In this post, you’ll learn how to build a capsule maternity wardrobe on a tight budget. We had 4 babies in 5 years (no multiples!) while paying off debt AND living on one income. So, if you are looking for some tips on a maternity wardrobe that doesn’t break the bank, I’m your girl.
I’m not a fashion blogger, but I am a mom! And I did like to feel cute while pregnant (until I reached the beached-whale-get-this-baby-out-of-me status). At that point, I just lived in maternity yoga pants and wanted the baby out ASAP.
See: beached whale status Christmas outfit pictured below from December 2012
I’m going to share all my favorite pieces from my budget friendly maternity capsule wardrobe, but first… a little warning…
You live and learn
When I was pregnant for the first time, I tried lots of cute maternity clothes. (I was also working as a teacher, so I couldn’t just wear leggings & a t-shirt all day like I can now. #SAHMperks)
But I still felt meh about my fashion/ style most of that pregnancy. Jeans didn’t fit, dress clothes were awkward, leggings weren’t really in style at the time.
Eventually, I reached the aforementioned beached whale status, and all of the sudden, the pregnancy was over. And I couldn’t believe I’d spent so much money & energy on maternity clothes.
Plus, that’s when things really got awkward.
I Was Shocked by My Postpartum Body
True story: I brought pre pregnancy clothes TO THE HOSPITAL. (Turns out, ignorance is NOT bliss.) When nothing fit, I had to send my husband on an emergency Target run for XL sweatpants please!!!
For 6-8 months postpartum, I went through several different sizes of clothes… My pre pregnancy shirts were too tight and clung in all the wrong places.
And obviously, my pre pregnancy pants weren’t even close to getting over one thigh, let alone buttoning at the waste.
Every time I finally found something that fit decently well, it didn’t fit again 3 weeks later.
Even when the number on the scale finally got kind of close to what it was before baby, all my skin was rearranged and out of place.
I finally started to feel normal again around the 7-8 month mark, and BAM. Pregnant again. Surprise! Another baby. Except this time, I was a stay at home mom (cue the leggings + tees), and the seasons were opposite. Most of my first pregnancy maternity clothes were wintery, and my second baby was due in the summer.
Ay ay ay.
Keep this in mind when buying maternity clothes
Your body will change a TON – fluctuating all over the place in terms of size and fit. After the first couple pregnancies, I figured out what I really liked for maternity clothes, postpartum clothes, and post baby mom-bod outfits.
I share all that to say:
- purchase slowly
- buy the basics
- take my advice about creating a capsule
- invest in some of the essentials for comfortable postpartum style too.
Okay let’s get into the fun details about building a minimalist maternity wardrobe on a budget!
Obviously, a lot of this will vary from momma to momma… your style, budget, lifestyle, etc… But I’ll cover all the maternity wardrobe staples for each trimester as well as postpartum clothing tips.
Questions to Consider:
- How much can I afford to spend on clothing this pregnancy?
- How many different types of clothing do I need? Casual, professional, exercise, etc… (I’ve survived with a lot less variety during the pregnancies I was staying home compared to when I was working a professional job.)
- How in style do I want to be? Styles will change! All my pregnancies were within less than 6 years of each other, and the styles were already different…
Why Minimalist Maternity Wardrobe?
Why minimalist? You can get through a pregnancy with a LOT less clothing than maternity clothing stores would have you think. You don’t need the maternity version of every piece in your entire wardrobe.
We’re talking a few months of each pregnancy that you need maternity clothes, and some in between months postpartum where neither maternity nor pre-pregnancy clothes fit.
In general, I personally prefer to spend more money on long-lasting wardrobe staples and pregnancy is so short (though it feels like a freakin’ eternity).
Maternity Clothing Basics & Favorites for Your Capsule
Here are the bare minimum maternity clothing basics I needed/ wanted by the time our 4th baby came around.
I didn’t discover these until my 4th pregnancy. These are the exact maternity jeans I had and they are AMAZING! Sometimes they go on sale, but they’re well worth the $50! You can fold the panel down pretty easily, but it’s not itchy to wear up high either! The size that fit me well at 20 weeks was pretty tight by 30 weeks, so you might consider 2 different sizes.
I wore the smaller size ones for a while postpartum, and I loved the comfy, non itchy band to tuck it all in!
2. Long tanks
I lived in my black and gray bodycon tank dresses during pregnancy. I used them as tanks to cover my booty in leggings. They are a capsule maternity wardrobe staple because you can layer them so easily. Once you have a legit bump, they look super cute! You could find maternity ones if you prefer, as pictured below.
My preference is non-rouched for as long as possible, then rouched for the very end. Target’s newer line of Isabel & Ingrid tee’s are super comfortable. I wore this non-rouched grey one for most of my second trimester. They have rouched (aka: shirred) too.
In general, I find Target to have a decent quality for the price for the maternity capsule wardrobe staples, plus some fun extras like all these fun tees! Target’s maternity clothes fit me well and it’s one of my first go-tos.
4. 1-2 tight dresses
If your lifestyle is pretty casual, you probably only need one or two. You can dress it up or down with accessories & shoes. I own one like pictured, and a friend lent me a second just for fun.
I generally felt like flowy dresses made me look HUGE after 20-25 weeks… you’ll notice the model is always holding her bump to make those floral maxi dresses look cute. Since I don’t walk around with my hand there, I never pulled that look off well. But maybe you can!? To each her own 😉
These were my absolute favorite maternity leggings. They’re over-the-bump but the band isn’t itchy at all. I wore them most days after about 20 weeks. They’re on the thicker side…. Which is nice, because they’re not see-through. But they’re probably too warm if you’re due during the summer. I liked these cheap under-the-bump ones as backups if my faves were dirty, and they’re thinner too! Or try these highly rated Amazon ones. Under $10 per pair and 700+ good reviews.
6. Yoga pants
I wore my regular comfy pants up until 3rd trimester. When they got too tight, I bought one pair of maternity yoga pants on sale at Motherhood & liked them fine. Not amazing, but they’ll get the job done for 12 weeks. I only really wear them around the house. I liked having a really loose-fitting pair for the very end of pregnancy & postpartum too.
7. New NON nursing bras
Ugh. Your boobs will go crazy during pregnancy and postpartum, so purchase wisely, my friend. I liked stretchy, non-underwire ones because they had more give for my ever fluctuating ladies. (More bang for your buck, if you will.) This 4th pregnancy, I wore 2 wireless bras from Victoria Secret for my 1st & 2nd trimesters: lightly lined wireless t-shirt bra; pink lightly lined wireless bra (That second one worked as a sports bra too!)
Another budget-friendly option is to buy a nursing bra during your second trimester because it will likely fit you at some point during your nursing career. The ladies tend to change sizes a lot those first few months postpartum.
8. Nursing bras
Eventually, whatever your wearing will get too tight. In my 3rd trimester, I purchased these cheap highly rated nursing bras on Amazon. I’m surprised at the quality & comfort! I highly recommend them. They’ll work for most of nursing too. Except the first couple weeks… I always need about 2-4 weeks for my nursing boobs to become the size they’ll be for the duration of nursing. During that engorged-milk-coming-in time, I live in these sleep bras + nursing tanks because anything tighter is super uncomfortable.
9. Nursing Tanks
I live in these for a long time post baby. I usually had 2 sizes… a larger size for the first couple months postpartum, and a smaller size for the rest of nursing. I just wore the Target brand ones in neutral colors in grey, black, or white.
Layers & Accessories for Budget Capsule Maternity Outfits
Layering is a great way to add something fun to your basic look. If you purchase maternity clothes that won’t go out of style (a few tanks, tees, and a good pair of jeans), then you can mix and match with whatever sweaters, jackets, button-downs, shoes, and accessories you want without spending a fortune on trendy maternity looks or expensive maternity tops.
What about Exercise Maternity Clothes?
I just wore maternity leggings + old tee shirts. But, some pelvic floor issues prevented me from exercising past 25 weeks.
If you’re going to exercise regularly through your 3rd trimester (which you should if you can!), then it might be worth having 1 or 2 extra maternity workout tanks. Old Navy and Target have a lot of cute options.
1st trimester & postpartum clothes
During the first trimester and for several months postpartum, neither maternity clothes nor regular clothes really fit.
The best suggestion I have is to buy the bare minimum for this stage because your size is changing so much, and it goes really fast.
Here were my first trimester and postpartum outfit staples:
- 1 or 2 sizes of “in between” jeans – these pull-on jeggings from old navy have a band but aren’t maternity and work really well for this in between size stage.
- a few flowy tops that I could mix and match with various layers
- tons of stretchy pants – leggings, yoga pants, whatever floats your boat.
- Use the pregnancy rubberband/ hair tie trick to make your regular jeans last as long as possible
Maternity Compression Gear
I’m going to do a whole other post on pelvic floor pregnancy issues to detail compression gear options. These two items were a MUST HAVE LIFE CHANGER for me my 4th pregnancy. (v2 support | compression leggings)
Basically, if you’re in excruciating pain near your pelvic area, one of those two items could make a huge difference… I wore both my 4th pregnancy. If you’re not in pain, you don’t need them.
One more thing – totally off the topic of maternity clothes …. one of the important things you could do while you’re pregnant to prepare for baby is figure out how you’re going to teach them to sleep and get them on a routine. It’s something I care a lot about for new moms because I was so shocked & tired & confused when our first baby was born!! I ended up writing a short ebook that explains the gentle sleep method that has worked for all 4 of our kids! We start this method when they’re newborns. You can snag that ebook here!
If you are blessed to be great with child, your body will change a zillion times over the next 9-18 months.
Purchase a few staples from cheaper mid quality brands (Target, H&M, and Old Navy are my faves) to get you by.
Save the rest of your money for investing in long-term wardrobe staples when you’re at your new “normal…” 6-12 months (ish) postpartum.