How Best to Style (or Hide!) a Baby Bump During Pregnancy

Pregnant women looking through her clothes in the closet

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The common refrain of “I don’t have anything to wear” takes on a whole new meaning when you’re pregnant. You can get away with wearing slightly larger clothing for a while, but at some point, you may want to update your wardrobe to include maternity pieces.

Since your body changes as your pregnancy progresses, it can be challenging to pick out clothing that best flatters your growing baby bump. We talked to several personal stylists who emphasize that you can still dress stylishly, whether you’re trying to conceal your bump or show it off.

Building Your Maternity Wardrobe

When it comes to building your maternity wardrobe, Ashley Capps of AC. Styles encourages her clients to consider different ways to keep their closet functional. She suggests mixing and matching things that are already part of your wardrobe with maternity wear, so that you can get the most use out of your items. For instance, your roomier, pre-pregnancy tops will work with a pair of new maternity pants.


Think about creating a capsule wardrobe. In other words, a smaller collection of timeless, versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched.

"You don’t want to fill your wardrobe with temporary clothes," Capps says. "I recommend getting a pair of pants you can wear on weekends, a pair of work pants, a handful of tops like button-up tops are good since these can spill into the fourth trimester. This is also a great time to try a rental service. Have them send you pieces in different sizes."

She also encourages people to have clothing swaps with others as a way to find some basic maternity pieces to add to their closets.

Finding The Right Fit

Claudia Lederer Saenz, an image consultant and owner of Claudia Stylista, suggests that it is important to choose clothing tailored to your shape. In the simplest terms, this means making sure your garments are the right amount of tight and loose in your respective places. (That said, if you want to wear baggier clothes the entire time, we are here for it!)

"It's not as much about your body shape, as what works for you," says New York-based fashion, stylist Liz Teich (who is also a mom of two!).

Jeans and Bottoms

When wearing jeans early on in the pregnancy, you can purchase or rent a pair with a stretchy waistband that sits under the bump. If your regular jeans still mostly fit, try the Instagram-famous hair elastic trick. Take a hair tie and loop it through the buttonhole and around the button to extend the waist by a few inches.

Another tip is to use a belly band to keep your unbuttoned jeans up. Simply unbutton your jeans, wrap the band around the waist, and use the band to hold the pants up.

As you move further along in your pregnancy, you might be more comfortable with a pair of maternity jeans with a waistband that goes over your belly. Choose whatever style you are drawn to, and style your top according to proportions. "I like pairing baggier jeans with a tighter top, and vice versa," says style expert Lindsay Brooke Weiss (and mom of two!).

Liz Teich

As far as necklines, wear what you feel best in (and may not overheat in) but if you hope to wear pieces postpartum/breastfeeding, then you may want to keep lower or easily accessible necklines in mind.

— Liz Teich

Tops

There are many styles of tops available for pregnancy: peplum, babydoll, fitted, loose, and more. Go with whatever feels right given your mood or pregnancy stage.

"As far as necklines, wear what you feel best in (and may not overheat in) but if you hope to wear pieces postpartum/breastfeeding, then you may want to keep lower or easily accessible necklines in mind," says Teich.

Dresses

When shopping for dresses, keep the length of your dress in mind. Non-maternity dresses may not be as practical as your pregnancy progresses. Here's why. “[When you're pregnant] the waistline takes up more room, so the hem of your dress comes up higher as your belly grows," says Saenz. "This can make the dress look shorter than it should."

Saenz shares a shopping tip: "A good rule of thumb is to get something at the knee or right below the knee so as the waistline expands in pregnancy, your hemline won’t come up too high with it."

Jackets

As the temperature drops, Saenz suggests repurposing what you have and just leaving the front of jackets open to accommodate your bump. Instead of zipping up or buttoning your blazers and outerwear, just let it hang open.

“Scrunch up the sleeves and pair it with an accordion-pleated skirt or something A-line for a put-together look,” she explains. You can also switch to capes and ponchos for comfort and cold weather.

If you live somewhere that gets pretty cold, try renting a maternity coat or investing in an inexpensive one (try Old Navy or H&M!). Some coats even have features to accommodate baby-wearing and carriers postpartum.

Be Mindful of the Material

Choosing the right material is key. As you select clothing, especially outerwear, you will want to get something that allows for more stretch.

Saenz suggests trying knitted fabrics (which have more "give", especially for jackets and tops.) “Your arms will get bigger and you don’t want the shoulders and arms to feel too tight,” she explains. When clothing is too snug in those areas it can feel restricting.

Wardrobe consultant Jodi Skorupski of JS Personal Styling explains how fabric plays a part in making fashion choices. “Fabrics that have texture to them are great,” she says. “They give a more structured look and help define your proportions." Some examples of fabric with texture include wool, corduroy, and pleats.

You don’t have to sacrifice comfort. Jersey, for instance, is a material that is both comfortable and stylish. That said, according to Skorupski, it can be hit or miss.

“You might want to avoid lightweight cotton jerseys," she shares. "They may show off your baby bump nicely, but they cling to every other bump as well. Look for a higher quality jersey."

Rely on Dresses

Skorupski advises that dresses are an excellent option for pregnancy. “Sundresses are great for showing off the bump, especially when it’s hot," she says. "Cute sandals paired with a cotton sundress is a classic look." Long dresses are also popular during pregnancy since they tend to have extra fabric that can grow with you.

For a look that reveals more of your silhouette and baby bump, choose something that defines your shape. “Dresses [in this category] should be fitted at the bust and flow away from the body below that,” says Skorupski. “You want to skim the body. You don’t want to tent the body. If you can, create definition between the bust and the belly."

However, baggier dresses with little definition are in vogue right now, too. We are fans of this trend that lets you feel cozy and comfortable draped in lots of lovely material. "I personally love a good muumuu look and it’s great if you’re trying to hide a bump," says Teich. "But it’s not ideal if you are trying to flaunt it."

How to Hide a Baby Bump

Whether you haven’t told people you’re pregnant yet, or you just want to play down the baby bump, the following styling strategies can help keep the focus away from your belly.

Complement with Camouflage

Choose wardrobe pieces that draw the eye elsewhere—away from the bump. Blouses that have ruffles around the midsection, peplum styles, and puffy sleeves are good at shifting the focus to other features.

As for bottoms, Capps has a tip for that. “Darker colors work if you want to de-emphasize your hips and tummy,” she says. "Wear dark leggings or pants to keep from bringing attention to that area."

Pack on the Prints

Another strategy to hide a bump is to wear prints. "[Try] big tropical prints," says Skorupski. "Don’t think of it as trying to hide something. Think of it more like 'I’m not going to focus on my belly'. When you try to hide something, that’s what you end up focusing on."

Instead, opt for bold prints that will lead eyes to focus on the fine details of the pattern rather than your body. "The first goal should be to look cute and pulled together," she explains. "The second goal is thinking, 'I would like this outfit not to bring attention to my abdomen.'”

You also want to avoid drawing attention to your bust. When you’re pregnant, it’s not just your belly bump that expands, but also your chest will get bigger, too. One way to do that is to layer using jackets, waterfall sweaters, or cardigans.

Use Color

Colors can play an important role in styling. For example, bright colors will attract the eye so if you want to draw attention to a certain part of your body, dress it in bold colors. Colorful leggings will accentuate the legs, while a vivid blouse will draw attention to your top half.

Although white is not considered a color, wearing white does the same job of accentuating. White reflects light, making the part of the body clothed in white appear larger to the eye.

On the other hand, black is known as a slimming color because it does not reflect light. “Light color reflects, dark colors absorb," Saenz says. "That’s why we always seem to look better in dark colors because they absorb light." It's an optical illusion. Since black does not reflect away light, it ends up making itself look smaller. That's why people often try to minimize certain body parts by dressing in black.

Although Weiss agrees that this has always been the case, she believes that there are no hard or fast rules. "Play up mixing patterns, wear animal prints, and go ahead and wear white!" she says. 

Additional Styling Tips for Each Trimester
Trimester Styling Tip
 First Maxi dresses and empire waist dresses are good choices. Capps also suggests A-line clothing and slightly boxy shapes on top for early on in the pregnancy. “Pair it with something fitted on the bottom, like leggings,” she adds.
Second "Usually somewhere into the second trimester, mamas find that they can’t fit into their regular clothes, so it’s a good time to invest in a few key pieces for the rest of pregnancy and ideally items you can wear postpartum too," says Teich. If you want to show off your growing bump at this point, Capps suggests wearing clothes that are not as loose-fitting. “Fitted is the name of the game,” says Capps. “If you’re wearing a more shapeless dress, use a sash or a scarf to incorporate definition underneath the bust." Not everyone is comfortable wearing snug clothing, so continue sporting what you love as long as you feel good in it. "I personally always dressed in tight tops and layered on my own oversized cardigans and dusters. I invested in a couple pairs of pants and wore maxi skirts that had elastic waists," says Weiss.
Third By the third semester, comfort is key, especially when it comes to footwear. “Lots of companies make shoes with arch support and padded footing,” says Skorupski. As your feet start to get uncomfortable, you may need to make some changes. "It’s time to store the heels," says Teich. "Compression socks may be a mama-to-be’s BFF by the third trimester to prevent the inevitable swelling." Choose shoes that you can easily slip on and off. "There’s nothing worse than a cute shoe that is in need of lacing up and then a bump in the way of it happening!" adds Teich.

How to Accessorize While Pregnant

Swelling may cause you to relegate certain pieces, such as rings and fitted shoes, to the back of your closet. Still, accessories always have a place in your pregnancy wardrobe. "Accessories are such a great way to feel like yourself when none of your regular clothes fit," says Teich. You can continue using your jewelry, sunglasses, scarves, and handbags to complete your outfits.

Many women report having shinier and thicker hair during pregnancy. A well-placed pair of pretty sunglasses on top of your head when not in use helps show off your mane. Another way to bring attention to your hair is by tying a silk scarf around your ponytail or arranging a longer scarf around your head like a headband.

You can still have fun with handbags, too. "Just be mindful of not carrying too heavy of a bag or something that may interfere with your bump while wearing," says Teich.

"My accessories advice, pregnant or not, is that accessories add dimension, which really makes a look pop," says Weiss. "In the summer months we can't layer clothing as easily as the winter, so I achieve this with jewelry." You can use stacks of bracelets and multiple necklaces to complete your outfits.

Some may have more sensitive skin during pregnancy and choose to change what they wear. “Some women’s nerves are more heightened so make sure earring posts are hypoallergenic if that’s an issue," says Skorupski.

The feeling of heavy jewelry against your skin can feel bothersome when you're far along in your pregnancy and uncomfortable with carrying any extra weight. Try lightweight necklaces and statement earrings.

"If your wrists are swelling, light-weight bangles work well, too,” Skorupski says. Buddha bracelets made with beads and often strung on elastic can be a great option since they are not heavy and come in lots of different colors. "And don’t forget the footwear—embellished sandals can be a great accessory,” she adds.

A Word from Verywell

Whether it’s through hand-me-downs, a rental service, or going shopping to invest in a few good maternity pieces, it’s worth it to have a pregnancy wardrobe that is functional for you.

It’s nice when you can reach for outfits in your closet that make you feel fabulous while pregnant. Whether it's classic styles or current trends that you gravitate towards, dress for yourself!

There is always styling advice you can follow, but when it comes down to it, it's about making choices that you love. You should be happy with what you wear whether it means stepping out fully accessorized in a well-composed outfit, or dressing down in your favorite comfy threads.

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