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If you start pulling on pants with panels during your second trimester, and you still wear them a few weeks after the birth, as many women do, you'll be in maternity clothes for about six months. That's an awfully long time to keep wearing the same few pieces, but who wants to shell out big money for clothes you'll wear for less than a year? Keeping in mind that some of these options may not be feasible right now due to the coronavirus, here are seven strategies for mixing things up without spending a ton.
1. Take a fresh look at your own closet
Check your wardrobe for loose-fitting clothing you can put to work – trapeze dresses or coats, palazzo pants, blousy shirts, empire-waist or wrap-style dresses, or yoga pants with fold-down waistbands. Becky Viera, a Palm Springs, California mother, bought the bare minimum for her pregnancy. "Mostly I pulled from my own closet," Becky reports. "I was surprised how much of my existing wardrobe actually fit my bump."
One go-to strategy is to layer a button-down shirt over a camisole and leave the bottom few buttons undone. And many pregnant women use "the rubber band trick": Loop a rubber band or hair tie through the buttonhole and around the button to get a few more weeks out of your regular pants and jeans. After that, you can buy even more time by using a Bellaband or similar stretchy cloth band to keep the jeans up without buttoning or zipping them.
Maggie Downs, another mom in Palm Springs, developed simple clothing hacks such as adding ruching to the side seams of shapeless T-shirts. "And I added a sash to some caftans above the bump, to define my waist," she says. "Suddenly they were amazing!"
2. Raid your partner's closet
Button-down men's shirts are especially useful. Wear them unbuttoned over a stretchy T-shirt for a cardigan-like effect, or belt them high up to make a shirt dress over leggings. Men's boxer shorts and tank tops make good comfy pajamas, too.
3. Shop secondhand on websites and apps
Many sites and apps now deal in secondhand maternity clothes: Craigslist, Etsy, eBay, thredUP, Mercari, Poshmark, and OfferUp all sell deeply discounted clothing.
Poshmark and thredUP are great sources for business wear and dressy outfits from popular labels like Gap, Liz Lange, Motherhood, and H&M Mama, usually for half or a third of the price they would cost new.
An Albuquerque mom of two, Kerry Scott says she bought all the maternity clothes she needed for her corporate job on eBay, because "maternity suits are crazy expensive." She adds, "I wore the stuff through two pregnancies, then resold it on eBay."
If you want truly massive bargains and are not too picky, maternity wear "lots" – batches of same-sized clothing – are by far the best deal. One mom explains, "I just searched for a maternity lot in my size on eBay. I probably paid $30 for my entire wardrobe, and that included shipping." Lots are also easily found on Craigslist, Mercari, and OfferUp. We recently spotted one lot of two pairs of pants for $8, and another 30-piece lot of work-friendly pieces for $199.
As you begin shopping for secondhand maternity clothes, know that you're less likely to find leggings, T-shirts, maternity bras, or belly bands, which get heavy use. You'll have better luck looking for durable pieces like jeans, as well as lightly worn work and holiday outfits. Wash used clothes in hot water and soap or have them dry-cleaned, if possible, to make sure any pests are taken care of. (Yes, it is safe to have your clothes dry-cleaned during pregnancy.)
4. Make a swap
You have stuff you want to get rid of. There's other stuff you need. Other parents are in the same boat. Online swap groups are the solution.
Facebook is a particularly fertile source of swap groups; try searching your city along with terms like "buy sell trade," "swap," "moms," and "parents." There are also non-geographically specific groups, such as Maternity Clothes Swap Site. These groups are always "closed," so you'll have to apply for membership (which happens quickly and simply).
Moms' groups also love to pass stuff around. "At my Mothers of Preschoolers group, there's always a table where we put used maternity clothing, kids' clothes, and toys for a free exchange," says Yakima, Washington mom Kelly Wilbanks. If your group is meeting virtually during the coronavirus, you can swap via curbside drop-off or mail.
Or, organize your friends and neighbors, as long as you can arrange pickup with social distancing in mind. Vermonter Betsy Shaw says, "We had a fantastic hand-me-down 'train' going in our community. Though some of the clothes became outdated, people were always adding new things and keeping all of the pregnant ladies stylish. It was fun to see a shirt I'd bought at Target years ago on a pregnant friend."
5. Pop into a thrift or consignment store
Obviously this isn't an option if your city or town is on non-essential business lockdown. But in normal times, most cities and towns have at least one consignment shop or thrift store that specializes in, or offers, maternity clothes. It may take a few visits, but keep in mind the principle that you don't need much. San Francisco mom Sasha Harris-Cronin scored two pairs of $5 overalls at a thrift store that she wore constantly during the second half of her pregnancy. Bonus: in-person shopping gives you an opportunity to network with other moms who may have leads on the gear you'll need.
6. Watch for moms-group and special-event sales
This option also relies on business-as-usual restrictions being lifted. But when that happens, in many cities, moms groups or local used-gear vendors schedule special-event sales. Ask around and look at local baby stores for flyers; many sales are yearly or biannual and do a bit of free local advertising.
7. Hit garage sales
When post-pandemic life goes back to normal, and the weather is right, many families will be ready to resume the tradition of garage sales to clear out the boxes of maternity and baby stuff they may not need anymore – and this perennial source of great finds has entered the modern age. Find a location near your by typing "garage sale" into Craigslist and online neighborhood message boards like Nextdoor . Otherwise, keep and eye out for old-school tacked-up notices and flyers. If the sellers are offering baby gear, chances are there will be some barely worn maternity jeans, too.