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This post is part of a series on maternity wardrobe essentials and approaches to dressing for pregnancy. See the complete series.
I hate to break it to you: the first trimester is pretty much the no-(wo)man’s land of pregnancy dressing. As always, your mileage may vary, but depending on your particular circumstances, you may either fit into all your regular clothes the entire time, stop fitting into your pre-pregnancy wardrobe at the drop of a hat, or end up somewhere in the middle. Depending on what your symptoms are like, you may unfortunately find that the time you’d like to be spending saying a fond farewell to the contents of your closet is largely occupied wishing a fond farewell to the contents of your stomach, although that’s a slightly separate issue. As with most pregnancy dressing issues, the size and rate of your expanding bump (and other bits!), the particular way you’re carrying the pregnancy, your plans for spreading the news, and the size of your pre-pregnancy closet are all likely to be huge factors in what your experience is like. That said, here are a few of my favorite looks and strategies from my first trimester:
A little perspective: before and after
The photo on the left was taken a few hours before I found out I was pregnant, and the one on the right was taken (depending on which way you count) at the end of my first trimester or the beginning of my second (hah! and I thought I looked pregnant then. Oh, that’s just hilarious).
Jersey: Pregnancy’s MVP
This isn’t trimester-specific or earth-shattering advice, but matte jersey is a pregnant lady’s best friend. I wore variations on my beloved black jersey dress at least twice a week throughout my first trimester (sorry, folks, I know that was kind of boring!). Because it was the middle of winter, I was able to take advantage of the end of tights season to mask the inching-upwards of my hemline as my waistband expanded. Because I’d like to wear it again someday, I stopped wearing it once my bump expanded in earnest, which conveniently coincided with the weather getting to be warm enough that I couldn’t wear the dress without tights anymore.
Embracing Draping and Structure: When in Doubt, Cover it Up
This is more of the oldest pregnancy style advice in the book, but it’s advice I’m hesitant about giving because I hated hearing it. That said, the conventional wisdom is that structured or draped pieces that don’t hug your blossoming curves too tightly are your friend when you’re trying to keep your good news a secret and avoid that awkward, bloated, is-she-or-isn’t-she look. I will let you in on a secret, though: while it may seem to you like it’s unbelievably obvious that you’re not alone in there, there’s a decent chance (under a wide variety of circumstances) that (a) it isn’t and (b) most people are too polite to say anything anyway. While this strategy definitely works well for keeping things under wraps in some circumstances, your mileage may vary: I’ve had some friends say that the switch from a more body-conscious style to flowier, drapier looks was a dead giveaway that something was up. It might also just make you feel a little bit uncomfortable and/or be financially unfeasible: if it just isn’t your style and you don’t own anything in this genre, it’s likely to be more trouble than it’s worth.
WMDs: Weapons of Mass Distraction
Whether or not you’re much for the blousy-top-half look in general, it’s hard not to be enthralled by the magic of a well-placed scarf in your first trimester. I was fortunate that my first trimester took place in the dead of winter in this regard, but a silk scarf that adds texture and color but not necessarily a lot of warmth would have done just as well in the warmer months. Draped appropriately, scarves cover all manner of sins, from the bloated-but-not-obviously-pregnant-looking midsection to, in my case, the alarming rate of my, er, chest expansion. Scarves are also a great way to add contrast, polish and put-together-ness to an otherwise easy-to-wear outfit on those days when you’re spending more time worshipping the porcelain god than the ghost of CoCo Chanel.
Alternative Belting Strategies
From fairly early on, I had a hard time wearing “real” belts: for whatever reason, they just felt like too much pressure on my midsection, and seemed to exasperate all of my gastrointestinal malaise (and no, I have no idea if this is, scientifically, a real thing). In an attempt to define my (shifting) waistline, I moved towards alternative belting strategies, including scarves and softer fabric belts. It helped me keep the look of a nipped in waist (which helped me keep my secret secret), even as my waist got progressively less nipped-in over time.
Say Goodbye—and Have a Little Fun
For many—if not most—pregnant women, the first trimester is a kind of farewell tour of your pre-pregnancy closet, a last chance to wear some things that you won’t see again for a while (and may wonder if you’ll ever see again). While it’s important—psychologically and fiscally!—to try to keep your pre-pregnancy staples functioning in your wardrobe as long as you can, this long goodbye can also represent the start of one of the most fun aspects of the experience of dressing a pregnant body: the sheer experimental goofiness of it. While pregnancy has brought me in closer touch with my body than I’ve ever been before, there’s also a hilarious sense in which this body feels borrowed and feels less attached to the essential “me” (whatever that is!) than my “normal” body. As a result, I’m a little more freewheeling and experimental with what I’m willing to wear, and that process really started during my first trimester. This outfit, for example, looked completely ridiculous on me, and I think D.’s eyes may have actually bugged out of his head when he saw me come down the stairs in it that morning, but it represented an attempt to have a little fun with the total unfamiliarity of my eight-weeks-pregnant body, out of control chest and all.
Be honest: how long did my fake-outs work? Pregnant or recently-pregnant readers: what were your best strategies for dressing through the first trimester?
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