is legitimate such as checking the ratings and reviews of products. Ideally, it is best to steer clear from online stores with no ratings.

“If the store’s rating is low (somewhere between 0 and 5) then you may want to use caution when buying a product from them. Read the reviews to see what specifically people had problems with.”

In addition, it is best to use credit cards so that if indeed you were scammed, you can ask for a refund. Talk to your service provider in order to be sure about the refund policies.

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