WASHINGTON, May 26, 2011 — While I was trying to budget how much money I would need for all the new baby gear, medical expenses and diapers, I stumbled across a figure that estimated I would also need $1,000 in maternity clothes.
Really? I thought to myself. Sure clothes can be pricey, but $1,000? Then I started checking the websites at maternity retailers and thought perhaps the estimate was a bit low.
A bit low, that is, if you plan on buying all new clothes that you’ll only wear a few months anyway.
The down side with maternity clothing is that it is a no-win situation. As your belly grows you’re going to need something to wear, but there’s no guarantee that on a future pregnancy you’ll be able to use the same pieces (nothing says summer like a cable-knit sweater, and bathing suits are perfect for playing in the snow).
So how do you reconcile your closet with your growing waistline and the changing of the seasons without taking money away from the baby budget?
Start With Your Closet, Then Your Friends’
The first thing I did was assess what I already owned. The skinny jeans and the tiny-tanks weren’t going to cut it, but the blousy shirts with the empire cut were perfect. Similarly, knee-length knit dresses had more give in their shape than their non-knit counterparts.
Cardigans got to keep their spot as they provided arm coverage while accommodating my bump by simply undoing a few buttons. Oversized t-shirts were perfect for wearing around the house, and draw-string pants, ranging from sweats to linen, were adjustable enough that I could keep them in my wardrobe.
This step in inventorying what you have is important so you can narrow down what you really need.
Once you’ve seen what you have and what you need, talk to your friends. They might have items they are willing to lend you that fit the bill, whether it’s over-sized sweaters to get you through that one cold month of your pregnancy or dresses galore. If you’re very lucky, they might even have maternity clothes of their own that they will let you use.
My family has a story of a red maternity dress that was passed around among my mother and all of my aunts for years. Maybe there is a similar outfit that is floating around your social circle.
Think About the Seasons
If you’re due in the winter and you start buying clothes in the summer, chances are you’re ahead of the game. Not only are the stores not going to be stocking winter fashions yet, but you probably can still fit into many of your regular clothes, or at least the shirts.
Buy a belly band to help mask unbuttoned pants while you can still fit into them, or wear longer shirts and use a rubber band threaded through the button hole and looped around the button for an even cheaper solution.
Just because you’re pregnant, doesn’t mean you have to wear maternity clothes. Wait until it makes sense to start making your purchases, and if you absolutely can’t wait to go shopping, check out maternity outlet stores first. They are likely to have out-of-season wear and it will most likely be discounted.
Think About Your Needs
If you work full time, most likely those comfy sweatpants that you can still wear won’t cut it. Think about how many outfits you need. Can you get by with three pairs of dress slacks, or does it have to be five? Have your growing breasts made your work shirts inappropriately tight, or can you wait until your belly catches up?
Do you own work appropriate flats, or are all your office shoes stilettos? If you have an office job that dictates a certain type of work apparel, you will probably have to spend a little more on your wardrobe than women who work at home or in more lax work environments.
But if you work at home, who would know if you spend your day in sweatpants?
When you do head out the door with your pocketbook in hand, start at the thrift shop. The selection is hit or miss. Some of my friends have had great success with this technique, being able to buy almost everything they needed second-hand and saving a ton.
I, on the other hand, had very limited success. I found a total of three pairs of maternity pants, and four shirts…I only purchased one of the shirts. Everything else was the wrong size.
From there check out discount retailers. Some places, like Target, have a separate maternity section, while others may not have pregnancy specific sections, but you can still find those over-sized t-shirts and empire-waisted knit dresses for a fraction of the price you would pay at a specialty store.
When you do finally make it to the maternity stores, start with the clearance racks. Most of this product will be last season, so it may not make sense for you to purchase from here, but you may stumble upon something that is just right. Also consider outlet stores. Old Navy, Ann Taylor, and The GAP, all of which do carry maternity clothes, as well as Motherhood Maternity have outlet stores that are clearing houses for product.
The prices are usually cheaper than in one of their regular stores, and frequently their selection is much broader than a normal clearance rack.
Stick With Basics
When you have exhausted your low-priced options and have to shell out big buck for clothes, stick with basics. Things like black slacks, khaki shorts, and jeans work with a lot more than those cute pedal-pushers with the colorful daisies scattered across them.
Using these tips I’ve kept my clothing budget in line. My belly starting bulging earlier than some, so I had to buy my first pair of maternity pants around week 10. I’m now into my third trimester and have spent only 10% of that projected clothing budget I had seen. I may have to buy one or two more pairs of shorts to get me through the hot months, but in the end, I’ll be able to take all that extra money I saved and put it where it belongs…into my daughter’s wardrobe.
Follow Brighid on Twitter at @BrighidMoret and receive updates on when new columns post on Facebook. Read more about first time parenting issues in Parenting the First Time Through at The Communities at The Washington Times.
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