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Polished, Sharp, and Pregnant: 5 Tips for Maternity Workwear

July 02, 2016

Kelly Heuer is the Director of Communications at Georgetown University’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics and founding co-director of its affiliated innovation lab (she also holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and teaches barre classes on the side, no big deal). But superpowers aside, she—like many professional women—was initially flummoxed by maternity workwear options when she became pregnant with her son Kiran, now ten months old. Below, her maternity workwear guide for looking sharp and in charge through each trimester.

1. If pregnancy’s at all on your radar, consider investing in a few “first trimester friendly” pieces—even before you need them.

I never realized how figure-skimming my clothes were until the I-just-ate-a-burrito-or-two look of the first trimester struck. It’s important for women to be able share the news of their pregnancy on their own terms, especially at work, and most women prefer to keep it under wraps in the early weeks for a wide variety of reasons. However, many of us (especially second-time moms) start showing before we’re ready to make the announcement, and have to rely on dresses and tops cut a bit looser in the bust and waist to stay comfortable and discreet. Here’s the important part: I recommend buying (and wearing) a few of these pieces if pregnancy is on the horizon at all, because an abrupt change in clothing can send a signal. During my first trimester, I suddenly developed a uniform of billowy shirts, which had never been part of my repertoire—I’m short and pear-shaped, so I’ve always favored silhouettes that are fitted on top. When I finally told my boss, she was like, “I wondered, because you started wearing all these new clothes.” Luckily, I work in a very family-friendly environment, but for many women, there’s a very real concern that they’ll be passed over for a promotion or a project if their boss even begins to suspect anything. You have every right to retain the power over when to communicate your pregnancy, and a well-planned wardrobe can make all the difference. (Also, I still wear those billowy tops, even though I don’t have to anymore.)

2. You get to decide what constitutes “maternity wear”—have fun with it!

Once the news was out, I couldn’t wait to dress my expanding belly. I took to the internet… and was quickly floundering in a vast and terrifying sea of floral prints, babydoll waists, and tiny bows. Looking polished and professional helps me feel assertive and powerful in my role, and my workplace (and home city) is relatively conservative, so the majority of available maternity wear just wasn’t going to fly. If you’re in the same position, don’t give up hope! Check out maternity-friendly options from designers you already love (like MM.LaFleur), embrace accessories (see point number four), and remember: You’re pregnant, but you’re still you.

3. Keep in mind: comfortable base layer, structured outer layer.

It’s common, especially for first-time moms, to become incredibly sensitive to scratchy fabric and tags right around the start of the second trimester as our skin stretches. Pick up a few maternity-friendly basics in soft, stretchy fabric to establish a comfortable base layer (in my case, a T-shirt dress from Storq was my savior), and lean on sculptural outer layers like blazers and cardigans for structure and character. As my body grew softer and rounder, I found myself craving sharper lines and angles to offset all the curves; I basically lived in my Angelique jardigan, which always looks crisp and makes me feel like a badass.

4. Mix up your accessories, but keep your staples basic.

At a certain point—for me, it was toward the end of the second trimester—it’s easy to feel like you’ve been pregnant forever. And like you’ve been wearing the same stretchy black dress… forever. In the long run, of course, it’s a very short time, marked by radical transformations in your body from week to week, and it’s worth resisting the urge to plunk down $200 for another maternity dress. Instead, I coped with pregnancy fatigue by being more thoughtful about accessories. I played with higher heels and pointier toes, got some new earrings and scarves, and grew to love blazers. You’re all circles when you’re pregnant, and my accessories got more angular the farther along I got—it helped me feel powerful in how I presented myself.

5. The end of the third trimester is about survival.

Planning on working right up until your due date? It’s common practice among the career-focused (actually, among all of us in a country with parental leave policies like ours, but that’s another discussion). As you waddle down the hallway on your fifth trip to the ladies’ room before noon, back aching, wearing the only pair of shoes that still fits you and the same damn maxi dress you wore two days ago, remember: The end is near. Take baths, put your feet up, eat whatever sounds delicious (everything). You may feel like a frazzled whale, but you are a kickass professional about to perform a miracle, and you deserve nothing but respect.

Browse MM’s maternity-friendly designs here.

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Kelly Heuer, Ph.D is the director of communications at Georgetown University’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics, founding co-director of its affiliated innovation lab, and mom to Kiran, age 10 months. Read more of Kelly's posts.

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