Monday, August 15, 2022

First Trimester Maternity Clothing Shopping Reflections

As promised, I've finally put together my first trimester maternity wear shopping reflections, for items I ordered in April and May, before I was ready to announce the pregnancy! Not all these items are explicitly labeled maternity wear, actually, but for the ones not so categorized, I didn't think I'd be able to explain them without pointing to the pregnancy. 

In general, I've found that my body has changed very quickly with pregnancy, much faster and just more in all the relevant ways and dimensions than expected. Heck, I think my bust went up a full cup size super-early in my first trimester. And now that I'm solidly in the second trimester - particularly as I get into the later weeks - the changes progress even more quickly and noticeably, and often seem to pop up suddenly. 

For instance, in week 13, practically overnight, there was an undeniable bump, albeit one that was pretty small in the mornings, until I got bloated throughout the day. Around weeks 18 to 19, suddenly the bump felt huge most of the time, particularly on weekdays when I walk to and from the office. After week 21, the bump was huge all the darn time. I can only imagine that because the baby is to grow exponentially in the next 18 weeks or so, from roughly a pound at 22 weeks now to something likely more than 5.5 pounds - maybe a lot more - the physical changes will continue to escalate more quickly than I can currently imagine!

I recently discussed how, until I got pregnant, I was worried I'd have tons of anxiety about body image and all the inevitable changes to my body from pregnancy. As it turns out, this pregnancy also seems to have rewired my brain to worry and stress much less about almost everything in life, so I haven't been too, too bothered by all this so far. 

But I must admit I find shopping for maternity wear extremely annoying. Part of it is I'm frustrated that I've proven not good at predicting all the body shape changes I need to take into account when buying non-maternity clothes with more relaxed fits which I thought would work for my pregnant body. Also, it certainly caused consternation that many of my pre-pregnancy predictions for how long I'd be able to wear my looser-fitting clothing from my existing wardrobe turned out quite wrong. I didn't expect that basically my entire collection of business casual dresses, especially those secondhand J.Crew Presentation dresses - which are not too snug in the bust and have lots of room otherwise - would be uncomfortable and essentially unwearable by week 7 or so. 

Furthermore, I find that the value for money and variety of designs available in the maternity wear market, at least for US-based customers, is significantly worse than I'm used to as a customer. I guess I've become super-picky about my clothing throughout my years of keeping this blog and spending lots of time thinking about - and sometimes overthinking - my shopping and what works for my lifestyle and my personal style preferences!

There's so much viscose and rayon jersey in maternity wear, materials I'm definitely not fully opposed to, but that I don't prefer because of a history of unpredictable issues with durability, unexpected shrinkage, or other trouble when machine-washed. (Keep in mind I'm pretty careful with my laundry, washing only in cold water and generally in a mesh bag to protect the clothes; I also never put viscose or rayon items in the dryer either, I always air-dry.) Many of those viscose or rayon maternity items also feel quite overpriced - especially from Hatch Maternity, ouch - even if I try to shop on sale. 

Also, I find many common design elements in maternity wear... dispiriting. (I know, I know, I'm starting to sound whiny, and maybe a bit unreasonable.) I generally hate ruching and peplums. I don't like empire waists on tops (though I'm okay with them on dresses). I'm not fond of super-stretchy items that will feel like they're stretching tightly over the curves of the body. The prints that are available tend to be quite dull and generic, particularly the florals. The colors available can be limited and sometimes... odd. 

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All in all, even though I was initially excited to start shopping for maternity wear, I'm already quite over it despite being barely halfway through this pregnancy. But based on how big my bump and bust already are, I almost certainly won't be able to avoid relying heavily on maternity wear in the third trimester. Mainly because of my still-expanding bustline, I already need to "size up" in many maternity wear brands and I'm only in week 22 of pregnancy...

Fashion - (TOTAL: $1036.22) 

  • J.Crew No. 2 Wool Pencil Skirt, heather coal (sized up) - $93.24 - These first two purchases were items I already owned, but sized up, which would have been difficult to explain without referencing the pregnancy. It turns out I timed this order poorly because I only wore this skirt for two first-round job interviews occurring by week 7 of pregnancy, when I could still fit in my old pencil skirts. Though I probably did appreciate having the extra room with the larger skirt due to bloating, but the look may have been a bit dowdy because there was more extra fabric in the hips than I needed at the time. No further interviews have been scheduled since, and if they happen now, this one size up pencil skirt definitely won't fit anymore. I'm not actually sure what I'd even wear to a business formal job interview right now, or anytime later in pregnancy. 
  • Tibi Miles Scallop Sleeve Boyfriend Shirt, chambray blue (sized up) - $98.00 - I already had this in white, and decided to go one size up in blue. This shirt is  intentionally oversized, but because my bustline expanded so quickly, the bigger size suits me better now for getting the "chill" look. Even with Amy Smilovic's ample style sense and creativity, there's not too much even she can do with maternity style, see her Instagram story highlight about that. Her point about wanting to still feel like one's "old self" during pregnancy really resonates with me, which makes it a pity that the vast majority of my pre-pregnancy wardrobe became inaccessible by the end of my first trimester. One of her main styling ideas for pregnancy is intentionally oversized tops one would have liked pre-pregnancy, and relaxed button-down shirts definitely work that way for me. I typically wear them over the Elizabeth Suzann Bel skirt (with waistband pulled up above my bump). For now though, with the high temperature each day in NYC staying well above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, it's a little too hot and humid for long sleeves, even if the cotton material is light and I roll the sleeves up.  
  • Tibi Classic Shirting Oversized Shirt, white (sized up) - $112.95 - (also in blue) This was a lucky find on The RealReal; it was new with tags, and I'm 99% sure it's the current season item on my long-term wishlist! Hopefully my bump won't be too big for these shirts once the weather cools down, which might not happen until I start my third trimester... 
  • Hill House Ellie Nap Dress, pond floral - $163.31* - These next two dresses are not labeled maternity, but are well-known for generally fitting throughout pregnancy due to stretchy smocking and straps, and spacious skirts. I didn't think I'd be able to explain these without pointing to the pregnancy because I'd never wear these normally, they're just not my pre-pregnancy style. I generally dislike smocking, I feel it'd emphasize my curves way too much because I'm so busty; plus the very ruffled straps would draw more attention to my bust and shoulders and could look unbalanced to the rest of my body. But now that my body shape has changed so much and my belly will eventually be bigger around than my chest and shoulders, I'm more open to this silhouette. The smocking also feels like a good way to accommodate my expanding bust. This pond floral print would be too twee for me pre-pregnancy, but I like the color combination, and when I ordered these dresses I felt like leaning in to wearing something very different from my pre-pregnancy usual. (Light summer dresses are very much "old me," even if the print and overall design are not.) 
  • Hill House Ellie Nap Dress, blue mosaic (sold out) - $163.31* - Even with pregnancy and my expanded bustline, I found the common online advice to size down at least one size (up to two if you're smaller in the chest) to work for me. I tried my "true" size M around week 9 of pregnancy and found that S worked better. Now, though, in week 22 I'm starting to wonder if my chest might expand enough that maybe I shouldn't have sized down after all. It seems the one exception to the almost universal size down advice is if you're really busty (see this other blogger's review) because then the smocked bodice might not be long enough to cover to the top of your rib cage when stretched. But only the rare customer would have this issue, keeping in mind I was already extremely busty and seem to be growing more in that area than the typical pregnant person. Also, while I'm personally satisfied with these dresses as someone with an... extremely robust shopping budget - just see that gigantic total spend for my first trimester, ooph! - I don't think there's any getting around how the value for money on these Hill House dresses might not work for many. The cotton poplin is quite thin, though I don't find it see-through with this white-backed print, and the prints feel somewhat cheaply printed on. (It's hard to articulate exactly what I mean, but the prints don't have the visual dimension of, say, my printed cotton Heinui dress.) 
  • Seraphine Black Super Stretchy Maternity Skirt (sold out) - $34.67* - This is a standard stretchy jersey maternity pencil skirt, something one can find from many other brands (for instance, at ASOS or Storq). Seraphine recommends buying your pre-pregnancy size, though I find that - maybe because it's a UK-based brand - each of their sizes runs slightly smaller than I'd expect from, say, J.Crew or Ann Taylor if using that guideline. Seraphine ships very quickly to US customers, but returns need to go back to the UK and take an extremely long time to be delivered and fully processed. (Seraphine has a few US-based stores, mostly in NYC, but online orders can't be returned in-store.) 20% off sales are fairly frequent, and I've gotten that discount on all my orders from them thus far. 
  • Seraphine Maternity Nursing Dress, black - $66.67* - All three of these dresses are essentially the same design in stretchy rayon jersey, with differences in color and sleeve length. I bought this one first, in US size 10, when I was around pregnancy week 7 and thought it might be a little big. But it turns out the other two dresses in US size 8 were starting to feel a bit more snug than I like by week 17 or so. I also ordered several more structured or formal workwear-looking Seraphine dresses to try, but just didn't like any of those. I think those designs would better suit someone at least a bit taller than me. I've washed this dress four or five times since receiving it - always in cold water with a mesh bag and air-drying after - and it's already showing some pilling in the spots nearest my hips, which is odd. 
  • Seraphine Maternity Nursing Dress, purple - $71.47* - Due to the summer weather, I haven't worn these two long-sleeve dresses as much as the one with short sleeves. I generally consider rayon breathable enough for summer, but one pregnancy side effect seems to be that I'm even less tolerant of heat and humidity than before. Seraphine officially says this color is "burgundy," but it reads more purple to my eyes. 
  • Seraphine Maternity Nursing Dress, navy dot - $71.47* - And another one of the same dress, this time with polka dots. Seraphine does this dress in so many colors, and I think it works well as a comfortable maternity business casual dress. I could see myself potentially buying another one or two and relying solely on them for my more formal work occasions until the end of pregnancy, layering my J.Crew Juliette sweater blazers (worn here) on top as a jacket when the weather cools down. The combination of these dresses plus those sweater blazers aren't adequate for true business formal, but with all the ongoing changes to my body, there's simply no way to wear anything that's actually business formal. 
  • Madewell Maternity Over-the-Belly Jeans, danny wash - $161.13* - (also here, here, or here) By week 9 of pregnancy, I definitely needed maternity jeans or pants. Most reviewers say they sized down one from their pre-pregnancy denim size, but I found that didn't work for me and I took my usual size instead. I guess I've discovered I really don't like for super-stretchy clothes to need to stretch a lot and fit too closely to my body, a preference that's really quite incompatible with how many maternity clothes are designed and intended to fit. No petite or "short" inseam sizes are available for these jeans, and they're a little long for my short-for-5'3'' legs, but I don't think they desperately need a hemming on me either. Around week 9 or 10 o, my bump was not yet large enough to be fully comfortable under the over-the-bump waist panel - the upper edges started to cut in to my sides after a full day of wear. But by week 13 or 14, these jeans fit comfortably for a full day of walking around. Maybe a maternity jean with stretchy side panels would have suited first trimester better, but I didn't think those side panels looked comfortable, and by now the over-the-belly waistband definitely makes sense. 

*Indicates that price includes sales tax and/or shipping charges. 

Oh boy, that is a lot, both in terms of total number of items and total spend, especially given that this was not my only shopping in April and May! My hope is that this takes care of almost all my business wear needs through the end of pregnancy, save for maybe another one of those Seraphine jersey dresses and a few pairs of maternity tights for fall/winter. 

I'm hoping the Madewell jeans are the only pair of maternity jeans or pants I'll need, since I far prefer the fit of dresses and skirts. I probably will need some actual maternity tops too, but hopefully not too many. I should at least be done with summer clothing now, since I mostly rely on those Heinui and Hill House dresses, and also my Elizabeth Suzann Harlow dress and Georgia dress

As always, I don't list sleepwear, activewear, swimwear, underthings, and socks in these posts, categories of items I find boring and am unlikely to overbuy because they're so utilitarian-only for me. I did order a few maternity swimsuits to try before my recent vacation, and my favorite was the Motherhood Beach Bump Bikini (also here or here; cheapest but mostly final sale here), though I would have done better mixing and matching top and bottom sizes rather than just getting a size M set. I wore that and some non-maternity bra-sized bikinis in Turks and Caicos. Most other maternity swimwear I tried on was simply not large enough in the bust for me, so that's a product category that generally just doesn't work for my body, I think. 

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