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What is Maternity Clothing?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 21, 2024
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Maternity clothing is clothing which is specifically designed to be worn by pregnant women. It is designed with a loose, comfortable cut which will expand as the woman's belly grows. Most designs also include elastic, tabs, and other methods of expansion which allow shirts and pants to be let out. Many women also wear maternity clothes after their pregnancies, until they have lost the pregnancy weight and they can fit into normal clothing again. In addition to commercially manufactured maternity wear, it is also possible to sew your own clothing at home, which is a good way to bring down the costs of a pregnancy.

In many cases, maternity clothing is manufactured by a company which specializes in it. Other companies may choose to offer a small line of maternity wear in addition to their conventional garments. Almost any piece of clothing can be transformed into maternity clothing by a skilled designer. Pants, skirts, dresses, shirts, smocks, and jackets are all common offerings in maternity lines. Maternity wear is carried by specialty stores and some department stores, and it is generally a good idea to try it on, if possible, to make sure that it fits comfortably.

Maternity pants and skirts tend to have very broad, elasticized waistbands which will easily accommodate a growing belly. Shirts, dresses, and jackets are designed with a flared base and a larger chest area, since many pregnant women experience physical changes in their breasts as well. Companies which manufacture maternity clothing also often design maternity bras, to offer more support, as well as underwear which is designed with pregnant women in mind.

Historically, maternity wear has been relatively dull. Some pregnant women felt that much of the clothing they wore was unimaginative and unattractive. In response to a desire for more fashionable wear, some high end maternity wear companies arose. The work of reputable fashion designers can be seen on pregnant women who are willing to bear the extra cost, and some companies have also designed lines with more ordinary budgets in mind.

Even with maternity clothing, most women need to purchase larger garments towards the end of their pregnancies, as expansion garments can only grow so far. Because the need for maternity wear is relatively brief, many expecting mothers cut costs by purchasing used clothing, or trading clothes with friends. Networking with pregnant women and new parents in your area could yield a fruitful exchange of garments as well as support and parenting tips.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a BeautyAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Lostnfound — On Jan 30, 2015

I remember when maternity clothes were big old polyester tent dresses and women wore them with big collars and print scarves. I really think Princess Diana did more to revolutionize maternity clothes than anyone else. She made maternity look good, and had good-looking dresses.

Kate Middleton has also really made maternity look fashionable and stylish. I'm not sure I'm on board with all the Hollywood stars wearing the clingy gowns that deliberately emphasize their bellies, but it is better than the polyester tents. And all the people who smoked then -- I'm surprised women's clothes weren't catching fire all the time from a hot ash.

By Grivusangel — On Jan 29, 2015

Thank the Lord for the Internet when it comes to maternity clothes! That and yard sales. I was lucky to find a woman online who was selling all of her maternity clothes and they were all in my size! For about 50 bucks, I bought a whole wardrobe. A lot of it wasn't what I would have picked for myself, but at that price, I was willing to wear it for six weeks or so.

I bought a couple of nice pieces, like some maternity jeans that I wore for nearly my whole pregnancy. They had one of those stretch panels in the front, and they were a lifesaver. They matched everything.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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