Unfortunately, maternity wear in bigger sizes tends to be limited, but here’s an array of creative suggestions for where to find (and how to adapt mainstream lines into) fashionable plus size maternity clothes.
Plus-size clothing is a niche market. Maternity clothing is a niche market. Plus-size maternity clothes is a niche market within a niche market and therein lies the problem.
Despite the impression the media gives about the ‘obesity epidemic’, there just aren’t enough big pregnant women out there to drive the demand for good quality, good value, fashionable maternity clothing on the high street.
Space in a high-street shop is valuable – there are overheads like rent, staffing, heating, and lighting. Shops can’t have clothes that only have a few people will want to buy taking up valuable space, they have to stock what makes financial sense, and that will be clothes appealing to the widest range of consumers.
If you’re feeling sorry for yourself at the lack of options seemingly available, spare a thought for the tall, plus-size, pregnant ladies, and read on – there are options, you just might need to think creatively!
So, what are our options?
Firstly, one of the pluses of being plus-size is that often your bump doesn’t show for a while. While this may make you sad when you see smaller friends’ tummies expand and their belly-buttons pop out at the merest hint of a baby on board, it does at least mean that your usual clothes may fit a good while longer.
Bear in mind too, that unlike putting on weight generally, only your tummy and boobs are likely to expand. Your bottom, thighs etc. should theoretically stay much the same, so depending on your personal style and the season, you may get away with not buying any maternity clothes at all! This is especially true if you’re one of those women who don’t gain, or sometimes lose, weight in pregnancy (which isn’t uncommon).
You may find that thinking creatively about your wardrobe means you can buy just one or two essential pieces to see you through your entire pregnancy. If you plan ahead, most items can have a life after maternity too!
Keeping to a Budget
If you’re a bargain hunter, check out the Big Birtha’s Bargains page. Often when I’m updating links for this site, I discover some really good deals, so here’s where I list any plus size maternity clothes I see, or anything I spot that’s suitable for a plus size maternity wardrobe. You can add your own finds too, with the help of the just-takes-2-minutes submission form!
Empire Line or Peplum
Empire line is a style in which the dress or top has a fitted bodice ending just below the bust, giving a high-waisted appearance, with a loosely gathered panel below. It’s flattering and often found in regular clothing. As a top, rather than a dress, it may be described as having a peplum, which is the name for the loose panel of fabric that comes after the fitted part.
Because the style is loose over the tummy, with plenty of fabric, you may find that buying one size bigger to accommodate your growing bust is all you need.
Many pregnant plus-size women team up a longer length empire line top or dress with some comfy maternity leggings (see below) and pretty much live in that as they get bigger. Or you could wear with jeans or smart trousers.
Crossover or wrap front tops are another fashion staple of the non-pregnant wardrobe, so should be easy to come by. They often incorporate lycra too, which is no bad thing when you’re trying to fit to a changing shape!
They’re flattering to bigger boobs, the extra fabric gives room for expansion, and if the front panels are loose and not sewn together, they can prove really useful by doubling up as easy-access breastfeeding tops later.
Trousers and Skirts
If you’re someone who lives in jeans, the thought of not being able to wear them as your bump expands may fill you with dread. But you do still have options.
While you’re preferred manufacturer may have nothing for you, there are still options, with under and over-the-bump styles.
Many major retailers only go up to a size 20 or 22, but there are others – Bon Prix for example, who go up to a size 30.
Some mums were also really impressed with these jeans from Evans. They weren’t actually in the maternity range, but had a stretchy band at the top, plus a drawstring.
Sadly they’re no longer sold, but it can sometimes pay to check out the standard stock, especially if it means you could actually try them on in store!
If you’re fond of wearing trousers and jeans, some women swear by ‘Belly Bands’ like these.
The idea being that you can use it to cover up and hold together the area between a no-longer-buttoning-fly and a wanting-to-ride-up-top securely so that you can continue to wear jeans and trousers that would fit apart from the bump.
You can get pretty embroidered ones and even custom-made designs here: Mama Band Online Shop
If you already wear long tops and just need something to keep your trousers fastened, another option is an extender like this.
If you’re handy with a needle, you could probably pretty easily make your own. After all, it’s just a bit of fabric-covered elastic with a button one end and a buttonhole at the other.
Maternity Leggings & Jeggings
Not everyone is a fan of leggings, but there’s no denying that they represent a comfortable, practical option, particularly when paired with a loose, flowing top or empire-line dress or blouse.
As your pregnancy progresses, you may find you need to invest in specialist maternity leggings in order to stay comfortable.
They needn’t break the bank, however. While they won’t have the longevity in your wardrobe of some other options, they are at least certain to be a comfy choice just after you’ve given birth, when you’re likely to be feeling a little squashy.
Elasticated Full-flowing Skirts
Crossover tops can work well with stretchy-waisted skirts, which don’t have to be from a plus size maternity clothes range. Just look for ones with plenty of fabric at the front.
There are plenty of variations of the style on the market; lightweight cotton crinkle and gypsy maxi skirts, which can work especially well as they have a lot of fabric available; to 40s style floral midi-length and pleated skirts. You can wear the elasticated waistband either above or below your bump, depending on what’s comfortable for you.
Yup, you don’t even have to squeeze your bump into tights that aren’t made for the job! Nor wear normal tights under your bump with the extra elastic uncomfortably rolled down!
Great for dressing up for an occasion where it’s too cold for bare legs, or for work.
But be warned, near the end of your pregnancy you’ll seem to need to pee almost constantly, so wriggling in and out of tights might not seem so great after the 5th trip to the loo!
**UPDATE** stocks of maternity tights have been a bit up and down lately. If there’s a link here, they were in stock last time I checked. Retailers seem to stock and unstock maternity tights at a rate I can’t keep up with!
- Simply Be Maternity Tights (up to 32)
- H&M Maternity Tights (up to XL)
- Next (up to XL)
- George at ASDA (up to XL)
- ASOS (up to size 20)
- New Chic
Others have reported success with just buying non-maternity plus-size tights a couple of sizes bigger than they would have chosen pre-pregnancy.
Another option from ‘regular’ lines which can be worn easily when you’re pregnant is the babydoll or A-line dress. This is fitted around the bust, but then flares out into a fuller skirt which can accommodate a growing bump.
This is a particularly useful strategy if you’re looking for plus size maternity clothes for a wedding outfit, as a lot of pretty, smart dresses can be found in this style. There are some really beautiful options in non-maternity plus-size ranges, most of which would still work with a bump!
Easier to come by in summer, they often come in great fabrics and patterns, and although lightweight, if teamed up with a cardigan or shrug and leggings/jeans, could see you through spring/autumn in style.
Lastly, there are swing dresses. These are very loose, cape-like (almost tent-like) but still can be very cute with the right accessories. Certainly practical and comfortable and would see you through your last months if you’re busting out of everything else!
With a cardi or shrug and leggings/jeans (and a fabulous necklace) this could be a year-round maternity option.
If you like swimming, or you join an aquanatal class (which I’d thoroughly recommend for preparing you for childbirth!) you might need a swimming costume that can cope as the pregnancy progresses.
Depending on your shape, and whether or not you gain weight, you might get away without buying a specialist one at all. It may work for you to just buy a cheap swimsuit slightly bigger than your normal size. Bonmarché have some cheap and cheerful ones and go up to a size 32. Marks & Spencer have also started selling maternity swimwear up to size 24.
If your shape means that you definitely do need a specialist cossie, your choices are unfortunately limited. This is such a small market there are scarce few available in larger sizes in the UK.
ASDA and Sainsbury’s have a couple of maternity options, although in Simply Be’s regular swimwear range (up to size 32) I found babydoll-style tankinis which would surely work for a lot of people. It might be worth keeping an eye on tankini options if you can’t find anything you like in maternity swimwear.
- Speedo.co.uk claim to do plus-size, but for them, XXL is a size 18! Ha ha ha.
- Mothercare Swimwear have some options up to a size 20.
- Figleaves have some maternity swimwear up to size 20-22.
- Dorothy Perkins had some maternity swimming costumes up to size 22, last time I checked
As the nights draw in and the weather gets colder, a new coat might be your one unavoidable expense. This is especially true if you have reason to be outside a lot (e.g. if you use public transport, or have to hang around in a playground to collect little ones from school).
Unfortunately, very few plus size maternity clothes suppliers sell maternity coats, so the options are quite limited. One exception is Bon Prix who have ingenious coats with expanding side zips, additional panels, and baby covers!
If you’re not in the market for a whole new coat, or you don’t think you’d get enough wear out of it, depending on your shape and stage of pregnancy in winter you may be able to think creatively.
One option is to look for a ‘swing’ style, ‘A line’, ‘flared’ or ‘cape’ coat in regular ranges, though these seem to be in short supply at the moment. They also use a lot of fabric, so can be pricey!
This design is often worn loose, so as long as there is enough fabric to allow for a growing bump, you should be fine.
It also has the plus of being perfectly wearable after pregnancy too.
Capes and Ponchos
Luckily, capes and ponchos are back in fashion! These represent the ultimate in flexible sizing and are readily available on the high street.
The one downside however, is the fact that they are often made from lightweight material in order for them to have the intended ‘drapey’ effect.
This, coupled with the fact that they’re more open at the bottom means that they are not likely to be as warm as a coat. Fine if you generally just have to get from the house to the car, but probably not a useful option if you’re outside for longer periods. You might want to layer up underneath.
But if you get a long red one, you can buy a bonnet and use it as a Handmaid’s Tale costume!
There’s a couple of budget options if you’re really not sure you’re going to be big and bumpy long enough (and the weather cold enough) to warrant the outlay on a new coat:
You can keep your regular coat, allow it to gape open, and accessorize with a long, chunky scarf instead. This really can be surprisingly effective!
Big scarves are in fashion, so should be easy to come by, and certainly a lot cheaper than forking out for a new coat you may not wear again. Though depending on where you look, the new coat could be the cheaper option!!
If you can’t find anything you like, try looking in charity shops for coats slightly bigger than you would normally. That way you haven’t wasted much on a coat you’re only going to need for a short time.
What To Wear While In Labour
One item of plus size maternity clothes women find difficult is what to wear while in labour.
It’s really hard to know what you’ll want until the time comes, and it depends slightly on your birth plans.
For more ideas, click here: Help!? What Do I Wear In Labour!?
While you may strike lucky around the shops, your likely best bet for the greatest choice is online. It’s not as convenient as being able to pick up, feel, and try on the clothes before buying them, especially since you’re buying for a new unfamiliar body shape, but you do at least get to try them on in the comfort of your own home.
Several of the major high street retailers have small plus-size maternity wear collections available online only. Some of the specialist mail order plus-size retailers also carry maternity wear:
|Up to Size 32||Size 30||Up to Size 28||Size 24|
|Simply Be||Mojo Maternity||Castaluna||H&M|
|Bon Prix||All About The Bump||Very|
|Up to Size 22||Up to size 20||Others|
|Next||Matalan||Rosegal – up to 5XL|
|Marks & Spencer||George at ASDA|
and, of course, there’s always eBay
If there’s anywhere you’d like to recommend, or have any tips, please leave a comment below!