When January came around and with it the positive results from my 12-week scan, I was inordinately excited about the thought of replenishing my wardrobe after months of wearing leggings. I imagined the perfect capsule collection of stylish yummy mummy-to-be wear, in tasteful colours and quality fabrics.
My attempts to channel the Duchess of Cambridge have failed miserably. I adore bargains and became quite overwhelmed by the exciting January sales. A long sleeved nursing top which will be wholly inappropriate in summer but is only £5? Kerching! A grey jumper which again, will be too warm for summer and is equally pointless now as my bump won’t be properly big until spring, but is only £8? Into the shopping basket it goes! Apart from these indulgences, I did try very hard to rein myself in, and even forwent some fantastic “Grandpa” style cosy wraparound jumpers that were something like £10 reduced from £50. I already have non-maternity equivalents of said jumpers which fit me perfectly… and should still fit by the time it gets too warm to wear them!
I also had to change my shopping habits: as someone who actually enjoys browsing round clothes racks and trying items on, even in Primark, I have begun to discover the pleasure of online ordering. I would still prefer to see the clothes first, but there doesn’t seem to be much close by and I don’t have the energy at the moment for a trip to Westfield or Oxford Street. My local shops are usually brilliant but in terms of maternity wear, the only options I’ve found have been a small and ridiculously overpriced section of Debenhams and a JoJo Maman Bebe.
My top 3 favourite shops so far have been, in descending order:
3. JoJo Maman Bebe/Mothercare/Mamas & Papas.
I have grouped these together as I feel like I haven’t purchased enough to really make a judgement and be able to objectively distinguish between them. However, here goes:
JoJo is best for: good quality clothes and bargains in the sales. I have bought three long-sleeved tops in pretty patterns, and a stretchy wrap dress (in one of the same patterns) that will surely have many different functions. Yes, they may be a bit warm for the summer months, but my reasoning goes that (a) I can wear them in spring and autumn and (b) are our summers really that hot anyway?! Sadly nothing I bought is still available – I guess everything was snapped up in the sales.
JoJo is worst for: I find the full-priced things quite expensive for what they are. However, if you need smart workwear then I expect it’s worth it. There’s also a fairly limited range of clothes so you might end up repeating patterns more than you might like, as I did with my patterned top/dress.
Mothercare is best for: I love my jeans from here. Haven’t bought much else.
Mothercare is worst for: I’m not sure what you’d buy here that you couldn’t get for cheaper from New Look. Even the jeans are cheaper at New Look (and for all I know, they are better there, but I’m happy with the ones I have and can’t be bothered to shop around any more!)
Mamas & Papas is best for: like JoJo, they sell good quality clothes and quite a few different statement pieces. I bought a couple of tops from here (Elly has one of them too). I also got some jeans but prefer the Mothercare ones. Sales aside, they do some good deals as well such as 3 for 2 on various tops.
Mamas & Papas is worst for: like JoJo, I think the full-priced things are a bit much for clothes you are only going to wear for a limited time. But different people have different budgets!
2. Charity Shops.
I have hardly seen any actual maternity clothes in regular charity shops (Fara Kids is another matter!) However, what I have found so far are two summer skirts with stretchy waistbands and two cosy outerwear items (one poncho and one grey woollen wrap thing) that I wear now my coat is a bit tight. Also, a couple of cardigans that I hope drape the bump in a flattering way!
Best for: unique finds that might not necessarily be maternity wear but could still work. If it turns out they don’t look so great after all, you’ve only spent a few pounds which went to charity anyway and you can always re-donate! Also, when the time comes, they’re great for baby things.
Worst for: I don’t think there’s any downside to exploring charity shops, but I guess if you have an aversion to second-hand clothes, musty smells and the effort of trawling through rails of randomly sized clothes, you might be better off sticking at what you feel comfortable with.
1. New Look.
I liked New Look a lot before I was pregnant but now I love it even more. If you can get past the cringeworthy Hands off the Bump t-shirts and in my opinion overpriced Mamalicious range, you can find some real gems. I have stocked up on their cotton shoestring vests in every colour (£3.49 each), a few cotton t-shirts and longer-sleeved tops. I also found a couple of light jumpers which will be perfect for spring if it ever arrives, and a navy blue polka dot dress. This was also where I bought the aforementioned grey jumper that was a bit silly, but I have actually worn it a few times!
Best for: basic tops in a rainbow of colours and prints. Also the occasional bargain such as a jumper or dress. I haven’t bought any trousers from here but it looks like they have a wide and reasonably priced range.
Worst for: corny t-shirts, unless you like that kind of thing. Also, watch out for things made of polyester and acrylic. A pregnant lady is hot enough without the added sweat from synthetic fabrics!
Two shops I haven’t discussed so far are TopShop and Gap. For Christmas my Mum gave me a lovely cotton maternity dress from TopShop, which I love and have worn several times already. Mine’s burgundy but here’s the black version. However, I haven’t bought anything else from here yet. On a recent visit to the store at Oxford Circus (ok… I do go there occasionally!) I noticed the pretty, delicate nursing bras. Obviously it would be pointless buying any now as I have no idea what size my chest will be by then (I dread to think!) but I will remember these. As for Gap, I did buy a denim skirt and jeans from here in the sales, but haven’t been overly impressed by them nor inspired to buy anything else from their range yet.
Finally, a shop I have not purchased from:
H&M. While visiting my pregnant Dutch friend last year I was amazed and impressed by the huge delivery box from H&M that arrived while I was there. I thought the clothes were lovely and at the time decided confidently, “if/when I get pregnant, I will buy EVERYTHING from H&M!” Fast forward a few months and I’ve been disappointed by their range, online anyway – I don’t know if more is available in the stores. I had a desultory look around and considered purchasing some basic items, but thought I’d better check out New Look first. I haven’t looked back since then!