The sisterhood of the expanding pants

Does embracing your pregnancy bump necessarily mean abandoning your personal style?

Here, Sarah Ivens gives her account of how she modified her style while remaining herself – with confidence – as her body changed during pregnancy.


When I was pregnant with my daughter Matilda two years ago I lived in Los Angeles, which is possibly the trickiest, most body-conscious place to dwell in the US at the best of times, least of all when you’ve got a bowling ball up your shirt and your feet have swollen to the size of a gorilla’s.

Historically, I’ve always had the kind of bottom that alerts passers-by to the fact I’m more of a cheese sandwich and Jane Austen novel kind of girl than a gym bunny, but while pregnant remaining body-confident in my clothes was even more of a challenge.

In Hollywood, even mamas-to-be in their third trimester manage to hang out on the beaches of Santa Monica looking like cake pops – delicious, colorful neat round balls on skinny legs, dressed in Tori Burch slips and Havaiana flip flops. They rush energetically from SoulCycle class to Cafe Gratitude without the hint of a waddle. Meanwhile I was struggling to exit a car without someone giving me a push upward.

Part of me yearned for saggy leggings. My newly-ginormous boobs wanted to nestle in a masculine sports bra. Every chaff of my jostling thighs pushed me to stay in my tracksuit, or worse – pajamas.

But living in La-La Land, I felt like a self-conscious elephant even thinking about elasticated trousers. I had to find a middle ground: to feel comfortable in my own skin (and pants!) while keeping some sense of style.

It’s understandable that most women, me included, go through a strange time of insecurity and confusion about their bodies and wardrobes when pregnant. However, as much we know we’re being silly and that we need to enjoy this natural, wonderful time, we feel like we’re ballooning rather than blossoming… And this lack of happiness often extends beyond the pregnancy itself and way into the toddler years. We sort of feel motherhood and style don’t mix.

Luckily, as I was feeling this, I met a fellow pregnant woman, Jessica, who looked great without being intimidating or too try-hard. She wasn’t overdone fabulous, just stylish. I asked for fashion tips.

“I surrender to being a channel of life,” she told me straight-faced in her California way  over a protein shake, rubbing her impressive belly. “Sometimes I struggle with the changes, but in those moments I meditate on the purpose of the changes rather than the changes themselves. I educate myself to feel more in control and to remember what every gained pound represents. I may not be able to wear skinny jeans but I can wear elegant dresses. And although my wardrobe is undergoing a change, I’m resolutely holding on to the other outward rituals that make me feel good on the inside and out. Pedicures, manicures, a good haircut and great accessories. With good grooming and a bit of bling, all is good.”

From then on I put away the baggiest pregnancy clothes that had been donated to me by friends – that I’d worn because I thought fashion and baby bumps couldn’t mix – and I paid more attention to beauty rituals like Jessica had advised, keeping up with my highlights and treating myself to a new lipstick.

And instead of looking at the third trimester as a style hiatus, I bought myself two beautiful dresses to wear to my baby shower and a friend’s wedding.

These minor tweaks allowed me to still feel like me without feeling uncomfortable. And that famous pregnancy glow that people talk about? You can buy that from a makeup counter at Sephora or feel it when your partner tells you how beautiful you are, inside and out, carrying his child.