I was terrified before getting pregnant about how to do my job and be a pregnant person at the same time. What if I had horrible morning sickness? What if my ankles swelled so much I couldn’t go to court? What if I got put on bedrest? How on earth would my office handle my maternity leave? And WTF would I wear?
I’m a poorly paid litigator. I mean, seriously poorly paid. My salary is less than that of a law clerk. So, I had to shop for an entire wardrobe on a budget. Maternity suits are expensive. And ugly. And I’m sorry, but I’m not at a point where I can go to court without a suit, and wearing my regular jackets open was uncomfortable for me because I kept trying to button them.
Thank goodness for fashion! Open front blazers became a thing a couple years ago and this year I was luckily able to find some. I’ve bent my rules to wear dresses with open front jackets, and I have four open-front jackets – two black, one black and white, one royal blue. I bought them assuming I would buy mostly black wrap dresses and solid colored shirts to go with my black dress pants and then call it a day. I have had zero luck finding the professional looking black wrap dresses that a number of my friends have had, so I bought a couple of dresses like this in various prints and this dress and this dress in black, and they work fine with the jacket. The judges mostly care that you look neat and like you respect the court, so I figure as long as I appear to make an effort, they will let me push the envelope a bit.
If you are building a maternity wardrobe from the ground up, I recommend sizing up in shirts around 10 weeks. I sized up and bought mostly loose fitting tops from the Ann Taylor Loft Outlet (some of which I still refer to as, “who would buy this that isn’t pregnant?”) in a M instead of my usual S and they have lasted me until about 23 weeks and I can wear some of them for at least another week – they also are great because I can wear them on the weekend or for court. Look for stuff that is pretty long, because the first thing that will happen is that things get short. I’m only just barely fitting into maternity shirts at 23 weeks without them looking huge and having too much fabric going on, so I’m glad I sized up. I did not find that sizing up meant I was just wearing bigger clothes instead of looking pregnant, but I liked that the tops I had allowed me to decide how much I wanted to emphasize my pregnancy. The advice I got early was to size up instead of just switching to maternity clothes because that way you are better prepared to dress yourself post-partum.
I did switch to maternity pants pretty early. I also was very glad that I’m a weird clothes hoarder and had kept a couple of pairs of bigger dress pants, and I bought a few elastic waisted skirts. These lasted me until about 14 or 15 weeks. I bought two pairs of demi panel dress pants around 10 weeks, which are SO COMFORTABLE early on when you are bloated, and they do not make you look pregnant (when you are less than 18 weeks, they make you look less pregnant because of the waistband) so if you are trying to hide things at work, full panel pants are NOT the way to go. I find the full panel pants more comfortable so I wore them from 14-18 weeks. I stopped wearing pants in June because it is too hot to ride a bicycle in pants, so I’m in dresses and skirts for the remainder of the summer.
I was hoping that a number of my wrap dresses would still fit me, but most of them got too short for court around 18-20 weeks. Some people are able to avoid buying maternity clothes altogether, and more power to them. Even my maxi dresses are too short.
So how do you do this on a budget? (We set a $500 budget for maternity clothes, but I think I’m pretty close to it.) I was lucky to receive hand-me-down casual clothes from my sister, so I got a pair of shorts and a pair of capris and a bunch of shirts. I’m really glad I didn’t have to buy casual clothes, because that would have eaten into my work budget. My parents and my in-laws have also gifted me maternity clothes for my birthday, which was conveniently around when I was really showing. I bought a number of items from eBay, and I also hit the Motherhood Maternity Outlet and bought items in damaged packaging or that had a small stain to save money. I also tried to buy mostly clothes that I can wear for a second pregnancy, if we want a second kid, so I tried not to get things that are too summer-y or that I can’t wear with leggings and boots in the winter.
I thought having to buy an entirely new wardrobe would be an experience in downsizing my wardrobe and learning to live with less, but it turns out I get really bored of my same-old-same-old clothes quickly. I have 5 dresses, which means, I have 5 outfits for court. I have one maternity skirt I wear on days I drive, but I haven’t been driving much and I can’t bike in it. There is a maternity rental website called Mine for Nine, so if I ever get really sick of my wardrobe or my open front blazers aren’t cutting it, I’ll probably check them out.
Anyone else have tips for pregnant lawyering attire?