Maternity Clothes for the Tall, Tailored Girl
Today’s guest columnist is the lovely Leah of agirlandaboy.com . Which will soon be more like a girl and a boy and another boy dot com, once her new baby arrives in December. She’ll be offering her advice about maternity clothes for the tall and long-torso’d, since I sent her a couple boxes of maternity hand-me-downs earlier this year, and let this be a lesson to you all: whenever I do something nice for you, I will inevitably come crawling out of the woodwork a few months later and demand that you write columns for me. NOW. DO IT, OR I SHALL COME OUT THERE AND STEAL ALL YOUR SWEATERS.
Question: My dilemma is that I am 5’9″, plus I have a long torso. Shopping has always been fun — I’m not really a “tall girl” but only the high-end brands fit my torso. Usually most jackets and tops leave a 3-inch gap above my pants!
Now that I am four months pregnant and looking as if I have been on a beer-and pizza binge, I’m starting to panic.
I am a director at a professional organization — so I have to look sharp. I usually dress in slim-fitting blazers, trim button-downs, and trousers or pencil skirts with the occasional sweater on top.
I hoped I would be able to just keep wearing my clothes and layer tanks under my sweaters — but already my button-downs barely stay tucked in with all my extra curves.
Any ideas where I could find jackets that don’t look dowdy — but not shrunken? Is there any substitute to a well-tailored shirt?
Well, I’m definitely not the poster child for Business Casual (I’m a jeans and T-shirt girl who works in a jeans and (tie-dye) T-shirt office), but I am qualified to speak on the issue of being both tall (5’8″) and pregnant (seven-plus months), so before I address your specific questions, let me tell you what I know about maternity clothes in general:
Maternity Clothes Sizing
In theory, maternity clothes with actual numbered sizes (6, 10, 14, etc., as opposed to the uber-unhelpful Small, Medium, and Large) are supposed to be just pregnant versions of your normal size. If you were a size 8 before you got pregnant, you should be buying a size 8 now. But…yeah. Not so much. I have a smaller upper half and a larger bottom half (your classic pear shape), and although buying maternity versions of my regular sizes worked for a while, that didn’t last long.
Somewhere along Week 20, my hips started spreading, and those nice, expensive maternity pants with the elastic panel that was supposed to enable me to wear them to eternity and beyond? Useless, because the non-elastic part (the part with the fake half-zipper and the laughably miniscule pockets) not longer fit over my butt. Lesson: Maternity sizing is not to be trusted.
Shirts were another problem entirely. I also have a longish torso, and the mistake I made was thinking that if I just wore regular, non-maternity shirts in a size or two larger than normal I’d be fine, especially since so many of the styles these days are of the “spacious” empire-waist variety. My other mistake was thinking that because I normally wore Small tops, I should be buying Small maternity tops as well. WRONG. Maternity shirts aren’t just bigger in the belly but they’re longer too. Much, much longer. All that extra fabric needs to not only drape over the baby bulge but also conceal that oh-so-attractive elastic waist panel. So whereas the Small maternity tops I bought in the beginning still, at 7.5 months, fit my arms and boobs and ribcage, they’re at this point all too short to completely cover my stomach. I wish someone had told me that in maternity wear, Small, Medium, and Large are more likely to match how tall you are rather than the build of your frame (i.e., if you are tall, you probably can’t wear Small shirts). The same is true for a lot of roomy non-maternity shirts I bought: they “fit” but they didn’t completely cover the belly. Again: Sizing lies.
What it comes down to is that even if you can get away with wearing non-maternity shirts (and stretchy pants) for the first six or seven months, chances are that you’ll eventually be too big for everything you own and will have to shop maternity anyway. I say have to because it sounds like you’re a little resistant to the whole idea. That’s understandable — I was too — but then the frugal side of me, which always wins out, piped up with, “Look, you’re going to have to buy mat clothes at some point, so you might as well buy them early and wear them often instead of waiting until those last few weeks when you’re way too cranky to go shopping anyway, especially to spend money on gigantic clothes that you’ll only wear for a month.” My only warning about this is that if you buy mat clothes super early, don’t fall into the “oh, I’ll never be THAT big” trap because you WILL be that big, and the only thing worse than being THAT big is being THAT big in too-tight pants.
In short, if you’re resistant to buying maternity clothes, my best advice is to try to get over it. You’re pregnant. You should be wearing clothes designed for a pregnant body. The end.
Now, to answer your specific question — jackets that fit and substitutes for well-tailored shirts…
Maternity Well-Tailored Shirts
First off, you don’t have to find substitutes for the look of a well-tailored shirt, you just have to be more flexible with your definition of “well-tailored.” There’s a good selection of fitted maternity button-downs out there, but the reality is that what is “well-tailored” today might not fit so well in a few weeks or months. Also, there’s a lot of diversity in where different women carry their baby weight–high, low, wide, in their boobs–and even that changes over time for individuals, so it’s possible that you might not ever find the perfect fit unless you take your shirts to an actual tailor, which, seriously, for something you’re going to wear for such a short time, is So Not Worth It.
If you really need something that looks sharp, though (say, if you’re a director at a professional organization!) maybe a tailor is what you need, albeit on a more limited basis. Having one (or two) outfit(s) that make(s) you feel fabulous and not the least bit compromised by your new body shape could make all the difference in the world in terms of how you feel about yourself when representing yourself and your company, and that’s worth some bucks. The price of clothing isn’t, after all, determined solely by materials and craftsmanship; a lot of what you’re paying for is how they make you feel. In general, though, all of the major brands of maternity wear have perfectly nice-looking button-down shirts, and a good portion of them even come sans enormous bows or oversized pastel polka-dots, which really comes in handy when you want to be taken seriously. At three different price points, Gap’s Classic Shirt is a no-frills option, Mimi Maternity’s Faux-wrap Collared Blouse has a little extra style, and A Pea in the Pod’s Crossfront Woven Shirt makes a statement.
In the end, you’ll probably have some hits and misses, but the good news is that maternity clothes today are more stylish and sophisticated than they’ve ever been, and there’s no reason you have to give up your sophisticated style just because you’re having a baby.
Now on to jackets:
Blazers are a girl’s best friend. They can dress up a casual outfit, they can make a curvy frame look defined, and they can say “I mean business” more than any other piece of clothing in your closet. Unfortunately, the magic of blazers is their structure — specifically that the seams mirror the natural line of your body. You can see how that might be a problem at a time when the line of your body seems to be changing by the day.
When Amy first punted me this question, my initial response was, “Oh crap” because while I do love a good blazer, I haven’t gotten around to finding a maternity version that works for me. So far I’ve been able to get away with wearing my pre-pregnancy jackets unbuttoned without looking too ridiculous, and I was going to suggest you follow suit (ha!) as well, but then I found this: Japanese Weekend’s Career Maternity Before and After Jacket (no longer available). The secret is side zippers that release extra panels of fabric that, in theory, allow the jacket to grow (and then shrink) right along with you.
Unfortunately, the website doesn’t provide a detail shot of what exactly the zippers look like, and it apparently only comes in brown, but the concept is nevertheless promising and might be worth a shot.
That does, however, still leave us with the problem of your long torso. If you have trouble finding non-maternity blazers that fit well, you’re probably going to run into the same thing now, if not on a more exaggerated scale. In that case I think your next best bet is cardigans. They’re stretchy, soft, and warm, and they layer over anything–button-downs, tunics, dresses, even hideous tie-back bows. Worn in the right combination, they can even help smarten up some of your more casual tops, which means your office wardrobe just got that much bigger. Which is just the thing we should be celebrating right now: Bigger is better. Big is beautiful. You may be large but you’re still in charge.
There are also consignment stores, although I always find those to be more about finding expensive brand-name clothes at discounted prices than just Really Cheap Clothes, which is what I’m normally aiming for. You have higher standards than I do, though, which makes me think that would be a good route to explore.
A good no-cost way to try out different brands, though, is to borrow maternity clothes from friends if you can. (Amalah herself sent me two huge boxes of clothes cross-country! Love her!)