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Maternity wardrobe basics: Stylish essentials

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Dressed to the nines for nine

Top fashion magazines highlight what's classic and what's hot for "regular" clothes, but what about when you are pregnant? We asked moms what their favorite maternity wardrobe pieces were to see what's really useful.

Pregnant Woman in JeansAt the first site of the belly bump, you might just be tempted to run right out and buy every cute maternity dress, pant and top you can find. Don't. Over the course of nine months, your body will change so much that you may wonder whose body that is with your head on top. You best bet is to wait as long as you can and then start with the essentials.

The five basics you should start with

Before you shop for cute skirts and trendy tops, there are five essential items you should have on hand for a successful maternity wardrobe.

First, find a good pair of jeans that is sizes and created to grow with you. This is not time to settle. You really need to find the right pair that is the right fit. Otherwise, you will be miserable. Make sure whatever you buy has some stretch in the material.

Secondly, use the same criteria to find a great pair of black pants. These will take you from business meetings to find nights out, all depending on what you pair them with. Again, make sure that the fabric has some stretch to it.

Third, get a great but simple black cardigan. A black cardigan will dress up casual dresses, making them work appropriate. It can be worn with jeans, paired with skirts or buttoned up with slacks. It's ultra-versatile. It's perfect for winter, for spring chills and even for when the sun goes down in summer.

Fourth, you want to find a little black dress that will carry you from early pregnancy to delivery. It should be classy, flattering and able to grow with you.

Finally, you need to look for a flattering collared white shirt. Find a unique one that is appropriate for work. It can be paired with the jeans, pants or skirts and dressed up with accessories and jewelry. It's a perfect base piece.

Once you have the essentials, you can work on personalizing your wardrobe.

Extend your pants

You don't need to spend a lot of money buying all sorts of different types of pants. Instead, supplement your maternity jeans and black pants by extending the wear of your regular pants. There are bands designed to let you keep your pants unbuttoned, while disguising the top part of your jeans extending the wear of your non-maternity pants.  "Bella Band is hands-down one of the best things a pregnant woman can have ... it saved me from an entire maternity wardrobe and kept me in my pre-pregnancy jeans the entire nine months," said Cate O'Malley of The Voice of Mom.

A few good shirts

Some prenatal shirts could double as tents. Others are fitted in all the wrong places. it's essential to find a few good shirts -- trendy or classic -- that fit you perfectly. Cindy Y. Lo of Red Velvet Events says that her favorite maternity pieces were "definitely my designer shirts that didn't make me look frumpy. These were usually 100 percent cotton, sometimes dresses, but very colorful in nature and not the typical maternity tops." Lo bought her maternity-wear at shops while away on business as well as at high-end stores devoted to maternity clothes.

Japanese Weekend

Treating yourself to one or two very special pieces is a great way to make your wardrobe speak to you. One brand that comes up over and over again in terms of must have maternity clothes is Japanese Weekend. Moms rave about the comfort and style of the pieces. Jennifer Faulkner bought pants from Japanese Weekend. "They are so amazingly comfortable and functional. They are expensive but really worth every penny," said Faulkner.

But be warned, like Faulkner said, the clothes are pricey. Stick to their online sales to save some dough.

Start small

Wouldn't it be nice if you could buy a few outfits and have them fit throughout the pregnancy? Chances are that isn't going to happen. So, don't go crazy with a big first shop -- you will probably need to shop a few more times before baby comes to keep your body appropriately covered.

For pregnancy fashion tips for a stylish nine months, check out PregnancyFashion.com.

What would you add to the list of essential maternity clothes? Tell us below!

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