neStyle is best when it’s expressed on your own terms. That means wearing whatever evokes joy without sacrificing your comfort, ethics, or personal budget. But pregnancy is an incredibly humbling experience that can throw even those with very specific preferences for a loop as they discover what parts of their personal wardrobe stay or shift along with their own physical changes. There’s no one way to go about pregnancy style and the stories of six new and soon-to-be moms below demonstrate that. For these expecting and new mothers, life in quarantine posed an additional set of challenges — making comfort all the more important over those nine months before birth.
Including designers, stylists, models, and other stylish folks, the women ahead found a way to find both safety and joy in dressing for this period of time. In fact, many built their maternity wardrobes starting with items they already loved to wear. It’s an approach that makes sense for anyone who wants to stick to their taste and not invest in pregnancy-only purchases that don't serve much of a purpose in the next stage of life. But along with the specific mom-to-be advice they share (everything from underwear they love and why you should invest in a pair of Birkenstocks), there’s also much inspiration to glean in their stories of discovery and appreciation that comes with navigating one of the most unique experiences a woman can have.
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“My hero fashion item would have to be the oversized button-down shirt,” says Leonora Arslani, founder of footwear, accessories, and made-to-order fashion line Giovanna. “That's actually always been a hero item for me and it has remained true through this time.” Arslani, who’s pregnant with her first child and due in July, says she’s mostly been wearing designs from her own line including the Alessia dress and Elena button-down which both have a roomy fit.
“My top priority has been trying to stay true to my style while purchasing as few maternity clothes as possible,” says Arslani, who also serves as the Senior Apparel Designer for Lela Rose and Head Designer for Lela Rose Bridal. “I’ve been lucky because my wardrobe already consisted of so many oversized pieces that I have been able to get away with wearing so much of it. Comfort has been important as well as I have been pretty uncomfortable lately.”
Aside from wearing silhouettes that can accommodate a changing body, Arsani has also mixed in athletic essentials, too. Biker shorts, sneakers, and leggings, specifically. “I will say that I had never worn leggings aside from working out pre-pregnancy but have been happy to experiment with some fun stirrups and split hem options this season,” says the mom-to-be. “I think that those items will stick around for a while. They've worked great for me with my oversized button-downs and loafers.”
London-based Chloé Pierre is an entrepreneur, influencer, and founder of the wellness community thy.self, whose debut book, Take Care: The Black Women's Guide to Wellness, is set to release early next year. But first, next month in July, she’ll be welcoming her first child. She says pregnancy has opened her eyes to shopping in places she may have overlooked before. “The lack of stylish items within maternity sections made me venture to stores I dismissed previously and outfits I wouldn't have worn before as I had to be more resourceful,” she shares.
Pierre, who still prefers to stay away from clothing specifically designated as maternity wear, says that comfort remains a priority — before, during, and assumedly after, pregnancy. “Skims and Curvy Kate underwear and Pangaia separates have been lifesavers,” she says about her typical off-duty uniform, adding, “I also have a new appreciation for Crocs in month 8.” She’s also found a different kind of comfort in body-hugging silhouettes. “I quickly learned of the benefits of wearing tighter-fit clothing but with generous fabrics in helping me hold on to me, my style and identity. It's possible to be a pregnant baddie.”
The past several months have given Pierre a newfound outlook that’s challenged, as well as grown, her confidence. “It has made me more fearless with fashion and more bold in my decision-making and boundary-setting, in general.” She anticipates carrying this attitude into motherhood and maintaining her sense of self, especially as she enters this new chapter. “What I avoided is the idea of ‘dressing like a mum’ — who set that standard or rule? I am me, first and foremost.”
Stylist Neelo Noory is expecting her first child this July and has found comfort in so many of the oversize silhouettes she was already a fan of. “I’ve always loved to wear things baggy, that love has only grown while being pregnant,” says Noory. “Style priorities definitely include comfort but I still want to feel put together, especially when styling on set. One thing I never thought I’d gravitate towards are elastic waistbands, now I swear by them. Not only are they comfy, but they give you some wiggle room with sizing as your bump continues to grow.”
Over the course of her pregnancy, Noory says she’s leaned on a few outfit combinations that work for those who do and don’t have a bump. They include oversized shirts paired with biker shorts — “The button-down makes me feel ready for a zoom call and the bike shorts make me feel ready to work or be a couch potato, depending on the day.” — matching sets, and tighter-fit pieces with comfortable stretch.
“Being someone who has never had that many curves, I’m loving branching out and playing with tighter tanks or bralettes and embracing the elastic waistband bottoms. I used to always think elastic waistbands felt too youthful on me, but learning how to elevate those types of bottoms has been really fun!” Her other essential style pieces include Baserange’s organic cotton underwear, Nike compression socks (especially as a professional who’s on her feet often), and one-piece unitards. “One of my friends, who is also pregnant, was wearing a catsuit one day and actually said how comfortable it was! I was shocked but had to try and — boy, let me tell you — so comfy!”
Noory says her newfound appreciation for silhouette-hugging styles and confidence in her body is one of the best parts of her pregnancy experience. “I’m definitely gaining so much more confidence not only in my body but in myself as I continue this journey into motherhood.”
Model Hunter McGrady surely is used to transforming for the camera but during her pregnancy with her first child, she also says she’s begun to experiment with her dressing habits. “It’s funny, before pregnancy I typically always swayed more towards comfort, like sweatshirts and sweatpants, and during pregnancy, I am loving body-con dresses, dresses in general, and lots of floral, which is also very unlike me!”
Despite McGrady branching out, the model says that pregnancy has made her realize that the market for plus-size clothing for expectant moms leaves much to be desired. “There are VERY few places to shop for plus-size maternity. That is something I really want to change because as a plus-size woman you already have the cards stacked against you as far as fashion goes and then add in pregnancy, forget it. I had to really hone in on my pregnancy style and size up in most plus-size items, find pieces that had ample stretch, etc.”
McGrady, who’s due to deliver in July, says she’s embraced a new, more boho wardrobe and has found amazing pieces with an inclusive size range from the label Mahli. She’s also relying on pieces from her own collection, All Worthy at QVC, Birkenstock sandals — “When your feet start to swell you want something comfortable, cute, and adjustable.” — and is a fan of the maternity line Storq. “My most common outfit for day-to-day would have to be the maternity leggings, bra, and tank top from Storq. I found them mid-pregnancy and wish I knew about them earlier because their fabrics are so giving and comfortable.” She’s become fond of the line’s bodycon dresses, too. “I am so proud of my bump that I love to show it off any way I can,” she says. “It is also nice because when you have a great simple base, you can have fun dressing it up with either a kimono, a denim jacket, a duster, etc.”
As a mother of three, Shilpa Shah, Co-Founder and CXO of Cuyana, says she’s learned a lot about her personal style over the course of each of her pregnancies. “In the first trimester, I really enjoyed a flowy top layer, paired with a tighter pant,” says Shah, who was drawn to off-the-shoulder tops at this time. “As the pregnancy progressed, I turned to easy pieces such as maxi and midi dresses, paired with a nice top layer. With each look, I always chose to emphasize one area of my body that makes me feel most confident — whether it be my legs, shoulders, or arms. I tend to keep my belly covered, as I love protecting and nurturing it.”
Naturally, Shah, who delivered her third child last June, came to rely on pieces in Cuyana’s collection but, like several other women mentioned, generally recommends buying pieces that have a closet life beyond nine months. “I find that sizing up in regular, flowy pieces of clothing with a bit of stretch is better than buying specific maternity pieces. Pieces that are designed to be oversized are a fantastic investment as well, as you can continue to wear them after pregnancy.”
Similar to Cuyana’s own “Fewer, Better” approach, Shah shares that planning a maternity wardrobe means planning for life’s next chapter, too. “It takes a while to get back into your pre-pregnancy wardrobe, but maternity pieces don’t fit as well once you deliver and your bump gets significantly smaller.” Shah recommends comfortable and seasonless pieces — Cuyana’s Alpaca Oversized Sweater, specifically — and breathable and drapey essentials— such as the line’s pima cotton offerings. “A good skinny jean is also a pregnancy essential,” she adds.
Reflecting on her time being pregnant and as a mother, Shah says what she’s learned is not about simply what to wear, but how important and transformative fashion can be. “I often encouraged myself to spend more energy on getting dressed during the days where I was feeling my worst,” says Shah. “I would prioritize getting out of the sweats that encouraged me to slouch or feel low energy, and it was really helpful to my mood. Each pregnancy of mine really emphasized this lesson.”
Cyndi Ramirez-Fulton, founder of Chillhouse, gave birth to her first child last July and says she didn’t seek out any specific maternity pieces when planning what to wear during pregnancy. Instead, she turned to items that delivered big time when it came to stretch and roominess. “I shopped at Free People a lot,” she says, praising the label's dresses and FP Movement line.
For the entrepreneur, go-to looks included flowy dresses and cozy knit sets. “I remember wearing this dress [pictured above] a lot. It was so easy and effortless,” she said, adding that she paired the mini with biker shorts. “This was also a cozy outfit option from Live The Process.”
Save for a pair of maternity leggings — specifically from David Lerner — Ramirez-Fulton said she tried not to buy things that didn’t reflect her personal style and couldn't be utilized into motherhood. “I was all over the place with my style choices, but most importantly to note, it didn't change much from my regular style.” Today the new mom says she’s still wearing a lot of her favorite maternity looks, including the flowy dress and knit set mentioned above. “I just gained more appreciation for comfort altogether and developed more of a love for boho-style dresses,” she reflects. “And I love that I learned to embrace my belly and rock my curves with more confidence.”