Dear Boston Mamas: Maternity Clothes Shopping on a Budget

mighty-aphrodite.gifToday's Dear Boston Mamas question comes from CM via e-mail:

Dear Boston Mamas, I'm about halfway through my pregnancy and am in desperate need of maternity clothes, but I hate the thought of spending tons of money on clothes I'll only wear for a few months. Any sources of reasonably priced maternity clothes in the area that you'd recommend? Thanks!

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Dear CM,

I hear you! (I'm currently 21 weeks.) Here are my recommendations for approaching maternity clothes shopping on a budget:

1. Take inventory of what you have. Don't give up on your closet! Look for long stretchy tees, cardigans, and knit dresses that still fit during the second trimester. Having taken this approach, I've found that the only area where I really need maternity right now is pants. Point being, don't feel panicked that you need to buy everything right this minute. In the next couple of months you'll need maternity tops and dresses, but perhaps you can spread the spending out a bit.

2. Identify the necessities. Following point #1, you probably are in most dire need of pants to accommodate the belly, and perhaps items such as tights and leggings and a couple of work tops (e.g., to replace button downs or other fitted tops that no longer fit). Think about what you need most -- for example, are you working in an office? Things like black dress pants will probably be staples and thus items you might want to splurge a little more on (more on that below). Make a shopping list to keep you on task and avoid the overwhelm factor.

3. Hit up your friends. One thing I wouldn't be shy about is asking mom friends (or community parent lists to which you subscribe) for loaners. As it turns out, many of my friends are d.o.n.e. DONE in the baby department and have generously offered me lots of baby gear (handy, since I donated most of our wee things when I assumed my ovaries were dead). Borrowing maternity wear from friends can be a bit more challenging since your pool of options will diminish due to varying sizes and due date seasons, but even if you can score a few hand me downs from one or two friends, that will be a boon.

4. Start with bargain maternity shopping. Old Navy and Target are good places to start when shopping for new budget maternity wear. However, I definitely recommend shopping online -- buy everything that looks good to you, try it on at home, and return whatever doesn't work to the store (i.e., the credit card bill will only be painful at first). I recommend online shopping because: a) it's way easier, and b) I was just at Old Navy the other day and the in-store inventory was abysmal compared to the online offerings.

5. Consider maternity consignment. Another budget option is maternity consignment. Some consignment stores offer small maternity collections (call Second Time Around to see if any of their locations currently stock maternity; another option to check is The Little Fox at the Fox Library in Arlington). For better odds, a shop that I learned about this year but haven't had a chance to check out is Mighty Aphrodite in Salem. This store is entirely maternity consignment; it totally looks worth a drive northward (there are also some other baby/kid stores in that same area to sweeten the pot) -- I hope to head there when I hit the third trimester.

6. Shop sales at the pricier stores. Particularly if you need work/special event clothing, I recommend keeping an eye on the sale sections at the more expensive maternity shops. Ann Taylor Loft has more work/event oriented clothes; the price points are definitely higher than Target and Old Navy but periodically they run crazy good sales. Also, I picked up some great maternity dresses when I was pregnant with Laurel from A Pea in the Pod on Newbury Street -- all sale rack, marked down to totally reasonable prices (seriously, in one case $200 marked down to $40).

7. Consider a splurge or two. Now, I know the focus here is bargains, but if there are items that you know will be maternity wear workhorses for you, I would consider a splurge or two. My girlfriend Heidi passed along a fantastic pair of A Pea in the Pod black stretchy dress maternity pants. Miraculously, they feel as comfortable as jammie pants but there is no giant maternity panel -- so they fit now in transition, will sit under the belly as I get bigger, and do not fall off! Heidi said she spent a small fortune on those pants but clearly the quality was worth it -- the pants lasted her through many wears during two pregnancies and now I've already worn them several times for work events.

8. A note about coats. After posting this photo of a beautiful new (non-maternity) fall coat I bought (just in time to not be able to button up), I had several friends tell me to not bother investing in a maternity winter coat. In general, I consider coats a major expense -- and one that I tend to languish over considerably -- and was simply planning on wearing my regular winter coat this season with a big cozy scarf. Those emails reinforced that approach! However, of course, if you have a friend who wants to hand you down a maternity coat, by all means, enjoy buttoning it up!

I hope these tips are helpful! Good luck with your maternity shopping and if you find any other great leads, please comment back in!

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Image credit: Mighty Aphrodite

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Have a question for Christine? Drop her a line! And of course feel free to comment in if you have recommendations beyond those made above.