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Shopping Mission Impossible: Maternity Dresses for the Big-Busted

Apr04

by

Dearest most wise Amalah,
I’ve relied on so much of your advice in the past (I now swear by Curel, thanks to you) and I’m really hoping you can help me this time. Friends of ours have graciously offered to throw us a couples’ baby shower next month. The problem? I have nothing to wear! No, I mean SERIOUSLY.
Before I became pregnant, I had been seriously considering breast reduction surgery because my chest has always been a big, huge, impossible-to-button-up nightmare (prior to pregnancy, I had been a 36DDD (yes, that’s 3 D’s, I’m afraid) and now, at six months pregnant, I’m apparently a 38H (I know, I didn’t think they made “H”s either)). No matter how much my husband tries to reassure me otherwise, I’m absolutely mortified and constantly in search of maternity tops and dresses that minimize the boobs and exentuate the tummy (which has formed quite a cute bump if one could manage to look past the mountainous formations that eclipse it).
Anyway, back to the shower. So I’m dying to ditch my usual pregnancy uniform (twin set and slacks) for a pretty dress. But all the maternity dresses out there are either (a) wrap-arounds, which only extenuate the breasts or (b) empire-waisted with that seam that is meant to go under the breasts but always manages to fall only about halfway down my busom (did I just say “busom”? was trying to find a synonym…). Needless to say, not a good luck. The rest of me, by the way, is a size large or XL (my lower half is a lot more slender than my top half).
So I’m hoping you’ll have a suggestion or two. The dress doesn’t have to be particularly summery. In fact, I’m perfecting happy with a solid black dress that I can spring-ize/summer-ize with accessories. It just has to not exentuate my chest. And I’d like to cover the tops of my arms if possible. Those are the only things on my wish list!!
Thanks a million!
38H (hey, I’m trying to embrace the size, since it’s clearly embracing me

First of all, you are SO RIGHT about every. single. maternity. dress. out there. They are all wraps and empire waists. Often with tiny straps, because if there’s one body part all pregnant women are just dying to show off, it’s the top of our squashy arms.
I have the opposite problem as you — no bust to speak of, and what I do have gets noticeably lop-sided during pregnancy — and yet I still have problems with the same styles. Wrap dresses never hang right on me (I have to pin them closed to stay covered in the front, and the back of the dress puckers against me), and while I do own a bunch of empire waists, I wear them knowing I’m going to spend a lot of time yanking on the bodice and making sure the seam hasn’t decided to devour my right boob.
So. Complaining aside. Let’s look at some options. Or shall I say, every option I could find that WASN’T a wrap or empire, gah.
First up, from Old Navy: a plain black stretch v-neck. Completely seamless, but also very form-fitting. Personally, I love the tight black dresses during pregnancy — I actually wear a couple non-maternity ones for as many months as possible — because despite the trend of billowy, voluminous sack dresses, pregnant women still look best when they flaunt their shape. Pros: it’s only $10.99, and would look great with strappy heels and some bright colorful bracelets or beads. Cons: It’s not the most summery-looking dress, and they have L and XXL, but are sold out of XL. (Then again, I just ordered some mid-belly capris in S, and had to exchange them for XS, which…PLEEEEEASE. I am 100% absolutely not an extra-small. That’s vanity sizing gone mad, people.)
gp554516-01vliv01.jpgThen again, you COULD go trendy and completely waistless with this flutter-sleeve dress from GapMaternity. This is one of those dresses that could easily pass for non-maternity — perfect for if Ashton Kutcher wanted to punk Lindsay Lohan. I love the purple-ish eggplant color, although it’s also available in black. I actually don’t love how it hangs on the model — the band around the bust hits her at a weird spot, and would look better if it was completely above her boobs, which is where it might sit on you. Pros: Those sleeves are supercute, and the dress is summery without being all floral and precious. Cons: You might feel shapeless and top-heavy, depending on how the fabric clings to your belly.
(Oh, how I always end up wishing I could take my column-subjects shopping in person for these sorts of questions! Then I would hold your soft pretzel while you stood in the three-way mirror and we discussed why that dress was hideous for reasons that had NOTHING to do with you, my God, are these designers on crack, or I would eat your pretzel to free up my hands to give the perfect dress a round of applause.)
The only other cute non-wrap non-empire non-blindingly-busy-print dress that I like at Gap right now is this white eyelet apron dress, although I reaaaaally don’t know how it would look on a bigger girl. Hell, I don’t even know how it would look on me, but it’s just so refreshingly DIFFERENT from all the maternity dresses out there right now. Probably because it’s completely impractical for the pregnant shape (that model is about five minutes pregnant, tops), or maybe it’s just crazy enough to work and ok, I just totally ordered one for myself. (Free return shipping, baby!)
Okay, on to MimiMaternity. (You didn’t give a price range, but I’m staying away from the smaller designer boutiques anyway, mostly because I like to stick with stores that there’s a decent chance you’ll have a local one where you can try stuff on.) Mimi has about 14 frillion different dresses on their website, and approximately 13.9348 frillion of them are wraps or empire waists. And the rest have bows. NO BOWS. GOD.
They do, however, have a lot of cute skirts. Which is a very good option for you, especially if you’ve already got some maternity tops that you like and flatter your bust. You could even pair one of your twinsets with a skirt, particularly if you find a matching print that doesn’t make you jab out your eyeballs. (I don’t wear a lot of prints when I’m not pregnant, but ended up buying a lot of really busy ones last time I was pregnant and I DON’T KNOW WHY. Every time I see photos I’m all, “why am I wearing that? Oh right. It was on sale.”)
I like this one and this one. GapMaternity had some very cute skirts too (Old Navy..ehhh) and even has some really cute full-outfit ideas with a lot of layers. If shirts are an easier shopping task for you (especially since you can cover up sleeveless options with cardigans or jackets), then by all means, go with a skirt. You’ll look just as dressy and appropriate, whether you wear cute flats or wedges or if you simply swap khaki slacks for a khaki skirt.
(I was also going to look through the selection at A Pea in the Pod, but the “search by size” function at their website reveals that they offer NOTHING in XL. So you know what? Eff them. Pffft.)

Don’t Forget to Visit Amalah’s Weekly Pregnancy Calendar.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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7 Responses to “Shopping Mission Impossible: Maternity Dresses for the Big-Busted”

  1. Michelle Apr 04 at 12:26 pm Reply Reply

    I just got this skirt:
    http://www3.jcpenney.com/jcp/X6.aspx?DeptID=50434&CatID=51662&GrpTyp=SIZ&ItemID=1381116&attrtype=&attrvalue=&CmCatId=50434|50454|51662
    And this top (and the sweater): http://www3.jcpenney.com/jcp/X6.aspx?GrpTyp=SIZ&ItemID=13818d8&RefPage=X6&deptID=50434&catID=51656&cmOrigID=13818e9&cmPosID=1&CmCatId=50434|50454|51656
    AND I LOVE IT. Ok, so it’s Penneys, but still. On sale and worked totally cute together.

  2. psumommy Apr 04 at 1:05 pm Reply Reply

    38H- something else you could do, if you have the money, is buy a dress you really like in a size large enough to fit your chest and have it tailored! I don’t think the tailoring would cost *that* much, and could make a less expensive dress look like a million bucks. Which would make you *feel* like a million bucks.

  3. Isabel Apr 04 at 2:10 pm Reply Reply

    I love that black Old Navy dress. And the price is awesome. I may have to buy myself one, you know, for when I may/may not be knocked up again.

  4. Kate Brackett Apr 04 at 4:27 pm Reply Reply

    Just wanted to sympathize wiht you, 38H. I’m 36 weeks, and, while I’m not quite as “gifted” as you are, I am down to wearing only my most stretched-out 36DD bras, and they don’t really fit these days.
    I have not found one single dress this entire prgnancy that didn’t make my boobs look even bigger and disproportionate, and I’m so sick of empire tops on which the empire waistline is actually right in line with my nipples.
    Oh. And what the hell is up with all of the GAPING v-necks? I borrowed tons of cute, professional maternity tops from a friend to wear to work, but since I don’t really enjoy showing off my bra at work, I have to put a tank top under each one of them. Sheesh.

  5. Brandy Apr 04 at 4:44 pm Reply Reply

    This was a great letter, thank you so much for sharing it with us. I’m 17 weeks pregnant and looking for any clothes I can find at this point. I’m also amply blessed in the breast department (think 36L – yes, they come that big) and was very excited to see the dress from Old Navy. I ordered it today and am keeping my fingers crossed that it will work.
    Oh and I have to agree with everyone else, I can’t stand anything with an empire waist that just draws a line directly across my nipples. Like I really need anything else to draw attention in that area.
    Thank you!

  6. abs Apr 05 at 12:30 am Reply Reply

    Have you thought about trying something in a plus-size or plus-size maternity? I know that you aren’t actually plus-size, but if you can wear an XL in regular sizes then you might be able to wear the smallest size they have in the pluz-sizes. I think they tend to add extra room up top, so you might actually find an empire waist that fits. Motherhood Maternity offers all sizes. If you think this would make you look like you were swimming in material then please disregard this comment.

  7. elihogan Apr 05 at 1:05 pm Reply Reply

    My friend has a very large chest on a small frame and is currently 14 weeks pregnant, and she’s found some really great stuff here: http://www.figure8maternity.com
    Good luck!

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