13 Must Have Items for a Simple, Stylish Maternity Capsule Wardrobe

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In this post, you’ll learn which 9 items to purchase in order 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 by any stretch of the imagination (and I’m guessing you aren’t either).

But, I am a real-life mom. And, I did like to feel cute while pregnant… at least until I reached the beached-whale-get-this-baby-out-of-me status.

See: beached whale status Christmas outfit pictured below from December 2012  

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I’m going to share all my favorite pieces from my budget friendly maternity capsule wardrobe down below, but first…

A little warning…

You Can Waste a Lot of Money on Maternity & Postpartum Clothes (Like I Did)

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 my regular size pre-pregnancy clothes TO THE HOSPITAL when I had our first baby. (Turns out, ignorance is NOT bliss.) When nothing fit, I had to send my husband on an emergency Target run for XL sweatpants!!!

You know those women that bounce right back to their pre-pregnancy size?! Yeah, they’re few and far between. Trust me. I have known a LOT of pregnant ladies, and most of them don’t bounce back into their pre-pregnancy jeans within a few weeks.

For 6-8 months postpartum, you’ll likely go through several different sizes of clothes! But resist the urge to buy a whole new wardrobe. I’ll give you some postpartum tips later in this post!

The #1 Thing to Remember When Buying Maternity Clothes

Your body will change a TON – fluctuating all over the place in terms of size and fit. Very few things will fit well for your entire pregnancy.

After the first pregnancy and second pregnancy, I figured out what I really liked for maternity clothes, postpartum clothes, and post baby mom-bod outfits. It was much easier to choose clothes, shop great deals, and pick what I liked with subsequent pregnancies.

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!

Not the best picture, but this simple outfit was: booties, leggings, dress, denim jacket + add various accessories. Swapping booties for knee high riding boots or basic tennis shoes and swapping the jean jacket for a sweatshirt or long dressy cardigan could use the same basic pieces but totally change the outfit!

Questions to Consider for First Time Moms

  • 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 from my first baby to my last…

Why a Minimalist Maternity Wardrobe?

Why minimalist? You can get through a pregnancy with a LOT less clothing than the Motherhood Maternity Clothing Store would have you think. You don’t need the maternity version of every piece in your entire wardrobe.

There are 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. 

Want to create a minimalist maternity capsule wardrobe? Here is a list of affordable, budget friendly maternity clothes from a mom of 4! She knows exactly what you'll actually wear when you're pregnant. Minimalist maternity spring, summer, fall winter #maternity #capsulewardrobe

1. H&M Skinny Jean

I didn’t discover these until my 4th pregnancy. These are the exact maternity jeans I had and they are AMAZING! Favorite pair of jeans ever for maternity wardrobe building!

Sometimes they go on sale, but they’re well worth the $50 price tags! 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 maternity sizes.

I wore the smaller size ones for a while postpartum, and I loved the comfy, non itchy band to tuck it all in!

Note- A belly band can make your regular jeans fit your growing bump & changing body before you actually have to buy maternity pants.

Wearing my favorite maternity jeans on a trip to Seattle! Plus cute glasses, a lightweight crossbody purse, a side-ruching maternity tee from Target, a non-maternity army green coat (similar coat) & scarf & comfy tennis shoes because we walked a ton!!

2. Long Tanks

I lived in my black and gray bodycon tank dresses during pregnancy. I used them as tank tops to cover my booty in leggings. They are a great option for a capsule maternity wardrobe because you can layer them so easily. Once you have a baby bump, they look super cute! You could find maternity tanks if you prefer, as pictured below.

3. Tee-shirts

My personal preference was non-ruched (non-shirred) for as long as possible, then ruched/ shirred towards the 3rd trimester. Target’s newer line of Isabel & Ingrid tee’s are super comfortable. I wore this non-shirred grey one for most of my second trimester. They have ruched (aka: shirred) too.

In general, I find Target to have a decent quality for the price for the maternity 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.

Different maternity wear fits everyone differently. Other stores I’d recommend trying for basic maternity t-shirts are: Old Navy, Gap, H&M, and Motherhood Maternity’s “bump start” brand.

4. 1-2 Tight Dresses

If your lifestyle is pretty casual, you probably only need one or two dresses. You can dress up or down with accessories & shoes.

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 😉

Note her strategically placed hand – lol!! Wrap dresses are so cute, but I think it’d make me look even more enormous than I look below in my 3rd trimester!

Here are a couple cute tight-fitting maternity dresses for ideas: Old Navy Striped; $25 Floral on Amazon; Simple Target Bodycon. All of those could work for casual or a special occasion.

5. Leggings

These were my absolute favorite maternity leggings. They’re over-the-bump but the band isn’t itchy at all. I wore these stretchy leggings 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 $20 per pair and over 3000 5-star reviews.

6. Yoga Pants

I wore my regular Target brand yoga pants up until the third 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 of comfy pregnancy pants 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.) I never purchased specific maternity bras.

For my 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 was supportive enough during exercise too!)

Another budget-friendly option is to just 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 and they were super cheap compared to the options at a maternity store! I highly recommend them.

They’ll work for most of nursing too.

Note – during the first couple weeks postpartum, your breasts might be quite a bit larger as your milk supplyis evening out. 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 nursing tanks 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.

10. Not Pictured: Maternity Underwear

Toward the end of my pregnancies, I preferred maternity underwear to regular underwear. Everything got bigger, and the maternity underwear just fit better for the later stages of pregnancy.

10. Layers & Accessories for Budget Capsule Maternity Outfits

Layering is a great way to add something fun to your basic look. If you purchase maternity items 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.

Often you can shop your own closet to see how your existing wardrobe can pair with cute new clothes. If buying something new, grab these types of things in your normal size so you can use them in the future more.

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Some of my current faves pictured above are: similar green jacket | grey cross sweater | pink zip up| denim button down | long black cozy sweater | plaid cardigan | floral cardigan|

11. 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.

12. 1st Trimester & Postpartum Clothes

During the early stages of your pregnancy 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 an elastic band waist, but aren’t pregnancy pants. They are made from a stretchy material and work really well for this in between size stage.
  • A few flowy tops that I could mix and match with various layers
  • Empire waist dresses & shirts are good for this stage.
  • 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.

13. Maternity Compression Gear

If you are having any pelvic floor or vaginal pain during a pregnancy, consider some special gear. These two items were a MUST HAVE LIFE CHANGER for me my 4th pregnancy. (v2 support | compression leggings) The third thing I wore sometimes was a support belt. It was good strategy for alleviating pain during exercise, but I didn’t love wearing it all the time.

I went from debilitating pain & barely able to walk to a mostly-fully-functioning pregnant woman. Since I had 3 other children under 5, this was good news!

The short explanation of why you might need these 3 items is:

If you’re in excruciating pain near your pelvic area, those three items could make a huge difference… I wore them all during my 4th pregnancy. If you’re not in pain, you don’t need them.

The Thing You’re REALLY Going to Want to Figure Out While You’re Pregnant!

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 daily routine. Here is the basic method we started when our kids were newborns – all 4 were happily sleeping 8-12 hours through the night by 12-16 weeks old 🙂

It’s something I care a lot about for new moms because I was so shocked & tired & confused when our first baby was born!! Hope that post is helpful to you.

More Related Posts:

Preparing for First Baby Delivery – Complete Guide

23 Tips to Surviving the First Trimester

10 Things You Must Do Before Bringing Your First Baby Home

Having a Baby on a Budget