Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Tips for an ethical, mostly-op-shopped, somewhat vintage maternity wardrobe

Pregnancy can be a time to sloth around in trackpants and baggy t-shirts, or an incredibly fun fashion experiment. (Not that there's anything wrong with option one if you want to take it.)

I'm in my thirties, and style guides tell me I should have worked out "my look" by now. I don't think I've got a look, and if I do, I'm not completely happy with it. Whether you have your look defined or not, pregnancy is likely to force you to rethink it for a temporary period. You may as well have fun and embrace it!

My approach to ethical clothing is mostly to buy second hand. While op-shopping allowed me to buy some clothing at very cheap prices, my focus wasn't primarily on saving money.

Realistically, I spent quite a lot on clothes I only needed for a short space of time. But, I would say that I spent the equivalent of buying a small, focused maternity wardrobe of new clothes. New maternity clothes are not cheap!

What op-shopping allowed me to do was to spend that money on building a large and varied maternity wardrobe, taking fashion risks, trying out new styles, colours and patterns, and splurging a little on extra-nice and vintage pieces. 

I could buy things, outgrow them, and donate them back. I could buy clothes for winter, then buy some more for spring. I could experiment with a style, then go out hunting for more items like it. I could buy things that seemed big enough, then go out again to buy more when I got even bigger.

It was fun, and I have rarely enjoyed clothes as much as during my pregnancy. Here are my tips to help that happen for you too!

1. Try things on.

There were some things that even I was surprised I took into the changeroom, but I came up with some winners that way.

Your body is a different shape, and you no longer know what suits you, so be open. Also, I found sizes were very hard to pick, and I took a few fitting risks that paid off too!

2. Belts. All the belts. And try things on with belts.

I feel like some kind of idiot that I didn't understand about belts before. I wore them occasionally to hold up my jeans. My post-pregnancy wardrobe is going to be revolutionised by this discovery.

For pregnancy, they were, if not a life-saver, certainly a dress-saver. I am very used to having a waist. It wasn't always as small as I'd like, but it was always there. Smaller than my bust. Smaller than my hips. Lovely.

Then, suddenly, the waist was no more. Having another point to draw clothes in at made me feel a lot more elegant and shapely. I went with the "above the bump" belting option, and I love it.

This vintage dress needs its waistline hitched up a bit and a belt, and then I love it!

Make sure you take a belt into the changeroom to get the best impression of a dress or top.

This was a "I can't believe I'm trying this on", but I was drawn to the colours and the fact that it appeared to be handmade. But otherwise, basically a sack with buttons. A belt can do some wondrous things.

3. Wear Short Dresses as Tops/Over Pants

Things get a lot shorter when they have a big bump to cover. I wore almost everything over leggings or jeans. Dignity maintained.

Like this short 1960s dress. I paired it with a skirt, capri pants or short jeans.

This one required a quick zip with the sewing machine to lift the waistline and ties up to my raised belly height, but then it became an easy comfortable maternity staple for me.

4. Balance Your Volume

I think I only remember one piece of fashion advice my Mum told me. It was to have volume at one end of your outfit, but not both. Pregnancy forces you to have volume at the top (well, in the middle I suppose), so for the most part I accepted that, and tried to keep to skinny legs.

I did, however, buy one pair of baggy maternity pants, so I tried to wear them with slimmer tops. Here's a look based on baggy pants. I aimed for a 1930s-feel, since they loved their giant pants then.

5. If You Can Sew, Make Adjustments. 
(But be realistic with yourself. You've got plenty of other things to do.)

The main adjustments I made: taking up a bit of fabric at the shoulders of tops or dresses to raise the neckline or waistline.

For this dress, I was willing to go a bit further and shorten the hem so it made a top instead (another example that without the belt is just a tent).

And for the sake of having black capri pants, I put in my time at the sewing machine with a pair of black maternity pants that were pretty hideous in their previous form.

6. Accessorise. Feel pretty.

I started losing my jawline somewhere in the second trimester. My skin was a mixed bag. I chose not to dye my hair. I chose to start growing out my hair. I sprained my ankle. I felt more uncoordinated and awkward than usual. I started making noises when I got out of chairs.

Clothes were a way to compensate for the negative things I felt.

Accessories can draw attention to good things or away from the things you'd rather not think about. They also helped with my hair situation. While my hair was long enough to pull back into a ponytail, but not into a GOOD ponytail, I bought some scarves to cover the back, wore some hats, some hair flowers, and designed a ponytail-flower-cage to cover up the mess.

I even dressed nice for the gardening sometimes! (Except for the shoes, of course.)

The other great thing about accessories is that they will still be good post-pregnancy, so you can feel even less guilty about buying them (if you're the guilty-feeling type).

7. Be Willing to Make Mistakes

I bought some things that were not a good idea. But they cost me a few dollars. I can shrug that off.

I bought some things that were a great idea at first, but showed my ignorance of just how big I was going to get. That's ok! They were cute while they lasted. Some have gone back to the op-shops, some have stayed for post-pregnancy.

8. Explore all Vintage Eras, and All Sources of Inspiration

If you like vintage styles, maybe you have favourite eras already, but why not use pregnancy as an excuse to try some others? Your shape is changing anyway, so you may feel differently about how they suit you.

And although there are some cute vintage maternity styles, don't just focus on them. Look at non-maternity outfits and translate them.

I decided to have a bit of fun channeling this outfit from my great-grandmother in the 1920s.

I think I did ok! Long strand necklaces, however, don't hang very gracefully over third-trimester tummies though, I have to tell you!

Bonus tip that I DIDN'T follow but should have: 9. Buy Maternity that Works for Breastfeeding

At about 7 months I realised that since I was planning to breastfeed if I could, I might actually need to access my breasts. Probably something I should have though of earlier! It would have made my maternity wardrobe a bit more lasting.

I mean, it gave me an excuse to buy more clothes, but I wasn't as energised for shopping by that stage, so it would have been better to have thought about it back when op-shopping was all I wanted to do.

Luckily some things are going to work anyway. Like this dress that actually does untie completely at the front there.

For some more maternity style, with a vintage flavour, I recommend checking out the following blogs:

Betsy's Baby - Gorgeous vintage maternity outfits, including many outfits sewn from vintage patterns. Also, now that the baby has come along, she's showing off post-baby looks, and wrote a great post on shirtwaist dresses for breastfeeding.

Lavender & Twill - Bonita is currently pregnant and looking adorable and chic in vintage and vintage-style outfits. Great inspiration!

Do you have any maternity style tips to share? Or op-shopping tips in general?


  1. Thank you for the shout out lovely! It was a very sweet surprise, :)

    You have some super tips in this post, I personally love op-shopping for maternity clothes, and belting all the things? A must! ;) ❤

    bonita of Lavender & Twill

    1. No worries! I'm glad you enjoyed the post :)

  2. I'm glad that you were pregnant after I was, or I would have spent the whole pregnancy bemoaning my comparative lack of chic.
    You have created a lovely pregnancy wardrobe that also looks comfortable. Very inspiring.

    1. Thanks :) It's a shame we weren't pregnant at the same time and able to go shopping together.

  3. You were one seriously stylish mama-to-be, dear Tanith. Thank you for sharing so many of your outfits with us. I love the vintage elements/influences housed in them.

    ♥ Jessica

    *PS* I can definitely see a family resemblance between you and your lovely great-grandma (interestingly, one of my great-grandma's is the only person on either side of my family that I've ever thought I looked even remotely like, save for the fact that my siblings and I have similar foreheads).

    1. Aww thank you Jessica. I had a lot of fun with these outfits.

      I have a few family members that I look similar to, and I will be sharing another of them sometime soon, but I agree that she is one I have a lot in common with. I have quite lovely family, so I consider myself pretty lucky to look anything like any of them!

  4. I like what you did to the sack with buttons and your copy of your great grandma's outfit is great.

    1. Just seen that you have had your baby. Congratulations. I hope you are both doing well and enjoying getting to know each other.

    2. Thank you Kate-Em, for your compliments and wishes. We are all well and enjoying the new experiences!

  5. I really dig that 30s look that you put together - it's really fun, and a great way to experiment. I feel like if/when I get knocked up, I'm going to go straight for drop waisted 20s looks, like the one you copied from your grandmother - "no waist? No problem!"

    1. Thanks! The 20s do have a lovely drapey loose quality that lends itself well to pregnancy.

  6. First up..congrats on the baby!! How exciting :)

    I may not be with child, but this was a lovely post and I'm so going to pass it onto a few of my friends who are expecting.


    1. Thank you! I'm glad that you think it is useful :)

  7. Your maternity wardrobe is super stylish

    retro rover

  8. I love your choices for outfits! I wish I could see these when I was pregnant, it could have been so handy :o)

    Beta x


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