I was standing over my suitcase, wondering if I could get away with an elastic waistband at the Chanel show; thankfully, comfortable shoes like sneakers and block heels were still a fashion thing, not just a "me thing" for my increasingly uncoordinated body and shifting center of gravity. I was five months pregnant, figuring out how to pack for my first Paris Fashion Week and, simultaneously, how to clothe a sprouting bump for the first time. I thought about my options, what I'd seen out there in the maternity market, and mostly it made me cringe.
Now, I think about packing for the shows three months ago and laugh. My bump has more than doubled in size (my pregnancy app tells me the baby is about the size of a coconut now, but it feels more like the Berenstain Bears' "prized pumpkin" is stuffed in there), though the clothes I picked strategically to feel "chic" in Paris are still some of the pieces I wear on repeat and will continue to, god willing. But aside from just a couple of necessities, none are actually maternity clothes.
As someone who loves fashion, I wanted my "maternity style" to just be my style. I hated the awkward ruched shirts with expandable seams and over-the-belly or side-paneled bands touted as "stylish," functional pregnancy clothes. They mostly came in neutrals — lots of black jersey dresses and leggings — that made me sad and looked so plain, like something for women mourning the loss of their individual style.
I vowed instead to shop regular women's collections as long as I could, sizing up but not surrendering to a look that made me feel resigned to — not celebratory about — dressing this bump. The only concession: maternity jeans (Madewell's look like regular jeans and feel amazing on, and Paige makes some pretty decent preggo denim, too). The rest I pulled from H&M, Zara, and some affordable lines on Shopbop: a collection of both body-con knit dresses with plenty of stretch, tunics, and flowing silhouettes to pair with the shoes and jackets I have and love. Some pieces I already owned worked well, too — a ruffled dress from Rebecca Taylor I wore religiously in my first and second trimesters (first, to conceal the tiny bump from coworkers), and anything with an empire waist.
Here's the thing about pregnancy: of course I noticed my body changing a lot, but does it have to mean a total upheaval of what you want to wear? Dealing with the emotional and hormonal challenges that come constantly for 40 weeks is enough to make any woman question her sanity. It's uncomfortable and weird, and your body does some truly crazy (and, yes, amazing) things you can't prepare for, so if part of holding on to my sense of self means holding on to my sense of style, I'm not going to let being pregnant challenge something as basic as waking up and putting on whatever I feel like wearing. As long as it fits comfortably, who says it has to be made exclusively for pregnant bellies?
Call it superficial, sure, but deciding what to wear has brought me joy for most of my life, and I thought dressing the bump should be joyful, too. This is what I've learned and the outfits I've loved, coming into the home stretch of my pregnancy — no maternity spanx or jeggings included.