In a world that revolves around fast fashion it can seem “revolutionary” not to participate. My Facebook and Instagram are currently littered with maternity clothing advertisements. Each one at shamefully low prices with captions such as “save 20% on cute tees”. They are stylish and affordable, but all fast fashion comes with a hidden cost. The documentary The True Cost breaks down the environmental toll and human rights violations created by the fast fashion industry. If you are curious the impact of one single item, check out our blog post discussing the environmental toll of one shirt. From the production to the landfill emissions, the clothing we wear affects the planet and the people who made them. The good news is, there are ways to be part of the solution: buy less, buy used, swap, share, and borrow.
“The world now consumes about 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year”-The True Cost Movie
Maternity fashion is a short lived season. The first few months are generally spent in our pre-pregnancy clothing. Often feeling a little bloated and uncomfortable and gradually we transition into the adorable bump hugging maternity jeans and tops. We spend a maximum of 6 months in maternity clothing before transitioning into the frequently dreaded phase of postpartum clothing. Not to say everyone finds this stage awkward but I sure did. My pre-pregnancy clothing didn’t fit right. I also had to think about being able to nurse my daughter in any outfit I chose.
Luckily, there are plenty of tips and tricks to both maternity wear and nursing clothes that won’t hurt your budget or the planet. If you are starting from scratch when it comes to maternity and nursing wear, or even if this isn’t your first pregnancy, there are so many alternatives to buying new! A maternity and nursing wardrobe doesn’t have to harm the planet and it doesn’t have to break the bank.
Start with what you have
It is no secret, the most sustainable item is one you already own. It’s also the cheapest! In the first few months often times we can make do with clothes we already own. Simple tricks such as looser tops, leggings and oversized sweaters work wonders. There’s also the belly band or tank top to cover the gap in unbuttoned pants. You’d be surprised how long you can wear your current clothing without it looking I’ll-fitting. In fact I found the maternity style tops with ruched sides don’t fit right until my bump got to a noticeable size.
Borrow what you can
If you have any family of friends who recently had a baby or even have younger children ask if they would be willing to lend or sell you some of their maternity items. It’s likely they are stored deep in a closet in a bag. It is even more likely that said person is happy to share their maternity clothes if they hadn’t offered already. They aren’t flattering on non-pregnant people and have a fairly limited usage time frame. I was lucky, Earth Mama Clarrissa gave me so much for my first pregnancy I didn’t need to acquire much more.
Source out second hand
If you don’t have anyone to borrow or buy from its still relatively easy to source out items second hand. I needed a few jeans and work pants. The jeans (pictured above) I found at my local thrift shop for a total of $22. Dress pants I was able to find on a local buy/sell site and paid $10 per pair. They are all in great condition and I will be passing along once I no longer need.
An added bonus of maternity clothing is it’s stretchy. All of it. Which means exact sizing isn’t really a thing. Obviously an XS varies from a L, but in most cases I find things fit. Maternity clothes seem to be all over local buy/sell sites and are also popular at clothing swaps and swap meets. Again, no one needs them for that long and they don’t serve a purpose after baby arrives. Therefore they are usually in great condition and are just taking up storage space: perfect clothing to resell, donate or share!
Something to consider for those who live in very harsh climates such as myself, instead of purchasing a maternity jacket you can buy an insert for your existing jacket that will give your belly some room. I have seen many available second hand on local buy/sell sites. I have also seen plenty of maternity jackets second hand in thrift stores and for sale by individuals. Or, you can skip the maternity jacket all together and borrow your husbands like I did first time around.
Less is more. The more you buy, the more you ultimately have to store, re-home or (gasp…throw away) after your pregnancy. According to The True cost movie the average American throws away 82 lbs of textiles each year. Which means, less is best. I read a really interesting blog years ago that made a compelling argument to own less clothing and only keep what you wear often, as no one truly notices what we wear and we feel best in what we love. This stuck with me, and has minimized my wardrobe as well as that feeling to buy more. If you want more tips on reducing your overall closet size and spending, check out our blog post on reducing your fashion footprint.
Many items you already own will accessorize your maternity look, and as previously stated much can be worn throughout (or for a while anyway). A couple pairs of pants, a few tanks, tees and nice blouses will go a long way. If you live in a warmer climate you could invest in maternity shorts, though I just used a belly band or tank top to cover the unzipped zipper.
If you are truly a less is more person, you could make a capsule closet. Not sure what a capsule closet is? Essentially it’s a minimal wardrobe that contains a few key pieces that can be mixed and matched to create a variety of outfits. They key is choosing neutral colors and solids to maximize what can be paired together. I took a picture of what my essentials are (above) and wrote out below what one might look like.
Spaghetti Strap Tank Tops
Stretchy tank tops with spaghetti straps made so many of my existing clothes wearable both during pregnancy and postpartum. If you are to buy anything, I suggest it is a few of these in black, grey, white or neutral tones. Tanks serve as a great way to cover pant zippers or buttons that aren’t in their usual place. They also make certain non maternity sweaters or blouses wearable by covering the bump underneath.
These were a must have item postpartum as they were most useful for nursing. Thanks to a few of these tank tops I don’t own a single nursing top. I don’t see the point, they are another short lived fashion item. Unlike maternity wear that replaces clothing that doesn’t fit us, nursing tops don’t serve much of a purpose other than (maybe) making nursing slightly easier.
However, if you have shirts that can be pulled up you can easily wear a tank top underneath and create the same effect. The tanktop is easy to pull down if you slip the strap off your shoulder and it covers your back and belly. The regular shirt you wear overtop covers your top half giving the same pull apart effect as a nursing shirt. I was able to wear (almost all) of my pre-pregnancy tops over a tank top the entire year I nursed my daughter. I say almost because the odd top wasn’t stretchy and didn’t lend itself well to the pull up/pull down method.
Scarves & Receiving Blankets
If you prefer a little more privacy while nursing no need to buy a fancy nursing cover. Scarves are not only cute accessories, they make great nursing covers. As do swaddle/receiving blankets, which were never out of reach when I was breastfeeding. They are the ultimate baby item, check out our blog on different uses for swaddles.
Invest in Reusable Nursing Pads
Though these aren’t technically a clothing item, many new moms wear the daily. This may sound silly but I didn’t know there were disposable nursing pads until I received some in a SWAG bag at my breastfeeding class. They sound absurd to me. Something you use so frequently, and need to constantly replace every couple hours seems insane to purchase in a non-reusable/washable form. Pads, which are also necessary after you give birth, also come in reusable form. Check out our guest writer blog on reusable pads for more info.
Investing in reusables will save you money, save waste and for an added bonus they are way softer which is a godsend. Single use nursing pads come individually wrapped in plastic and are thrown away after each use. A single box costs around $8 and would last me roughly 2 weeks. One set of reusable pads costs around $15 and are a one time washable purchase.
Pass Along the Love
Because maternity clothing is used for such a short period of time, it often lasts through several users. Once you are done with your maternity clothes, share the love! If you have friends who are expecting, they will be more than grateful for any items you may have. Furthermore, if you have items worth selling there is a big market for second hand maternity clothes at consignment shops and on local buy/sell sites. Thrift shops and donation centers also gladly take them. I kept my clothing for baby #2 but there were a few items that didn’t fit this time around. I will be donating them to the women’s shelter this month.
Join the fashion revolution by swapping, borrowing, donating and repeating. How do you participate?