After baby number four I gave everything away, so I have been starting from scratch with maternity clothes (as well as baby clothing and gear).
It’s my fifth time around, but things change. I’ve learned a lot in this search for belly-friendly clothing (that won’t embarrass my tweens), so I thought it was high time for a maternity-clothes post on Frugal Mama.
So here we go: 12 ways to find inexpensive clothing for your belly-beautiful body.
1. Check out Resale Maternity
Before I was ready to tell anyone we were expecting, my regular clothes were feeling tight. (In fact, that was my first clue that I was pregnant!) After browsing the BabyCenter message boards, I found a source for second-hand maternity clothes online: Resale Maternity.
Buying clothes online is always a hit-or-miss experience, but at Resale Maternity I found my favorite pair of maternity jeans (Ann Taylor Loft) for $15 and my favorite button-down shirt (Gap) for $8. Shipping was fast (and free on orders over $50), and since then I get coupon codes emailed to me for more discounts.
2. Search Craigslist, eBay, and Freecycle
My friend, Gayle, recently had a baby, but had given away most of her stuff by the time it was my turn. She suggested I look on Craigslist and eBay, where she sells most of her stuff. Focus on “lots” or large batches of maternity clothes, because buying a whole collection of clothing saves money over buying single pieces one at a time. The trick is finding someone who is the same size and has more or less the same sense of style.
eBay may have a bigger selection, but you might find someone right in your area via Craigslist and avoid over-bidding and shipping charges. Someone in my neighborhood was recently selling a whole season’s worth of maternity clothing for $50.
3. Visit Maternity Departments of Inexpensive Retailers
Boutique shops and specialty maternity stores can get really pricey, but these days, most clothing retailers also have maternity lines.
People rave about Old Navy‘s selections — fresh styles at a good price point — although, I find the quality is commensurate with the cost. (Sister store, The Gap, has better clothing, but you pay for it.)
Inexpensive department stores like Sears, Target, and JCPenney all carry maternity clothes, as well as discounters like Burlington Coat Factory and Ross.
I’ve received some really nice maternity sweaters and dresses from H&M. Also talked about as a good source for stylish yet affordable ware is Forever 21.
Finally, have you ever heard of Shade? Part of the Gymboree family, Shade has some really adorable maternity clothing for really cheap, like cotton jerseys for $4 and chinos for $10.
4. Hit the Clearance Rack of Department Stores
But don’t discount mid-range department stores either. BabyCenter members say that the maternity clearance racks at Kohl’s and Macy’s can yield great bargains, like dresses for $16 marked down from $80, and work blouses for $3 each.
To sweeten the deals, look for coupons in the Saturday newspaper on the store’s website.
5. Seek Out Charity Rummage Sales
You can score big-time at church and charity next-to-new sales. Because members donate stuff for free, prices are usually really low. I remember gathering armloads of name-brand maternity pants from a church rummage sale that I found out about through a neighborhood listserv.
Make sure you get there early, and since you probably won’t find a dressing room, wear leggings and a tank top so you can try things on in the aisles.
6. Go Garage Sale-ing
Even cheaper than the goods at nonprofit sales are what you can find at yard and garage sales, especially in the warmer months. Check gsalr.com or the “garage sale” section of Craigslist to find sales near you.
When we lived in Syracuse, I had fun tooling around neighborhoods and talking to people while I picked up adorable name-brand baby clothes $0.50 to $1 per piece, or gear like car seats and cribs. (The challenge is to not take home a bunch of stuff you don’t need, just because it’s cute and cheap.)
7. Don’t Forget Thrift Stores and Consignment Shops
Of course, you can always hit up your local Goodwill or Salvation Army. Although their maternity stock can be pretty picked over, you can get lucky and find things like new maternity pants with the tags still on for $4. Most thrift stores have half-price days, although you’ll be battling crowds more than usual. Check TheThriftShopper.com, a national directory, for places near you that you might not even know about.
Consignment shops, where the donor receives a share of profits, are usually more expensive. On the upside, they usually have greater selection. To find shops in your area, do a web search for “maternity consignment” and include the name of your town.
8. Find Outlets for Specialty Stores
Specialty shops like Motherhood Maternity and A Pea in a Pod are expensive, but they do have some pretty styles. Circumvent their pretty prices by finding a factory outlet in your area.
9. Trawl Sales at Fashionable Online Boutiques
Fashion is high at online boutiques like Pink Blush Maternity, ASOS, and Due Maternity, but their prices are not low. Haunt the clearance and sale sections of their websites to find pieces that you love that are also marked down to an affordable price.
10. Don’t Buy Maternity Clothes
A lot of people complain that the quality of maternity clothes is low yet the prices are high. One way around this lose-lose proposition is to stick to regular, non-maternity clothing that looks good with a big belly.
For example, my mom found me some really nice sweaters, wraps, and flyaway cardigans in the clearance section of a regular women’s department. Paired with large, extra-large, or plus-size stretchy tops, they look great.
BabyCenter members on the boards I visited recommended trying the teen sections of stores, where very long tops are popular. Tall-style knit tops with ruching and V-necklines also help lengthen and flatter the belly.
For the bottom half, some people went to the mall and found jeggings (jean leggings) for $10 to $20 each, or skirts with stretchy bands. Leggings or yoga pants with a really long shirt works too.
Knit jersey dresses with tights are also a good option. Bring in flair with accessories like scarves, belts, shrugs, or hats.
11. Make Do with What You Have
Even though I think it’s fun to wear maternity clothes, some of my friends have boycotted them all-out. Finding the styles to be frumpy, ill-fitting, or weird (not to mention costly), they raid their husband’s closet and get by with what they have.
If you can’t get maternity clothes cheap, I agree that it’s wise to avoid the temptation to buy a lot. After all, you can wear them for such a short time, and what are the chances that you will be pregnant again in the same season?
My friend, Colleen, would just wear her husband’s dress shirts with a belt over a pair of leggings. She bought just a few large-size tops that she paired with non-maternity cardigans and yoga pants.
Even though this never worked for basketball-belly me, some women are able to keep wearing their old jeans by using a belly band to hold their unbuttoned pants up under their shirt.
Dresses with an empire waist or with pleating around the belt-line are also very flattering to the pregnant figure. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, you could buy some cheap pants at a thrift store, cut off the tops, and sew on some stretchy cotton.
As you probably know by now, my favorite method for saving on everything from kids’ clothing to childcare is exchanging. When I don’t need something, I give it away. When I need something, I ask.
People often don’t know what to do with their cast-offs, so they are happy to give them to someone in need. Plus it saves everyone the time and effort involved in shopping, reselling, and donating.
Sharing works best within smaller groups of people — whether it’s a neighborhood block, a special interest club, a mom’s group, or a circle of friends. But don’t think that if you haven’t given, you can’t receive.
One of my friendly new neighbors had just had a baby girl, and even though I didn’t know her well, I got up my nerve and asked her if she had any maternity clothes I could borrow. As it turns out, she had bags just sitting in her living room that she didn’t know what to do with. Even though it seemed kind-of a backward way to reaching out to someone, my asking for help has marked the beginning of a new friendship.
How you find clothing for the three trimesters will depend on your personality, budget, style, and even the way you carry a baby. I hope that this list has given you some ideas that will help you savor and enhance this super-special time.