How To Build a Cute Maternity Wardrobe Frugally

Pregnancy lasts around 40 weeks. During that time you’ll endure various physical complaints, from minor to major, and other physical and emotional changes that are mostly out of your control.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to look like a scrub on top of all that. ;-)

Staying cute during pregnancy is important for your mental health. A big part of that is building a maternity wardrobe hat makes you feel attractive. Of course, maternity clothing purchased new in retail stores is expensive. For just a little more fabric in the belly, you’re likely to pay 50% more than what that same item costs normally.

Because of this (and plain old brokeness in years past!), I’ve usually erred on the side of too frugal when it came to my maternity wardrobe. This go ’round I was determined not to make this mistake.

Here are a few tips I’ve found for building a cute maternity wardrobe, frugal style.


(Isn’t she cute? “Bon jour! Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just stopping here for the paparazzi to snap a quick pic while I wait for friends at this chic outdoor Parisian cafe. That will be a decaf cafe au lait and croissant, s’il vous plaît.”)

Buy Used

Consignment shops are a convenient way to shop and save money on maternity items, but I’ve found that many of these (at least here in the Metro Atlanta area) are overpriced. The exception may be for dressy items. If you are a career woman who needs professional attire, this may be the way to go. I’ve found pretty dresses for around $10 at consignment shops.

For me, eBay has been a real blessing in my maternity wardrobe shopping. The prices are lower than I can find in consignment shops, and I don’t have to schlep around shopping! (Shipping costs are about the same as the gas I would burn traveling.) Not to mention the selection is wide open. The only drawback to eBay buying is that you can’t try the items on. However, once you know what size you wear in a particular name brand, you’re usually safe buying that size again. You typically buy the same size you wore pre-pregnancy in maternity. So for example, XS is 2-4, Small is 4-6, Medium is 8-10, and so on.

Thrift stores usually have a good selection of maternity items. The Goodwill around here has a huge rack of maternity pants, and they are usually priced around $5 or so. I’ve had better success at a thrift store I found in a nicer part of town. Every month or two they have a half price day, so I’ve scored name brand maternity clothing for $2 and $3 apiece. The selection is smaller than a Goodwill, but the clothing is nicer quality. (Remember, we want to look cute. It’s worth the time to travel to the nicer part of town!)

Buy For The Belly

It may be hard to believe when you’re looking at that little pink line on a pregnancy test, but you really have no idea how large your belly (and boobs!) are going to get during your third trimester.

For this reason, resist the urge to buy maternity clothing too far ahead in your pregnancy. Your favorite outfit that looks so cute when you’re 5 months pregnant probably won’t cover your belly or be modest in the neckline once you’re 8 months along. It’s better to have a few pieces you love and wear over and over in each trimester.

Another reason I stress this is because different maternity belly panels will feel good to you at different points in your pregnancy. In the beginning, I liked under belly panels, but as my belly gets bigger I like a bit of support that a soft, stretchy full belly panel provides. (My favorite right now are those “secret fit” panels that are super soft and stretchy!) Here is a neat page that shows you the difference between all the various styles of maternity belly panels.

Personally, I’ve found the ones that adjust in the back (called “no belly”) to be sublimely uncomfortable, but a pair of dressy black slacks I have that zip open on the sides are surprisingly comfy.

It’s also quite common for you to go up a size as your pregnancy progresses. During my first and second trimesters I’m always a size Small (XS in Gap maternity which seems to run large), but in my 9th month, I have to buy Mediums. Towards the end of your pregnancy, comfort becomes more of a priority.

And I’m not one of those people who will tell you to borrow your husband’s clothing or just wear baggy non-maternity wear. Wearing clothing that is baggy all over makes you look dumpy. In addition, buying maternity clothes that are a little more on the fitted side seems to help me keep my weight in check. If you’re wearing a tent-like muumuu, you’ll pack on the pounds and hardly notice yourself!

However, during your first trimester there are all sorts of tricks you can employ to stretch your existing wardrobe, such as using those “belly band” garments over pants and skirts. A tank top with a bit of stretch can be worn under your button down shirts (the ones you’re “busting” out of now).

Focus on Classics

A good strategy for saving money on maternity clothing is to focus on classic, basic items for bottoms. A pair of good jeans, khaki pants or shorts, and a pair of black dressy-ish trousers are must have items that you can pair with all sorts of tops. Don’t forget a pair of dark rinse skinny jeans! These are surprisingly comfortable to wear during pregnancy and flattering too. And a crisp looking white button down shirt (long or short sleeve depending on the season) always looks sharp.

Host a Clothing Swap

If you’re fortunate enough to have lots of friends who have recently had babies or who have maternity clothing to get rid of (in your size!), then host a swap meet so you can snag some stuff for free. This has never happened to me, but I thought I would throw the suggestion out there!

Don’t Scrimp on Underwear

Once you’re in your second trimester, you might find that elastic is very irritating to your pregnancy-sensitive skin. At least, I do. Go ahead and splurge on very soft, stretchy maternity underwear and nursing bras. The bras will probably fit you after your baby is born if they’re stretchy enough. Right now I am loving Amon maternity nursing bras and underwear  (link goes to a review I wrote). They’re so comfortable, if I accidentally fall asleep in them I hardly notice.

There you have it. What are your favorite ways to stay cute during pregnancy and build a maternity wardrobe frugally?


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3 Responses to How To Build a Cute Maternity Wardrobe Frugally

  1. Carrie, I love how you always take it back to the basics. I have not been pregnant in a minute, and these tips sure are great. I would have never thought about using eBay to get maternity clothes. That is one for sure I will use in the future, when the time comes around again..

    Oh, and holding clothing swaps is always great. I remember when myself and two of my sister in laws were all pregnant back to back for almost three years straight, and we were constantly rotating clothes.

    That was a fun time.

  2. carrie says:

    That’s so cool, I’m jealous! I never had friends pregnant at the same time as me. :)

  3. Debbie says:

    I used yoga and stretch Capri’s from Walmart or Target then paired them with dressy tops that fit the breast area softly then flowed out under the breast line ( think it was called emperor cut sort of old world style yet classy that would be easier to use with breastfeeding after ) high cut waist was better for me because being a plus size most maternity clothes that fit me was way pricey. With the right accessories most were great for office an night out with hubby .

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