Now into my third trimester of pregnancy, I sometimes wistfully thumb through clothes in my closet that I miss, as if they’re long lost friends. There’s just no way to wear so many of them now, given my continuously growing baby bump. Of course, this is neither a surprise nor a tragedy. But, having never been pregnant before, I did find it difficult to plan my wardrobe accordingly for the specifics of how large my bump would grow, how I would feel in certain fabrics and fits amid that period of growth, and when exactly I’d be edged out of my “regular” clothes and into “maternity” clothes. So, for several months, I avoided the issue completely.
It was at the start of my second trimester when I felt the beginnings of my bump starting to pop (with many of my jeans and leggings simultaneously growing less comfortable). But I didn't want to invest in a second wardrobe that I would only wear during this narrow phase of life. It felt expensive and environmentally unfriendly (are maternity clothes by nature essentially the same as fast fashion?)—but I wasn't sure I had any choice.
But then, a light bulb moment: I happened to wonder this while wearing a pair of Lululemon Align High Rise Pants, which I’ve long loved for their buttery second-skin feel. As it turns out, pregnant folks have long sworn by these leggings, which are decidedly not maternity wear. And according to Kate Warrington Williams, vice president of women’s design at Lululemon, that magical-seeming flexibility of function has to do with the Align Pants' fabric and design.
“The high rise provides full coverage, lies smooth under tops, and won't dig in, while our buttery-soft Nulu fabric feels weightless and delivers gentle support with four-way stretch,” Williams says of the Lululemon Align collection. “The resulting ‘barely there’ sensation and enduring versatility make it a natural choice for guests to gravitate to before pregnancy and postpartum.”
I realized I could probably seek out non-maternity maternity clothes that I’ll still love years down the line. As it turns out, that’s exactly what several brands are serving up.
If I already owned at least one item I could count on wearing throughout pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond, just by chance, I realized I could probably seek out other non-maternity maternity clothes that I’ll still love years down the line. And, as it turns out, that’s exactly what several brands are serving up.
Nell Diamond, CEO and founder of Hill House Home, says creating a garment that combined comfort, style, and flexibility—whether pregnant or not—was central to the creation of the Nap Dress, which launched in 2019. The original Ellie Style of the Nap Dress features elastic smocking in the bust, from which point it flares into a tiered skirt providing structure and shape, but with plenty of room. “I wore my typical size through my entire twin pregnancy last year,” she says. “I created the Nap Dress so that I could feel like the best version of myself while being incredibly comfortable, and I think the perfect example of this scenario is during pregnancy, when your body is going through so many changes, but you also want to feel like yourself.”
“I created the Nap Dress to feel like the best version of myself while being comfortable…I wore my typical size through my entire twin pregnancy last year." —Nell Diamond, CEO and founder, Hill House Home
The sentiment of wanting to feel like yourself throughout pregnancy was a guiding force for Nicole Trunfio to launch Bumpsuit in March 2020 while she was pregnant with her third child. Bumpsuit’s “Essentials” include form-fitting jumpsuits and dresses in various styles, meant to be dressed up or down, prioritizing comfort and an aesthetic the wearer can feel good about. “A body is already going through so many changes, so to not feel like you look your best on top of that is so hard on women…I wanted to eliminate this completely with every design," she says. "Also, waste is a big factor; usually, you cannot keep wearing regular maternity clothing after the baby.”
But quickly after launching, Trunfio noticed non-pregnant folks were engaging with the brand, wondering if it could be for them as well—she was into it. As a result, Bumpsuit shifted its branding materials to showcase a mix of non-pregnant and pregnant models. Now, Trunfio says, Bumpsuit’s pregnant customer base represents around 60 percent of its total, but she predicts that number to continue balancing out. “I hadn't put the focus on non-pregnant people from the start because I knew so many pregnant women needed outfits they felt good wearing in their wardrobe, but it was exciting to see that these designs translated to all categories," she says. "We're continuing to expand the community in this direction."
It's worth noting that this model of a maternity-forward clothing brand being mindful of postpartum wearability isn't new. Take Hatch, which launch in 2011 at a time when founder Ariane Goldman says the maternity clothes available on the market were largely disposable and made her feel both "ostracized from fashion and from being myself" while pregnant. That's why Hatch garments have always been made with pregnant people's needs and comfort top of mind. "I don't need to [design for] a non-pregnant woman because she has a lot of options," Goldman says. "I've really tried to focus more on maternity because I think that's where the need is."
Even so, longevity of wear—before, during, and after pregnancy—is central to explaining Hatch's aspirational-leaning price point (most garments cost north of $100), and why 24 percent of the brand's customer base isn't pregnant when they buy. "We really value our quality of fabric and the fact that these garments are something that you want in your closet—not just for the nine, 10 months of pregnancy. You really can wear them again."
So, whether you're shopping a maternity-forward brand and want to feel confident you'll be able to wear the garments long after pregnancy, or you're checking out non-maternity maternity clothes that you know you'll feel comfortable wearing as the trimesters progress, how do you know what to look for?
First and foremost is "subtle optionality for adjustment," Goldman says. "We use elastic, but in a very beautiful way that becomes a detail—but it's also a function of being able to have the garment expand with you." Similarly, Diamond simply says "the goal is to find something comfortable and flexible for growth to wear throughout your pregnancy." And, to get a bit more technical, Trunfio adds that weight of fabric matters—that's why Bumpsuit uses double-lined construction: "Always make sure you aren't getting thin material as it can be see-through or easily get torn. Some materials when stretched out will also lose their shape so that's important to keep an eye on as well," she says. "I remember there were a lot of holes and busted zips before Bumpsuit existed, now we just have dreamy layers that go with everything."
For certain structured and specialized garments, like, say, swimwear and jeans, maternity-specific options remain a pregnant person's best bet for a comfortable fit. But with all the innovation happening in the space, I'd hardly be surprised if that changes. For now, though, here are my favorite non-maternity clothes for pregnancy that I've been living in—which I fully plan to continue wearing long after I'm postpartum.
The best non-maternity maternity clothes to wear during and after pregnancy
Dress her up or dress her down, the Dress is a body-hugging (but not squeezing) staple that I’ve been loving since early on in my pregnancy. The signature double-lined fabric provides support but isn’t constricting and also ensures the fabric won’t be see-through—which is a must-know if you opt for the ivory color.
A jumpsuit version of Bumpsuit’s the Dress, the Lucy is also versatile enough to be dressed up with accessories for a night out or pared down for lounging or exercise. It features Bumpsuit’s prized double-lined construction of a polyester-spandex blend, four-way stretch, and a soft brushed jersey feel that’ll for sure keep me wearing it long after my pregnancy.
According to Diamond, Hill House Home’s founder and CEO, the Ellie Nap Dress is the brand’s most popular garment—and she totally understand’s why: “It’s the ultimate combination of comfort, style and value. The elastic in its design allows for a flattering fit across a range of body types,” she says. “For me, the Ellie Nap Dress is the foundation of my closet—basically the equivalent of jeans and a T-shirt.”
This tee comes in three colors (black, gray, and white), and you best believe I have each one of them. The relaxed fit naturally leaves room for a growing bump, and the arm openings beneath the cap sleeves are nice and loose as well, so you don’t have to worry about a growing chest busting out of the top.
I’ve learned during pregnancy that layering is the outfit-making name of the game. I’ve had this Barefoot Dreams cardigan for several years. But in the past few months especially, its length and generous circumference have been providing me with the extra comfort I didn’t know I’d enjoy from it when I originally bought it.
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