It can feel like there are so many things to worry about when you’re pregnant. Will the baby have two heads? Will they look like your weird Uncle Wilbur? How on Earth are you going to pay for college? And what about your pregnancy wardrobe?
As your stomach grows, it’s all too easy to fall prey to the flashy advertisements of those pregnancy unicorns: Women who wear 6-inch heels and glamorous dresses through all 40-plus weeks and seem to say, “You, too, could look like me — if only you buy an entirely new maternity wardrobe for way more money than you thought clothes could ever cost.”
Donning maternity clothing is often considered a rite of pregnancy passage; when you pull on your first pair of pregnancy-specific jeans, it can feel like you're finally one step closer to meeting your baby. For plenty of pregnant people, rocking maternity-wear can be a point of pride (which is a tad ironic considering the cultural pressure for preggos to "bounce back," aka get out of that maternity wear ASAP after birth).
According to Fast Company, maternity-wear in the U.S. is a $2 billion industry that caters to over 6 million American pregnant people each year. But do you really have to sign up to participate in that industry for nine months? The short answer is: no way.
The maternity-wear industrial complex certainly leaves a lot to be desired (where is the quality maternity clothing for plus-size people? For queer and genderqueer folks?), but the good news is you don't have to buy into it. Instead, just integrate a couple of easy wardrobe staples that will fit before, during and after your pregnancy. It may sound crazy, but it's totally possible.
After all, far too many clothes aimed at pregnant people are ridiculously expensive, which is extra-silly (and hilariously obnoxious) considering these are clothing pieces that are only relevant for a few months of your life — even if you wear them for multiple pregnancies. Rationalizing a significant financial investment in a brand-new wardrobe that's entirely temporary? Talk about stressful. (And precisely what do you not need more of while you're pregnant? Yep. Stress.)
So, behold our experiment: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Preggo Pants. We chose a single pair of pants (from the brand Tilden) that claims to work for people of all sizes and stages of pregnancy/life, and we put that claim to the test. We asked five pregnant, nonpregnant and postpartum people to wear the literal same pair of pants and give us their honest feedback (note that we selected people who are all size medium in general, because literal same pair of pants).
Their experiences prove that if you make a couple of careful choices, there are amazing non-maternity clothes out there that will last you from pre-child to post-child and beyond. It's worth noting that at $275, these particular pants are still a major investment (because silk, duh); the key is investing in clothes for life, not ones you'll throw away as soon as your kid is born. Fortune estimates that expectant mothers spend upward of $500 per pregnancy on maternity clothes — if you're going to spend that much, don't you want that shit to last?
First up was Seema, who was not pregnant (although she is an admirable dog mom). She found the pants to be "super-comfortable" but a bit too dangerous to wear around said dog and his muddy paws. "I had never worn joggers before, and my assumption was that they’re all sweatpants-adjacent, so I was confused by the formal feel of these at first… I loved the feel of these and found them to be really flattering," she said. Great. Prepregnancy pants, check.
Next, the pants made their way to Linnea, who was newly pregnant and also a fan: “These pants were really comfy, and I could wear them all pregnancy. The only downside is the pockets are so small you can’t really put anything in them.” Well, there you go. But it's easy to say, "I could wear them all pregnancy" when you're barely pregnant, right? Well…
Laura, who tried the pants next at 20 weeks, had been complaining there were "a lot of clothes that start to not fit" at this point of her pregnancy. So did the pants pass muster? "I loved trying [them]," Laura enthused, "because they are very well made, soft, lightweight and not too tight. I am 6 feet tall, so I wore them like capris. I felt stylish yet comfortable… I think they would grow with me nicely and be something I could wear before, during and after pregnancy. Five stars from me."
So we had nonpregnant and pregnant rave reviews alike. But what about when the baby's out? The pants trekked next to Erica and her newborn, Jake. “These are great for not hugging my tummy too tight," Erica said of her still-sensitive middle section. "And they’re a dressier alternative to leggings without having to get uncomfortable. Also, these are easy to pull down one-handed if you have to pee while holding a baby!” Oh, we've been there, Erica. We've been there.
Last but not least, The Traveling Preggo Pants closed out their sisterhood circle with Amelia, who has a 2-year-old. “At this point, I'm pretty much 'back' to whatever my size/shape/weight was before I got pregnant except for the fact that my pelvis bones have been permanently widened I think," she said. "But these pants are so lovely and comfy and my favorite category of clothing, which I like to call "fancy daytime pajamas." However, the price point would be prohibitive for most moms (isn't the point of not buying maternity clothes to save money?) and although they fit perfectly on top and through the leg, they were far too short for me at 5 feet, 10 inches. Then again, I could probably just order a larger size and that would be fine."
The overall traveling pants verdict? Well, for one thing, it's pretty hard to find five women of different sizes, ages and pregnancy or nonpregnancy stages who are really going to be able to share one pair of pants (sorry, guys, America Ferrera and Blake Lively lied to us). But the experiment did convince us of the gist of the thing, which is that any clothes become maternity clothes if you wear them while you're pregnant. You know, like how any body is a "beach body" when you take it to the beach? As long as you're comfortable, the labels —of both the societal and clothing kinds — just don't matter.
So, instead of buying a "maternity robe" or "maternity dress" or what have you, buy a cozy robe or dress that's roomy enough to fit forever. Go to Goodwill or Uniqlo or wherever and make your own maternity wardrobe with wardrobe staples and basics you'll actually keep wearing once the word "maternity" is just a distant memory. Look for sales, and look for maxi dresses.
The truth is maternity-wear is disposable fast fashion that's priced like designer clothing. By picking out a couple of items that will pull through pregnancy and come out just fine on the other side, you can side-step the entire "maternity clothes" debacle and focus on what's actually important, aka the tiny human you're growing inside you. Well done, you.