Best Tips for Styling Your Baby Bump (For Every Trimester)

I want to share some of the best tips I discovered for styling my baby bump while I was pregnant. Styling the bump was SO DIFFERENT than I thought it would be. Honestly, getting dressed pregnant isn’t always the easiest thing. Not just because eventually bending over to put on socks becomes an Olympic sport, but there’s also just a whole new set of complications you didn’t have before. Not to mention that just as you think you have styling the bump down, it grows again and everything changes. On top of that, a lot of your favorite style tips you used pre-pregnancy might not work. But, throughout my first pregnancy, I found a lot of little tricks that I found made rocking the bump a lot easier.

Pregnancy Style and How to Dress the Baby Bump

I’m going to break these tips down by trimester because I found that the tips that worked in early pregnancy don’t always work later in pregnancy. As the bump grows, certain things worked better for me.

Bump Style Tips for the First Trimester

The majority of your first trimester is bump free (unless this is your second pregnancy or you’re expecting twins) except for a little bulge that just sort of looks like you had too much pizza for dinner. So, most the tips are about dressing for a small bump without it looking like you have a food baby.

Don’t force yourself to wait for maternity pants

Even though you don’t look like you’re “showing” all that much, things do start to bloat and expand. While it might not look it to anyone else, you might be able to feel this when you try to zip into your favorite jeans. Don’t punish yourself by forcing yourself to wear your regular pants as long as you can. I switched to mostly jeggings around week 14/15 and then got my first pair of maternity jeans around week 18. I attempted to use belly bands to get longer wear out of my regular pants but they were honestly uncomfortable and bulky. I should have just gotten maternity bottoms a little earlier.

I feel like a lot of women wait to buy maternity jeans for the first pregnancy. But, my tip is…don’t. Do yourself the favor and get a pair or two. You’ll be way more comfortable.

Buying Tips for Maternity Jeans/Pants:

  • Full panel vs side panel vs front panel?! Each panel type has it’s pros and cons but I found full and front to be the best because they could be worn all three trimesters (for the most part, see more comments on that below). Earlier in my pregnancy, I preferred full panel for the locked-and-loaded feeling. But, later in my pregnancy the skin on my belly would get uncomfortable and itchy is confined too long, and so I prefer front panel, which sits just below your belly. I suggest you get 1-2 of each.
  • Which size? In general, you should get the size you usually wore pre-pregnancy. But, keep in mind in your last 4-6 weeks (or earlier depending on how you carry your weight), even these might not fit. I gained my final pounds in my thighs and then at the very end my ankles swelled so pretty much all my maternity pants didn’t fit anymore. I suggest getting 1 pair sized up, or in a jegging style, so you can still wear them right up through the end.
  • Jeggings are life: I’ll repeat this further down in this post, but they really are. Many maternity jeans can be uncomfortable because it’s harsh, stiff jean material that then meets soft, stretch elastic at the band. This can create an uncomfortable line that pinches right under your belly. Opting for a jean or pant that also has stretchiness to it, means you’ll avoid this uncomfortable banding. Not to mention, they’ll be more forgiving if your legs swell or gain weight.

Best Tips for Styling Your Baby Bump For the First Trimester

Use Loose Fitting Clothing and Busy Pattens

Look for things that hide the “not quite there yet” bump to avoid feeling like you look constantly bloated. Loose fitting tops, using layers, or going for flowy dresses work great. I remember feeling a little self-conscious about my body towards the end of my first trimester because I hadn’t really put on any weight but I felt like I looked bloated.  These types of clothes allowed me to feel comfortable and not worry about being self-conscious of the added bloat. Busy patterns also help to hide any undesirable bulges that aren’t quite a “baby bump” just yet.

Bump Style Tips for the Second Trimester

The second trimester, in my opinion, is the best for maternity fashion. You’re usually large enough that the baby bump is obviously a baby (and not pizza), but you’re not SO big that you feel like a blimp or can’t fit into some of your maternity jeans. It’s all about highlighting the bump during this time.

Best Tips for Styling Your Baby Bump (For the First Trimester)

Maternity Tops are your BFF

There is a HUGE difference in how your bump will look in a maternity tee with ruched sides as opposed to a regular tee.  It’s amazing what the right top can do. The ruched siding highlights your bump while still giving your waist a silhouette. A regular tee will just make you look large, bloated, and hides your shape. I bought a couple of maternity tees and tanks from Old Navy (if you wait they typically go on sale 40% every few weeks) and just lived in these pretty much my entire pregnancy. They look SO much better on the bump.

Shop my favorite maternity tops

Best Tips for Styling Your Baby Bump For The Second Trimester

Ruching is Always A Good Idea

Just like with maternity tops, anything with ruching on the sides is awesome for the growing bump. It not only offers extra space for your bump, but it helps to highlight the bump instead of making it look frumpy. Luckily, ruching is a pretty trendy style so it’s easy to find a lot of options that are non-maternity. I had a lot of non-maternity tops and dresses with ruching I was able to wear pretty much right up until my 3rd trimester.

Second Trimester Pregnancy Style Tips

Use a Knotted Top Over a Dress

This was one of my go-to styles my second trimester. I would take a dress (maternity or not) and throw a tank top or tee over the top and knot it right above my bump. This helped create the illusion of an empire waist which helps highlight the bump. It’s a great way to make a non-maternity dress appear more flattering with your bump. I also had about 3-4 dresses I wore on repeat this trimster, so it helped me get more “looks” out of these dresses too.

Styling Your Baby Bump For The Second Trimester

Opt for Empire Waists

Like ruched siding, empire waists are super flattering on the bump. And, they are a great option if you don’t like tightness on your growing bump but still want to be able to highlight the bump. Like on this floral dress above, it offers a soft, flowy look while still letting the growing baby bump pop. You’ll find that many maternity tops are cinched just under the bust so it’s pretty easy to find options. But, there are also a lot of empire waist tops and dresses available that aren’t maternity. And, you can often get away with wearing these into your third trimester because typically under an empire waist there is lots of extra fabric that has plenty of room for the bump. I had a few empire waist maxi dresses I LIVED in.

Style Tip: If you’re top doesn’t have an empire waist you can also create the illusion of one by using a belt just under your bust to cinch things in.

Bump Style Tips for the Third Trimester

Things get tricky in your third trimester. Early in this trimester, you can use most of the second-trimester rules, but as you get closer to your due date and baby grows bigger, you’ll find that many of your favorite maternity clothing styles and pieces don’t work anymore. Not to mention, as baby grows and grows, it becomes ALL about comfort in this trimester.

Best Tips for Styling Your Baby Bump For The Third Trimester

Maternity Jeggings are a Must-Have

Everyone puts on their baby weight differently but a common place that extra weight packs on (besides the belly) is your upper legs. I read some studies that said something like 15-30 percent of the fat gained during pregnancy goes to your thighs! Again, like I said, this is different for everyone, but it rang pretty true for me (especially in my final trimester). The majority of all my weight gained was in my belly around the baby, but the only other major spot I noticed weight gain was my upper legs. This made a lot of my maternity pants hard to wear once I got into my third trimester because even though they fit around my belly they would be SO uncomfortable around my thighs (I don’t know why more maternity jeans don’t offer extra space in the thigh area considering how many women put on weight there…but I digress.)

I had two pairs of maternity jeggings (looked like jeans and offered the thickness of jeans but had the stretchiness of leggings.) I LIVED in these at the middle-end of my third trimester. By the time I hit 38 weeks, I couldn’t fit into my go-to pair of maternity jeans even if I wanted. These jeggings were my saving grace because I could throw them on with any top and look like I had pants on but didn’t feel squeezed in or uncomfortable. You might not think you need them in your first/second trimester, but do yourself a favor and get a pair and your 37 week bump will thank me.

I bought this pair from Walmart for $14 and it was honestly the best $14 of my pregnancy. If I could go back and do it again, I’d buy all available colors. Unlike some maternity bottoms, you don’t need to size up in these, go for your normal size.

Styling Your Baby Bump For The Third Trimester

Get Yourself a Cozy, Flowy Maxi Dress and Thank Me Later

Unless your 3rd trimester happens in the middle of winter, a slightly oversized maxi dress is life. And, you know what, even if you ARE in the dead of winter you’ll probably wear this all around the house so it’s still worth it. While I still wore a lot of my tight maternity tops, the larger my bump got the more days I wanted something flowy on my bump as opposed to things that were tight. These were great to just throw on when doing work around the house or running an errand. You feel completely unrestricted!

Third Trimster Pregnancy Style

Empire Waists are Still a Go-To

Like I mentioned in the second trimester notes, empire waists are great. They highlight the belly but offer tons of extra fabric underneath so they are restrictve and so are very comfortable. Empire waist dresses, tanks, tops, and blouses are are perfect for your third trimester.

And, don’t forget you can create a faux empire waist using a belt!

Best Tips for Styling Your Baby Bump For The Second Trimester

Maternity Leggings are Life

I knew my bump was BIG when I couldn’t wear my non-maternity leggings anymore. Well…I mean I could have worn SOME of them but they weren’t very comfortable and I have a very strict “comfort over anything” rule. So, they were all neatly folded and retired. I found it a little tricky at first to find good maternity leggings (that were thick enough), but finally found these heavy knit ones from Old Navy and they did the trick. They weren’t perfect, but they offered the thickness and comfort I needed.  Next time around I’ll probably spend a little extra money to invest in a better pair of maternity leggings. I’ve heard that these and these are amazing maternity legging options.

I hope some of these bump style tips help you out. It was definitely a learning curve figuring out how to style the bump, but these tricks really helped me and I hope they do the same for you!

Shop all my maternity favorites

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I'm Kallie!

Also known as That Practical Mom

I’m all about helping you simplify the chaos of life so you can slow down and enjoy it.

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