Your world -- and tummy -- are expanding to allow for the birth of a new baby. Whether you're having your first baby -- or your fifth -- your joys and worries are the same as everyone else's: Is the baby healthy?
Jessica Penn

Your world -- and tummy -- are expanding to allow for the birth of a new baby. Whether you're having your first baby -- or your fifth -- your joys and worries are the same as everyone else's: Is the baby healthy? What will I name him (or her)? Will I ever get over my morning sickness? And of course -- what the heck am I going to wear? Don't break your budget
You may not want to spend a fortune on maternity clothes. And you don't have to. Carefully chosen necessities can see you through from conception to birth and beyond, with your bank account still intact. In this article, the focus is on building a "bare necessities maternity clothing survival kit" that provides you with flexibility for every stage of your pregnancy.

We begin with an underlying message about maternity lingerie. You'll need some. This shouldn't be too troublesome as underwear needs to be replaced in regular intervals whether you're pregnant or not. As your baby grows and your body follows suit, you will need to retire undies as you outgrow them. So, a proper maternity bra and panties are non-negotiable in the survival kit.

In your final months of pregnancy, you'll want to consider purchasing nursing bras that will do double duty when baby arrives. Don't be worried if your breasts (and bra size) increase in the final eight weeks of pregnancy. Nursing bras bought during this period means that you'll have a variety of bras to choose from when your breast size naturally changes in the first few months following your baby's birth.

Now, we move into some of the more digressional, but still basic, items. Top of the list is a comfortable pair of maternity jeans, or overalls, if you prefer. You'll live in these on weekends and evenings. With elastic/expandable belly panels or today's trendy low-rise maternity waistbands with stretch, one pair of jeans should do for the entire pregnancy. You should also consider several tops or T-shirts as part of the basic weekend and evening collection, along with a track suit (and possibly maternity swimwear) to help keep you active throughout your pregnancy.

There, with just a few purchases you're set to go a lot of places -- or to relax at home.

Work wardrobe
Those of you who work outside the home will want to consider purchasing a number of maternity career basics that you can mix and match.

Since there are five work days a week, you'll want your mix-and-match collection to add up to five outfits. Consider a maternity skirt and a pair of maternity dress slacks in basic black, along with a couple of blazers or dressy cardigan sweaters. (Your regular-size blazers will likely fit for much of your pregnancy if you don't button them up.) These career basics, combined with some dressy blouses and maternity tops, will take you to business meetings in fine form. Just don't forget to pick pieces that "layer" so you can cool down easily during those "maternity hot flashes." And comfortable shoes are a must.

A dress for special occasions
Lastly, you may wish to purchase one maternity dress for special occasions. From flirty sundresses to formal strapless gowns, there's something to be found for every event-even maternity wedding dresses and bridesmaid dresses.

Accessories such as scarves, earrings and brooches add flair, and since they are already in your wardrobe, they are inexpensive ways to dress up any basic outfit. And if you're not sure what to choose, you can't go wrong with a basic black dress dressed up with your best earrings or pearls.

There you have it: a handful of maternity outfits designed to help you look great while keeping your finances in check.

Dressing stylishly for every trimester
The difficult phases of maternity shopping include the first trimester -- when your body isn't quite large enough for most maternity clothes -- and the post-pregnancy period when your body isn't quite back to its normal size. For many maternity clothes shoppers, this can be a frustrating time. The key to dressing comfortably is to pick a few pieces that will grow (or shrink) with you.

Some things to remember when shopping for transitional maternity clothing:

  • Consider stretch clothing. Maternity loungewear (including sweat pants, T-shirts, jackets) as well as jeans that grow with your body, are good choices for the body that needs a bit of "wiggle room."

  • Keep your lifestyle in mind. If you're a casual type, invest in a few smaller casual maternity pieces to suit you for the end of your first trimester as well as your post-pregnancy period. Spend your money on items that will suit your everyday tasks.

  • Maternity blouses and maternity dresses that wrap are good choices since you can "wrap" them to suit your growing (or shrinking) abdomen.

  • Treat yourself to something nice. Remember to look good when you're expecting, no matter what phase of pregnancy you're in. It's the first step toward feeling good.

    The second pregnancy trimester is when many women feel their most attractive -- the baby in your tummy is starting to show itself, and you want to show it off! Don't worry about playing it safe during your second trimester -- the key to looking great is a daring attitude.

    Pregnancy is widely celebrated these days. In fact, in many fashion and celebrity magazines the trend is toward form-fitting maternity clothing designed to be ultra sexy. If you're style is more demure, though, don't try and dress differently than you normally would. The key to pregnancy fashion -- and fashion in general -- is to be at ease with your style. The biggest ingredient to looking great is -- you guessed it -- confidence.

    In your third trimester of pregnancy, you'll find that many of the maternity clothes you bought earlier in your pregnancy actually look better, with your growing stomach creating a better "fit."

    Now is the time to focus on feeling your best. There's no need to hide under shapeless T-shirts from your husband's side of the closet. When it comes to dressing for optimum attractiveness, the rules are the same whether you're pregnant or not-properly fitted, body skimming outfits make you look trimmer than baggy, formless fashions.

    Maternity clothing in the third trimester is important for another important reason -- comfort. Are your bra straps cutting into your shoulders? Is the fabric of your clothing breathable and cool? Are you dressing in "layers" designed to keep you the proper temperature? It's important to keep yourself, and your baby, as comfortable as you can.

    Sizing things up properly
    For many women shopping for maternity wear, figuring out the proper size can be confusing.

    The simple truth is that maternity clothing is not sized much differently than pre-pregnancy clothing. There's no trick, really. Just know your pre-pregnancy size when placing your maternity clothing order.

    Your pre-pregnancy size
    Petite = 2-4*
    Small = 4-6
    Medium = 8-10
    Large = 12-14
    X-Large = 14-16

    * Petite sizes are roughly 1 1/2 inches shorter, on average, than a regular "Small" size.

    Whatever category you fit into, pre-pregnancy, determines the size of maternity clothes you'll need to order. If you're normally size 10, or medium, order the corresponding maternity clothes in the same size. And remember, when in doubt, order one size up. It's that simple.

    Guidelines to stylish maternity dressing
    Dress in the same daring styles you would normally. Experiment with the exciting new maternity fashions available to today's pregnant woman. Don't be afraid to show off your new shape. And most importantly, consider comfort in your clothing. If you follow these rules you're guaranteed to spend your pregnancy months living with style and ease!

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