A Mom’s Guide to Buying Maternity Wear Online

a mom typing on a laptop

Buying clothes was hard enough when you weren’t pregnant. Now, you’ve got an ever-expanding belly and achy feet to go along with. Buying things in stores is the last thing you want to do, so thank goodness for online shopping.

That said, there are a few things you need to know about buying maternity wear online before you make your first purchase.

A pregnant woman resting on a couch.Relax at home and do your maternity wear shopping online!

Taking your measurements

Theoretically, maternity sizes are equivalent to regular ones. If you’re a standard size 8, you should be the same in maternity wear.

However, every woman’s body reacts differently to pregnancy. Some gain a lot of weight in the hips and thighs, while others remain slim everywhere but the belly and breasts.

The key to finding the right fit is to know your body measurements. Even if you’re confident in your size, never go online clothes shopping without taking your measurements first. Fashion lines and clothing retailers don’t use a universal sizing chart, so a size 8 in one brand can be a size 14 in another. But inches and centimeters don’t change, so figure out your measurements, look at the outfit’s size chart and buy your clothes accordingly. Make sure the size you choose fits in every area – don’t buy a shirt that fits in the belly but is too small in the bust, for example.

What to measure

Your body looks very different when pregnant, so of course you measure in some different places. Get ready by running through the following checklist:

  • Make sure you have a note pad, tape measure and pen within reach.
  • Wear the same undergarments that you plan to wear under your clothes to ensure your purchases fit properly around the bust, hips, waist and thighs.
  • When taking measurements, stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Measure each part of your body (except for the inseam) straight across, keeping the measuring tape parallel to the floor.

Got all that? Good; here’s what and where to measure (you may need a partner to help!):

  • Bust: With your bra secure, measure around the fullest part of your breasts. Keep your arms down.
  • Empire: With your arms still down, measure right below your bust around the band of your bra.
  • Bump: Normally, you’d measure the smallest part of your waist. However, now there’s a tiny, growing person occupying that space, so measure the largest part of your belly instead.
  • Hips: Your bump is usually big enough to accommodate any gain in the hips, but if you want to be extra accurate, measure the widest part of this area.
  • Inseam: Your inseam shouldn’t change, but it’s a good idea to take this measurement if you’ve never done so before. With your feet flat on the ground, measure from your ankle to your pubic bone.

Not all maternity wear websites will list every one of these measurements in their size charts, but this list gives you enough guidance to confidently click that ‘Add item to cart’ button.

A pregnant woman taking notes on a clipboard.Know your measurements so you choose the right size.

Finding maternity outfits

Knowing your size is half the battle. Now, you need to figure out what outfits to buy. Maternity wear has a bad reputation; many women think their only options are empire-waist blouses and jeans with a three-inch elastic waistband. Thankfully, most department stores now realize that pregnant women want to look good, too, and have added cute maternity outfits to their floors. Try experimenting with bodycon maxi dresses, stretchy high-waist pencil skirts and cropped jackets. What’s more, there are options for every budget, from big box retailer to high-end department store.

Whatever you choose, just make sure to note the store’s return policy in case your order doesn’t look like you expected.

Breaking out your non-maternity wardrobe

Some women absolutely refuse to buy maternity clothes – and that’s perfectly fine! There are lots of ways to adapt your traditional outfits into baby-friendly wear.

  • Your favorite pair of jeans will need some extra room, so discreetly loop some elastic through the buttonhole.
  • Your belly will cause any short, stretchy dresses to sit higher. Why not wear them like tunics and throw on some leggings underneath?
  • Go through your closet and pull anything with a waistline below your bump, especially drop waists. These clothes will feel awkward and restrictive against your belly.
  • Avoid anything even the slightest bit uncomfortable. After a few hours of wear, an outfit that is just a bit too tight will become unbearable.

Ultimately, what matters most is that you feel completely comfortable in whatever maternity wear you choose.

Autumn Green is an artist-turned-writer who traded the sweet tea of the south for the deep dish pizza of Chicago. Her favorite subjects include art, culture, design, small business/entrepreneurship and healthful living.