Pregnancy capsule

More than seven months into my second pregnancy, the increasingly persistent question every morning is: what to wear?

A slow fashion approach to pregnancy clothes is a challenge. A pregnant body changes fairly dramatically, but also relatively temporarily. It is easier than ever to make desperate last-minute purchases because you suddenly realise you have no trousers or tops – or whatever it may be – that actually fit. Slow, considered decisions don’t feel much use because in another few months your body will change again.

For me, honing in on a pregnancy capsule, has been a continual process of trying to balance the desire of building a thoughtful, long-lasting wardrobe while also celebrating this period of change. Change that feels both beautiful and awkward, completely natural and utterly strange.

 

Flexible planning

I started loosely planning a Spring/Summer capsule with the aim of making it pregnancy friendly. I tidied away the pieces that would obviously not fit and made a list of things to make, like stretchy leggings and loose dresses.

Some basic planning has been useful. Yet, several things on my making list I never got round to making. And things I thought I would wear a lot have been left untouched. No worries, I have managed fine anyway.

Again, I am faced with the same lesson that I actually use less than I think I need.

 

5 questions for planning a pregnancy capsule:

  • What items in your wardrobe will obviously not fit a growing tummy and that little extra pregnancy weight? Set these aside.
  • What outfits can you now put together?
  • Is there one or two key pieces you could add that would make it easier to create outfits from the clothes you already have? For instance, a pair of trousers with an elastic waistband to replace those tight fitting jeans or a pair of stretchy leggings to pair with tops and dresses.
  • What clothes make you feel comfortable and nice?
  • If you need new items, do you want to make or buy them? How much time and money will you have for that?

 

Pregnancy clothes

During my first pregnancy I bought two “mama” jeans and a top from a fast fashion store. However, none of them I really like. The black jeans feel too office-like, the grey jeans keep slipping down and the white top is only really useful those last two or three months when that pregnant tummy is really bulging. Both jeans have ripped and needed mending, by the way.

Garments specifically designed for a pregnant body will only be used a few months. Yet, for those few months they may feel absolutely essential. In this light they align particularly well with the fast fashion mentality: low prices and cute designs trump considered investments in quality pieces that will last.

I am certainly guilty here. So this time round I really wanted to avoid buying any more poor quality, cheap items that would only be worn for a relatively short period of time. And I have! But to be fair, I have also used these three pieces quite a bit.

 

6 steps for a slow fashion approach to pregnancy clothes:

  • Minimise the number of pregnancy-specific items that won’t be useful in your wardrobe after the pregnancy
  • Buy quality pregnancy clothes that you can later sell or give away, or re-use if you were to be pregnant again
  • Buy pregnancy clothes second-hand
  • Choose pregnancy clothes in fabric you like and can later re-purpose for other projects
  • Refashion clothes you already own to make them pregnancy friendly. Take a look at the DIY maternity posts on the cotton + curls blog.
  • Sew your own pregnancy clothes, for example with Megan Nielsen's maternity patterns

 

Versatility and longevity

How many pregnancy-specific items you need (or whether you need them at all) depends on how pregnancy friendly your ordinary clothes are. Stretchy, loose-fitting and comfortable pieces can carry you well through a pregnancy while also being useful later.

    In the top row above are some of the pieces I have sewn this year with the intention of making them useful both while pregnant and afterwards.

    1. A simple boxy dress, pattern from Stoff & Stil in a cotton jersey I had in my stash.
    2. Leggings in organic jersey from Stoff & Stil, based on the Hudson pant pattern by True Bias tapered in for a snug fit. With the elastic waistband these are comfortable and stretchy enough to be worn low rise while pregnant and can be pulled further up later.
    3. A pair of woven Hudson pants from True Bias sewn in organic cotton from The Organic Textile Company. Again, with the comfortable elastic waistband. I made these two sizes larger than my usual size to accommodate for the non-stretch woven fabric, but I could definitely have gone up one more size for a more comfortable fit.

    In the bottom row of images are my three most worn pregnancy friendly store-bought pieces.

    1. A tank dress which is an old fast fashion item from Cubus. The stretchy jersey fabric makes this a comfortable fit despite the growing bump.
    2. An organic cotton dress from Gudrun Sjødén. The loose fit over the tummy and hips makes this super comfortable and breezy to wear, while the semi fitted bust ensures I don't feel like a walking tent.
    3. An A-line jacket bought at a flee market for next to nothing. I can still zip this one up! And if I want a more tapered look later I can always pull in the draw strings at the waist.

     

    For versatile pregnancy friendly clothes, look for:

    • Skirts, trousers and shorts with an elastic waistband
    • Loose-fitting tops and dresses to wear over leggings and tights
    • Jersey tops and dresses that will stretch over a growing tummy
    • Tops and dresses with an empire waistline
    • Cardigans and shirts that can be worn open or half-buttoned

     

    Some great sewing patterns for a pregnancy friendly wardrobe:

    Caring for your winter boots

    Polishing your shoes regularly is perhaps one of the easiest and cheapest ways towards a more sustainable and long-lasting wardrobe. As a follow-up to the previous post on the wardrobe spring detox, today I want to share what I do with my winter boots once spring is in the air.

    I like to store winter coats and boots out of sight over the summer. I usually find it is worth the extra effort, just to be free from dusty boots and big down jackets cluttering the hall cupboard.

     

    Polish your boots

    I have read somewhere that you should polish your shoes every two weeks or so. I am not quite at that level yet, I’ll admit. But I have seen what a difference it makes polishing your boots once in a while. I particularly like to do this before putting my winter boots away over the summer. The leather holds much better over time and it makes it a lot nicer to get them out again in the autumn.

    Above and below are the ankle boots I have worn daily for three long winters. The left one is polished, the right is not. See any difference?

    How to do it

    For leather that is scratched or faded, I use a shoe cream that matches the colour of the boot. Traditional hard shoe polish works just as well. First, I wipe the boots clean with a damp cloth and let them dry. Then I use an old rag (or you could use a shoe brush) to work the shoe cream in. Finally, I brush them up with a soft shoe brush for shine (and here you could use an old sock or similar instead).

    For leather that is dry but not scratched, I use a clear leather balm instead. This gives the leather moisture and shine, and works as a protective layer against dirt and rain. Again, I wipe the boots clean first and use the sponge that came with the tub to work the balm in. After leaving them for a bit I wipe off any excess with a dry cloth.

    Easy-peasy. The whole job is done in about five minutes and immensely satisfying.

    I store the boots in shoe boxes or paper bags in our attic. Once I am ready to get them out again in the autumn it feels almost like opening a new box of shoes. That is, new old shoes: handsomely polished, but well-worn and guaranteed comfy. I am telling you, it is worth it.

    Wardrobe spring detox

    As the days grow lighter and the plants on my window sill spring to life, I itch to make a clean start in my wardrobe too. After over a year of hardly any clothes shopping, the time feels ripe to do a proper spring clean.

     

    Capsule wardrobe

    I am aiming for a spring/summer capsule wardrobe, but reaching a specific number of items or settling on a clearly defined colour palette is less important to me.

    If you are new to the capsule wardrobe approach, here are some inspirational resources:

    My aim for a seasonal capsule wardrobe is pretty much the same as my long term aim for my wardrobe as a whole. I want a minimal, functional collection of clothes, ethically produced and made to last. A mix of handmade and bought items that fit my body and my lifestyle. No more, no less.

    Now, that takes time. And money. Whether thoughtfully buying or making by hand, building a beautifully curated collection of clothes is a slow process. So I don’t expect to reach perfection in one go, but it does help to know the general direction I am aiming for.

    For instance, I don’t want to rush out to buy cheap, poor quality options just to fill up my ideal number of tops or dresses. On the other hand, I am not going to afford to buy a slik dress from Elizabeth Suzann either, however beautiful and “good” it may be. As always there is a balance between the real and the ideal, and we each need to find our own sweet spot.

     

    Wardrobe detox

    Before starting the actual capsule planning, I wanted to get an overview over what I have actually got. Marie Kondo style, I took out every single piece of clothing from the chest of draws and cupboard where I keep my clothes. Then I went through them one by one. Only the pieces I actually use, desperately need or truly want in my spring/summer capsule went back in.

    That left 28 items, not including underwear, accessories, jackets and shoes.

    The best thing about cleaning out your wardrobe is putting the items you have chosen to keep back in. Suddenly every item seems precious. You no longer have to mentally sift through the wearable and non-wearable items each time you open your wardrobe.

    Immediately, you get an overview of what you have got, what gaps need filling and what colours dominate. In my case, I realised I have plenty of jumpers and light summer cardigans, perhaps more than I need. But the trouser situation is pressing as none of my jeans really work. I also noticed I have unintentionally a fairly cohesive colour palette going: white, turquoise, blue, brown, grey and pinky-aubergine.

     

    Non-capsule items

    The remaining items that are not suitable for warmer weather, don’t fit or for some reason I rarely use, I have stored in a plastic box to go out of sight until winter.

    I have been through my clothes several times over the last few years, and finally this time round there was nothing I wanted to threw out or give away. However, I did have a pile of clothes from a previous clean-up which I have been meaning to re-purpose. These are now officially labeled fabric and stored in the (bulging) fabric box.

     

    Is less really more?

    I started cleaning out my wardrobe feeling frustrated and uninspired about my clothes, like I had nothing to wear. Now, the spacious, airy feel of my cupboard and chest of draws has completely shifted that. I have less items in there, but still I feel I have more options when getting dressed. And that is despite some pretty awkward gaps remaining to be filled. Interesting.

    Addressing those gaps will be next.