A reader recently asked me about the options available for ethical maternity clothes, which I thought I’d address now while it’s still fresh in my mind! And to be honest, five weeks after giving birth I’m still wearing some of my maternity clothes!
The short answer to the ethical maternity clothes question is that in truth is I’m loathed to suggest buying new maternity clothes. This is because you’ll wear the clothes for such a short duration that it’s not really worth the investment. Instead, I thought I’d share the approach I took in my own pregnancies:
A Sustainable Approach to Ethical Maternity Clothes
Shop Your Own Wardrobe
The most ethical maternity clothes are the ones you already own. From my existing non-maternity wardrobe I looked for:
- Leggings and tights
- Stretchy tops and jumpers
- Stretchy dresses and empire line dresses. A word on dresses. As your bump gets bigger and bigger your existing non-maternity dresses will get shorter and shorter on you so you might want to wear them as tunics with maternity jeans or leggings underneath.
- Wrap dresses
- Elastic waisted skirts
- Shirts – wear unbuttoned over a stretchy vest or top
- Oversized clothing
I put away anything I couldn’t wear. So for example, a lot of my tight dresses got put away. I don’t have a big wardrobe. Heck, I don’t even own a wardrobe. I just have one chest of drawers and a box under my bed. Therefore, I didn’t have a massive amount of clothes to choose from but the things I did have were surprisingly versatile!
As the month’s progress I sincerely doubt you’ll be able to get through your whole pregnancy just with what’s in your wardrobe already, but there a few other avenues to explore before having to resort to buying new ethical maternity clothes!
My two Asos Maternity secondhand Bay finds – and me at 37 and 39 weeks pregnant first time around
My own wardrobe only offered me a very limited selection. So the first time around I searched on eBay* for secondhand Asos maternity wear (one of the least frumpy maternity wear retailers I found). Find my top eBay buying tips if you’re new to eBay.
Here on eBay I found two beautiful secondhand maternity dresses that I wore and wore and wore for the whole duration of both of my pregnancies. If you’re into the idea of wearing dresses (I know not everyone is) I found it quite an economical way of dressing whilst pregnant. You only need one item of clothing – whereas with trousers you need a top as well.
Both times around I was heavily pregnant in winter so a cardigan out of my existing wardrobe helped keep me warm. The best thing with that is that there is no need for special maternity cardigans!
Other good things to look for on eBay are maternity jeans and trousers. I’d have been lost without my maternity jeans! I have some Topshop ones that I bought on eBay and I love them (still wearing them now!!).
While you’re on eBay keep an eye out for maternity bundles. This is where people are selling their maternity clothing in bulk packages. You might get a whole new-to-you ethical maternity wardrobe for not much money!
There are a few other places where you might find ethical secondhand maternity clothes online. Check out my guide to places to shop for secondhand clothes online for more ideas.
Maternity wear in charity shops is quite hard to find. What I did find instead were regular clothes that worked well with a bump. Skirts with elasticated waists are handy for wearing below your bump – see my collection above. I also found that wrap dresses were surprisingly good at covering bumps. Meanwhile, oversized tops are also good finds that can then be worn post-birth too.
Two of the skirts above are second hand and the teal skirt with the owls is from People Tree*.
Making a bump band is a great way of eking out the life of your non-maternity tops and bottoms with a band that covers the gap between your top and your trousers!
The good news is a bump band is not difficult to make. Here’s an easy DIY from A Beautiful Mess. If you really can’t sew you could always cut an old stretchy vest in half (horizontally across the middle) to make your band.
Ethical Maternity Bras
The only thing I haven’t skimped on is maternity/nursing bras. When you’re pregnant you need all the support you can get! I couldn’t find any ethical maternity or nursing bras, so settled for the Marks & Spencer maternity/nursing bras*.
Best Ethical Maternity Clothes Brands
If you need want to buy something new, then there are a few ethical maternity clothes brands worth looking into:
Boob Design is an ethical clothing brand specialising in maternity and nursing wear. Their entire range is made ethically from sustainable fabrics, including GOTS certified cotton.
Ethical kids retailer Frugi* has a great selection of ethically made organic cotton maternity wear that is designed for fashion and functionality to keep you feeling fabulous during and after your pregnancy.
Marks & Spencer
Marks & Spencer Maternity Wear* is another option to explore for ethical maternity clothes. Although not perfect, Marks & Spencer are a cornerstone of the British high street, and their Plan A demonstrates their commitments to sustainability.
Seasalt’s* maternity clothes are made using soft and breathable natural fabrics, that keep you comfortable and stylish as your body changes. Find maternity trousers and leggings, plus a special range of printed maternity dresses and tops, in sizes 8 to 20.
Tiffany Rose specialises in ethically made maternity occasion dresses and maternity evening wear, with all pieces designed and made in Britain. Their pieces are definitely high budget and have been worn by celebrities and royalty.
Whoever you buy ethical maternity clothes from, after you’re done with your clothes, either keep the clothes for potential future pregnancies or pass them on to friends or sell them online. Alternatively, you could buy items from my list at the top, such as elasticated waist skirts, shirts, etc, from any ethical retailer. I have a handy guide to women’s ethical clothing brands to help you out.
Maternity Clothes You Don’t Need To Buy
I’ve always found that the maternity clothes market tries to sell you things you don’t really need. I found that I didn’t need maternity-specific leggings, tights, knickers, and pyjamas/sleepwear.
The good news is you don’t need too many clothes. Depending on how often you do laundry then maybe about five days’ worth of clothing (so you don’t get completely sick of wearing the exact same things over and over again).
A word of warning for the first time mums-to-be. You may need to keep wearing your maternity clothes after you’ve had your baby for a little bit, as post-birth it can take a little while for your body to go back to some kind of normal. So I can promise you, whatever you buy you will be sick of it by the time you go back to wearing normal clothes!
Ethical Nursing Clothes
While I’m here, a note on nursing. If you’re planning on breastfeeding some people say you should stock up on specific nursing tops. The thing is, breastfeeding is a totally normal activity and does not need a brand new wardrobe or a specialist wardrobe, ethical or otherwise.
I own precisely zero specifically designed nursing tops. Instead, I find the best approach for nursing discretely in public is to wear a vest under whatever I’m wearing. When my daughter needs feeding I reach down and unhook my nursing bra, and then pull the vest down just enough and the outer top up just enough. It takes practice (just like breastfeeding takes practice) but once you’re used to you can feed really discretely without having to buy a whole new wardrobe.
Do you have any ethical maternity clothes tips? Advice on retailers that you’ve found? Nursing tips? Do share in the comments below! And do check out my guide to ethical kids’ clothes, which might prove useful to you in the coming months! As may my guides to washable nappies and eco-friendly disposable nappies!