Our editor Kelly Green goes on the hunt for ethical and sustainable maternity wear – and shares her tips for updating your pregnancy wardrobe with both your comfort and the planet in mind.
Maternity wear isn’t something I had paid much attention to in the past. Having listened to pregnant friends bemoan the lack of stylish maternity clothes out there, I presumed that style was going to be my biggest maternity wardrobe dilemma. Little did I know that trying to find maternity clothing that is also sustainable and ethically-produced would add a whole new dimension to the challenge.
Over the past couple of years I have significantly altered my shopping habits – I buy much less, boycott fast fashion and invest more in sustainable, independent and artisanal brands with the intention of keeping my clothes for as long as possible. For this reason, I found the notion of going out and buying new maternity clothing – clothes that are designed to fit a temporary and changing body rather than become a permanent fixture in your wardrobe – a tricky one to contend with. While I have been assured by knowing-mothers that I will be wearing my maternity wardrobe well beyond the birth of my baby, it would still be relatively short-term purchase in comparison to the other items I own.
However, after very quickly growing out of my regular staples, I found that this was one time that I might have to succumb to those well-meaning relatives telling me that “it’s a nice excuse to treat yourself to some new clothes!”, and set out to find some pregnancy-suitable attire to fit over my growing baby bump. Scouring the sites of my favourite ethical brands, I found that expecting mums didn’t seem to be a core market for the majority of sustainable labels. Instead, the maternity fashion scene is dominated by high street shops – whose maternity lines are designed to be as disposable as the rest of their ranges.
But with the need for comfortable, well-fitting clothing quite literally growing by the day, I persevered – and discovered that finding sustainable maternity clothes, while challenging, is not the impossible feat it first seemed.
Here are some of the brands and tips for expectant mums that I have uncovered on my pregnancy journey so far:
Images: This old faithful dress, which I’ve had for around 10 years, has become my pregnancy staple – taking me from Glastonbury to the beaches of Cornwall.
1. Use what you already have
Dig deep in your existing wardrobe and you’ll be surprised by how many clothes you already own that will last you at least for the first 6 months, if not for your entire pregnancy.
Once my clothes started to get a bit tight and uncomfortable, I spent a Saturday afternoon going through my wardrobe and trying everything on, storing away anything that didn’t fit already or soon wouldn’t (with the intention that one day in the future they might fit me again) and planning outfits with the items that were left.
As a hoarder of clothes, I actually found I had lots of items that I had kept hold of ‘just in case’, which were now perfect for my new pregnancy body.
Pieces to look for:
- Skirts and shorts with elasticated waistbands
- Long cardigans
- Oversized jumpers
- Dresses (my saviour so far this summer) that are empire line, trapeze, a-line, smock style, or otherwise oversized
- Leggings and tracksuit bottoms (living in yoga wear)
- Oversized, baggy, stretchy or smock-style tops and t-shirts
- Stretchy or trapeze-style vests
Store away carefully anything that doesn’t fit until the time comes when it will fit again. I’ve found this makes getting dressed in the morning much less stressful, and also helped me to accept my changing body shape.
Image: Wearing an extremely old dress I discovered deep in my wardrobe.
2. Borrow from friends:
Ask friends and relatives that already have children if they have any maternity clothes stored away that you can borrow until they need them back. You’ll need to find someone that is a similar clothes size to you, but this is a great way to update your wardrobe without spending a penny – while also giving their old clothes a new lease of life.
Perhaps you can even swap or loan out some of the clothes that don’t fit you right now so they get a fresh wardrobe update in return?
3. Buy secondhand:
If borrowing from friends isn’t an option, secondhand is still a great way to find maternity clothes with less impact on the planet – and less expense.
Although hunting down maternity items in physical charity and secondhand stores can be like looking for a needle in a haystack, Ebay and Gumtree have lots of items listed for sale, while Oxfam Online also has a good selection.
4. Rent your maternity wardrobe:
Clothing rental is big business right now, so it’s unsurprising that you can also rent maternity wear. This is ideal if you have a wedding or event coming up that you want a special dress for, but you don’t want to buy a whole new outfit that will only be worn once.
Girl Meets Dress has lots of options for special occasions, while Belles and Babes will handpick six staple maternity items for you to hire, which are then simply returned when you are done with them.
5. If you need to buy new, buy consciously:
There are some items that you might just have to accept you will need to buy new, but this doesn’t mean you need to compromise your values.
Swedish brand Boob produces maternity and nursing underwear and clothing using sustainable materials that are traceable from fibre to final garment and made with no harmful chemicals. It is GOTS-certified and Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX® certified; and is also transparent about its supply chain.
Frugi’s organic cotton maternity range is both GOTS and Soil Association certified (they also have lovely colourful baby and children’s clothes).
B Corp Jojo Maman Bebe supports a number of local charities as well as having its own house charity, based in rural Mozambique, which works to relieve child poverty via health, education, sanitation and enterprise projects (including building five schools!). It has a large maternity and nursing range, as well as baby clothes and essentials.
I’ve also invested in a couple of non-maternity dresses that are loose-fitting and will see me through pregnancy, but will also be worn in future summers too. If you choose this option, look for loose-fitting, oversized styles; choose organic and natural fibers (not only better for the planet but also way more comfortable – and comfort is key); look for ethical practices and transparent supply chains; and only buy if you know it is something you will get lots of wear out of in the future (beyond #30wears).
Interested in reusable nappies? Read all about Fiona Walker‘s zero waste journey in Politics of an Eco Nappy and find her favourite zero waste swaps for families.
Time to deck out the nursery? See our guide to convertible furniture that will grow with your baby.