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Office Dressing For Pregnancy

By Stacey Gillies

Pregnancy is an exciting time of our lives, but how do you manage this period of change – specifically the change in your body shape while maintaining your style/image in the corporate environment?

What Challenges do Women Worry About at the Start of Pregnancy?

When I became pregnant, my thoughts were around how I could dress to keep my style and complement my body shape in the corporate environment and outside of work.  I knew I didn’t want to go out and buy specialty ‘maternity’ clothing because what I’d seen available in local stores just wasn’t my style or taste. This period of my life was a chance for me to explore different ways to dress my body shape.

I am an avid viewer of Pinterest so using this was helpful to see how others styled their bodies, in particular women who had a similar shape to me. Most importantly, however, I realised you need to have a good understanding of your own body shape first – without this, you really are taking a punt.

Fit for Support

Having had a reasonable sized chest prior to pregnancy I knew that in order not to look frumpy, I needed to wear predominantly fitted pieces to flatter my growing curves.  I was lucky that my bump didn’t show until around six months.  However, three months in, I got myself fitted with a good supportive t-shirt bra which I am still wearing now at nine months. It makes such a difference to your shape once you have your chest lifted and supported. No skimpy, delicate bras can do this. I also wasn’t keen on going straight to a maternity bra before I needed to, mainly due to the lack of shape they provide.

Next priority was to sort out my underwear.  Small skimpy knickers were just not cutting it – (rather cutting in!), as I slowly widened in the hip area. Shape underwear works wonders – I purchased a couple of pairs of the high-waisted/cycle pant-style in nude, a few sizes larger than I normally wear (so that there wasn’t too much pressure on my stomach). These are a must under any fitted top/dress/skirt/pants.  They sit over your bump and ensure there is no muffin effect and can be worn post pregnancy.

Don’t Float (too much)

Floaty dresses and tunics might be comfortable, but visually they do nothing for your shape – unless of course you are petite. If you are going to go loose on the bottom with pants or a skirt then ensure you have a fitted or structured top as this helps to balance you out, and vice versa for the top. A floaty dress can be belted either under or above your bump to highlight your shape.

Figure-Hugging Fabric

Personally, I wanted to embrace the fact I was pregnant and there is no better time when you can trial figure-hugging pieces. A key thing I look for is the type of fabric used. Of course stretch is best when it comes to fitted items, but you do need to watch the thickness of the fabric. A flimsy knit will only highlight your problem areas and can look cheap, so you need to look for the thicker stronger fabrics that contain cotton, elastane and/or nylon. Tube skirts can sit over your bump when you get bigger (or under if you prefer). They are extremely versatile by adding heels and a blazer for work, or add sneakers for a causal look.  

What You Found to be the Real Issue in the End?

The issue of dressing well through your pregnancy is that in New Zealand we are limited in our shopping options. ASOS.com has a vast range of maternity styles that are affordable and stylish for both work and play. There are some lovely pieces by US stores Hatch Collection, Isabella Oliver and Storq, if you are willing to spend upwards of $NZ 200 on an item.

Another real challenge is formal wear – I have an awards evening to attend in the next week and there are no stylish options available for this type of thing in Auckland. Once again I have gone to ASOS to find something appropriate and at a reasonable price point.

This is where engaging a stylist can help by offering neutral advice and to provide recommendations of where to shop/what to buy.

What Clothes and Styles in Your Wardrobe Worked Throughout?

I have managed to wear most of my pre-pregnancy clothes throughout – blazers, pants and skirts (specifically those with elasticated waists), stretch/tube skirts and dresses. I struggled to wear shirts as my chest only pulls and gapes at the buttons and they are just not long enough to cover my bump. Long cotton t-shirts and singlets work well as long as they are finished off with a blazer or jacket. It does depend on what time of the year you are pregnant – I have gone right through the summer months so haven’t needed to worry about trousers or jumpers/knits.

Accessories – these should always be a part of your wardrobe pregnant or not. They finish an outfit, and add colour and uniqueness.

Heels – if you can, I would continue to wear your heels in the office, changing into flats for your journey to and from. Personally I found that wearing my heels helped balance out my growing front.

What You Will Never be Able to Wear Again Outside Late Pregnancy?

I have tried to wear a mix of styles over the past nine months so I don’t have anything specific that I won’t be wearing afterwards, apart from maybe a stretchy singlet or two.

Your Top Tips for Pregnancy in the Office?

  • High waisted underwear/Shapewear
  • Well fitted bra
  • Tube/stretch skirts or dresses, containing elastane, lycra stretch
  • Skater-style or empire line dresses
  • Heels
  • If wearing a dress, belt it if loose, either under or over your bump to create a sense of shape. The smallest part of your body is above your bump, under your chest; if you can draw this in, your shape will emerge.
  • V or scoop necks work as your chest grows – but don’t go so low that your cleavage becomes an issue
  • Blazers and cropped jackets
  • Accessories

How Can we Best Deal With Our Post-Baby Body Shape?

In terms of dressing for the time directly after your baby, you can stay with the elasticated waists of pants and skirts (worn high-waisted rather than low-riding if you’ve had a C-section and need to avoid the area). Your tops will need to change if you are breastfeeding and I would suggest shirts or blouses that you can easily undo. There are some funky plaid shirts around this season and these can be worn with maternity jeans or maternity leggings with boots for winter. It really depends on how quickly your body shape returns as to what is going to work for you.

The bras you will be wearing will be maternity style so investing in some comfortable yet supportive options will help keep your chest in shape.

Shape underwear is still a key item after your baby is born as your stomach muscles will have lost some tone. They will help you feel better about your shape as you transition back to your old body and help reduce any lumps and bumps you might want to hide as you get back into your pre pregnancy wardrobe.

Overall, What is Your Experience in the Workplace?

Do you find people cut pregnant women some slack in the professionalism they bring to their dress?  Or do we not need to compromise if we follow your tips? Personally, I don’t see why women should fall into the trap of wearing slouchy clothes in the work place. This is a time when you can test different styles out on a body shape you’ve never had before. Flat shoes, wide legged/baggy pants and loose tops do not make for a professional and stylish ensemble. I can easily say I have had more compliments on my dress during my pregnancy than I did before. I’ve tried to work with my existing wardrobe and have only added a few new pieces to get me through this time of life.

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