Why having a baby doesn't mean you can't be fashionable as well
Research shows that pregnant women often feel frumpy, but it doesn't have to be so. Lisa Salmon asks a maternity fashion expert how to look good while expecting a child
As your bump - and you - grow during pregnancy, it's easy to feel increasingly unfashionable. Indeed, research suggests seven out of 10 mums-to-be think they look frumpy while expecting, and nearly a quarter feel "unsexy and shapeless", with most really missing the skinny jeans they can't get into any more.
The research, commissioned by London shopping destination Canary Wharf, also found that knowing what to wear for a changing body shape was a challenge for more than three quarters of mums-to-be.
For four in 10 expectant mums, the answer to their sartorial woes was to buy clothes several sizes too big, hiding their expanding waistlines under baggy tops and bottoms. Meanwhile, nearly a quarter admitted they even wore clothes resembling a tent.
Just a fifth of women opted for specially designed maternity wear to complement their changing figure, while the majority (81%) admitted to reaching for the same clothes while they were expecting, and a third repeatedly recycled just three outfits.
The research also revealed anxieties over maternity wear are highest before social events - more than a third of mums remember panicking about dressing for a special occasion. A night out with friends (32%) and weddings (30%) proved to be the most troublesome.
But it doesn't need to be this way. The Duchess of Cambridge has looked fantastic throughout her pregnancy. Yes, she'll have plenty of people to give her style advice whenever she needs it - but her beautiful bump looks show what is possible.
Maternity fashion expert Laura Tenison, founder of the mother and baby brand JoJo Maman Bebe, has lots of tips to help women stay stylish during pregnancy. She advises:
1. Buy your usual size
Some pregnant women may feel like they can get away with buying regular clothes in bigger sizes to accommodate a growing bump and bust. However, this means that the back, arms and shoulders will also be larger and won't fit properly, making you look bigger than you actually are. Maternity clothes are designed to fit your frame but with extra room to accommodate a bump and bigger boobs, meaning all you need to do is buy your normal size.
2. Choose natural fibres
No one wants to be clad in top-to-toe polyester at this time of year, especially when there's a baby on board. Light, natural fabrics like linen and cotton are ideal because they allow the skin to breathe. Synthetic fabrics form a barrier against the skin, creating a kind of 'greenhouse effect that can cause you to overheat. For the office, choose cool cotton shirts in light-reflecting white for a smart and simple look. Cotton camisoles are easy to wear and are great for taking you from desk to dinner.
3. Invest in a suit
If you need to look very smart, a well-cut maternity suit is a good investment. Choose a neutral colour and jazz it up with accessories and colour-pop tops. You might find a skirt more comfortable than trousers, because they often adapt better with your changing shape.
4. Look for adaptable styles
It's all about quality rather than quantity when it comes to a maternity wardrobe. Look for styles that can expand and retract and are able to last for most of your pregnancy and even a few months after the birth. Remember, all you need is a few key pieces - just make sure they're they highest quality you can afford because you might find yourself wearing them solidly for six months. Also keep your eyes peeled for drawstring waists, empire lines and wrap tops, which can be used for nursing after the birth too.
5. Wear supportive underwear
Getting measured for a bra is extra-important during pregnancy. Not only does it mean your changing bust is fully supported, but whether pregnant or not, it's amazing what well-fitting underwear can do for your appearance - giving your confidence a boost when you need it most.
6. Work with a colour palette
When you're buying maternity clothes, stick to complementary colours - this will save you time and money. For example, if you base your maternity wardrobe around earthy tones, you'll find you can very easily mix and match all your separates, meaning less panic in the morning when you're looking for something to wear.
7. Buy a few handy extenders
There are lots of clever little gadgets available to help you get the most out of your existing clothes. If you can still get into your skinny jeans but can't do them up - and you're not ready for maternity clothes just yet - a bump band is essential. Similarly, if your bra still fits in the cups but your rib cage has expanded, a simple bra extender will save you having to splash out on more maternity underwear.