How to Build a Capsule Maternity Wardrobe

Confused with maternity wear?  I’ll admit it–I was too.  Sort of.

Over the last 8 months I feel like I muddled my way through building a maternity wardrobe.  Style-wise it worked–I wasn’t in yoga pants or anything (see my pregnancy outfits here), but I was kind of just wearing what fit and experimenting with what I could “get away with” at each new stage of the bump.  It wasn’t until somewhere in the third trimester that I actually had a good handle on building a functional and cohesive maternity wardrobe, if that makes sense.

I’ve gotten requests for help with maternity wear, and while I shared some tips along the way I’ve waited for this more cohesive post until now, towards the end of my pregnancy.  I didn’t know what I’d need with a larger bump, and I wanted a better handle on how to actually build a maternity wardrobe, not just take it in stride.  Specifically, how to build a maternity wardrobe without buying an entire maternity wardrobe.  True to PMT readership, we want to make the most of our wardrobes and spend less money if we can, right?  Absolutely!

I did a lot of experimenting, more compromising than I’d normally do while shopping, and I definitely made some shopping mistakes.  But thanks to generous return policies (Target, I LOVE YOU FOR THAT), the financial hits were minimal.  I learned a lot along the way, and now I feel like if I were to do it all over again I’d have a much clearer direction, which I’m now passing onto you!  HERE WE GO.

(Okay, but before we actually go…I know that every pregnancy and every “bump” is different, so not all things apply to all people.  Use what info you can and disregard the rest if it doesn’t work for you.  Hopefully this is at least a helpful starting place!)

Create a capsule maternity wardrobe that utilizes pieces from your existing wardrobe and adds as many non-maternity pieces as possible that could be worn post-pregnancy.

The goal is not to completely avoid maternity wear, rather it’s to not build an entire wardrobe out of it if you don’t have to.  I personally gave myself the freedom to include some maternity pieces.  Even though pregnancy is temporary, I plan/hope to have future pregnancies, so as I went through this process I constantly thought about whether or not I could utilize these pieces in the future.  (This obviously is irrelevant if you are finished having kids.)


Use the Wardrobe From Scratch Starter Kit Shopping List to create a capsule maternity wardrobe.

Utilize pieces from your existing wardrobe, such as:

  • completer pieces (blazers, cardigans, jackets, etc.)
  • jersey fold over skirts (maxi or knee length, doesn’t matter)
  • empire waist dresses/tops such as this
  • dresses without seams that can be belted, such as this and this
  • any loosely fitting top that could be flattering when belted above the bump 
  • accessories and shoes

If purchasing anything, seek to purchase as many non-maternity pieces as you can that will fit your bump yet could be worn later
, such as any of those listed above.

*Note: Some people like to size up in non-maternity clothes to fit their bumps, but I wouldn’t recommend that unless you could wear the item sized-up post pregnancy too.  Or if you have mad sewing skills and can alter if after.

When working with maternity pieces:

  • aim to buy basics 
  • accessorize to add color and interest (jewelry, shoes, scarves, bags, etc.)
  • layer with non-maternity completer pieces to add color and interest

Maternity Capsule Wardrobe List
This is an example of a maternity capsule wardrobe that includes both maternity pieces and non-maternity pieces that could likely take you through the whole pregnancy.  In the middle of my pregnancy when my bump was smaller I was able to wear more pieces from my existing wardrobe (see this post), but they haven’t lasted me through the 3rd trimester.  For this capsule wardrobe I only included pieces that could work through the entire pregnancy.  In reality you will hopefully have more options than this, especially during the 1st and 2nd trimesters.

I based this off the Wardrobe From Scratch Starter Kit Shopping List, but you can do an even lighter version since pregnancy is temporary and you don’t need as many outfits.

What to Do:

  • Fill any item on the list that you can with pieces that currently exist in your closet.
  • Fill the rest with new purchases, working from the philosophy above: Try for non-maternity pieces first while giving yourself the freedom to buy maternity pieces when necessary.

maternity capsule wardrobe
Shop the List
Half of these pieces are not maternity, and that number can definitely be increased.  For example, if you don’t need shorts because you won’t be pregnant in the summer and can wear more maxi skirts, fill the list with more non-maternity maxi skirts or knee-length foldover jersey skirts.  Finding more non-maternity tops that flatter your bump also helps.

Starred items are non-maternity.  Most items are from Target, Old Navy, H&M, and LOFT.  I own most of these items, so holler at me in the comments if you have sizing questions–especially since most of maternity shopping has to be done online.  (Boo!)
Row 1:  white tee  |  black tank  |  navy blouse*  |  pink tunic
Row 3:  zig zag dress*  |  blue maxi*  |  grey dress*  |  striped dress*
Row 4:  blazer*  |  cargo jacket*  |  yellow cardi*  |  green cardi*  |  denim jacket*
See these pieces turned into outfits with accessories and styling ideas here.

Adapting the List for Your Lifestyle and Different Seasons
The specific items you buy can be different depending on your lifestyle needs and the seasons that you’re pregnant for.  My work/life are super casual, and I was most pregnant through out the summer.  However, the list should be flexible enough and general enough that you can choose types of pieces that fit for your lifestyle and the season during which your bump is the biggest.

For example, if it says “solid neutral top” that could be a white tee or it could be a grey collared button up shirt if you need to look more professional.  I show a couple pairs of shorts, one patterned and one neutral, but you could swap them out for a patterned, office-appropriate skirt and a neutral skirt.  Get the gist?  

Stores with Affordable Maternity Clothes
And finally, some of my favorite stores to shop at for maternity clothes.  LOFT and Gap are affordable when there are sales.  Other people like Motherhood Maternity and a Pea in the Pod and stuff like that, but I personally never got into them for some reason.  Maybe next time?

I’d be happy to answer any questions in the comments!  Also, I’m sure I left out some huge important pieces, so feel free to add your own tips below.
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