Pregnancy can be an expensive business. Just as you’re trying to save every last penny to spend on a kaleidoscope of products that you’d never heard of until three months ago - muslin squares, lanolin nipple cream - your entire wardrobe starts to split at the seams.
Meanwhile, there’s never been a better time to go shopping. Whether you’re breaking out with pregnancy acne, piling on weight around your hips or suffering from swollen ankles, a really great maternity outfit can be the one thing that keeps you feeling good through those long, tiring 40 weeks. But that comes at a cost.
The key to building up a useful and reliable pregnancy wardrobe without breaking the bank is to buy a few key items and build around it. As well as jeans and tops for layering, with lots of room to grow, you’ll need a couple of stand-out dresses. The best of these can take you from day to night, be dressed up for work and down for the weekend. They’re also super comfortable - so comfortable, in fact, that you’ll wonder whether you’ll be able to bear pulling on a regular fitted dress ever again.
We tested this season’s selection of maternity dresses for spring and summer, at a range of price points, and chose our top 10 pick of the bunch.
1. Seraphine Navy Dot Woven Maternity Dress: £59, Seraphine
Often sported by celebrities, Seraphine is surprisingly affordable brand considering the high quality of its range. This navy spotted crepe dress impressed us with its fantastic fit despite a constantly changing body shape. The light material gives good cover but keeps you cool, and the hemline sits perfectly just above the knee. Teamed with a jacket and low heels, this is perfect if you work in a corporate environment where you to keep your pregnancy low key. Also available in black.
2. Isabella Oliver Nia Ruched Maternity Dress: £99, Isabella Oliver
The breton print is a staple of maternity ranges everywhere, as it’s so flattering on a growing bump and, by emphasising your shape, helps to avoid those awkward “are you pregnant or have you put on a few pounds” moments in the early weeks. This mid-length bodycon dress in a super-soft jersey fits neatly over the upper arms and looks as good with a suit jacket and brogues for the office as it does with trainers and a trenchcoat for a casual look. The split at the knee makes it easier to walk, and there is lots of room for growth if you’re heading for a larger bump. Also comes in red and white stripe.
3. Mothercare Floral Print Maternity Tube Dress: £18, Mothercare
The best of an impressively cut yet incredibly affordable range of spring/summer dresses from Mothercare’s Blooming Marvellous line, we loved this gorgeous floral pattern in the colour of the season, nicknamed “millennial pink”. The dress is designed to show off your baby bump without highlighting lumps and rolls elsewhere - not always an easy task. Available in other colours and patterns, and other cuts, all of which we can highly recommend.
4. Clary and Peg Chambrey Dress: £125, Clary and Peg
London-based Clary and Peg’s vintage-inspired line marks you out from the crowd when you’re expecting, but it does come at a price. Nevertheless, we received compliments from our colleagues when we wore this empire-line dress, which comes as a one-off piece cut from end of line material sourced directly by the manufacturers. An optional belt helps to draw in the waist (while you still have one). Impressively, this is also available in petite sizes and can be worn again after birth, with button openings at the breast to allow you to feed.
5. JoJo Maman Bebe Paisley Maternity Tunic: £29, JoJo Maman Bebe
We love the summery print on this very light, cotton tunic dress, perfect for the hottest summer days. The fit hides the bump in early and mid-pregnancy and is flatting on a non-pregnant figure too, meaning that it’s an investment piece that will take you well beyond your nine expectant months. We wondered, however, whether it would still be suitable during the last weeks before birth; the fabric is loosely cut but has no stretch, so it may struggle to accommodate larger bumps in the final weeks. This dress is perfect for reducing overheating in summer but looks great with tights, boots and a cardigan on chillier days.
6. Asos Animal Print Stripe Cami Dress: £38, Asos
OK, the booze and the brie is out, but who says you can’t have fun when you’re pregnant? This easy-to-wear yet bang-on-point update on the classic animal print also gives a nod to the 90s revival trend with its camisole shape and stripe print shoulder straps, proving that high fashion is not out of bounds just because you’re sporting a massive bump. We love that this design is also cut in soft polyester, which looks and feels like silk, making this Asos dress an affordable luxe option.
7. Next Check Maternity Flute Sleeve Dress: £40, Next
Rocking two key spring/summer trend, flared arms and gingham, this black and white dress is hard wearing and gives lots of space for growth. We love the durability of this number, which can be worn and washed again and again without stretching and tearing or stitches coming loose. Remember that Next sizes do come up slightly large when compared with other high street brands, so we’d recommend taking one size down from your usual pre-pregnancy fit.
8. Tiffany Rose Alessandra Dress Short: £101, Tiffany Rose
This dress makes our top 10 list for its sheer versatility: whether you’re going to a summer wedding, an evening event or just chilling out in the garden on hot Sunday afternoon, this is the ideal choice. We love the Japanese Garden print, and an inbuilt underslip helps to even out your shape. The weight of the material means that is hangs well and even has a little movement to it as you walk. Our top choice if you want a dress for an event which you can wear again throughout your ceremony. The same cross over style is available in lots of different prints if you don’t like this one.
9. JoJo Maman Navy Maternity Shift Dress: £35, JoJo Maman Bebe
Despite testing samples from a wide range of manufacturers, we decided that JoJo Maman Bebe deserved two slots in our top 10 to reward both the impressive quality of its dresses and the breadth of styles on offer. We also approve of this brand’s commitment to sustainability. This shift dress, which is closer to an Egyptian blue, cleverly disguises your bump well into the late 20 weeks. We found the two deep front pockets useful for avoiding carrying a heavy bag too. Manages to be extremely practical yet not boring and is available in sizes 8-18.
10. Topshop Spot Floral Tea Dress: £46, Topshop
This floral number ticks all the boxes for summer: a floaty, bright sundress cut to show off the new cleavage proudly boasted by most pregnant women. The material, a polyester mix, is less comfortable than our other choices, but the fit made up for that and this made the list because we loved the detailing, including the bows at the forearm cuff. Topshop maternity sizes come up small, especially around a blooming chest area, so we recommend opting for one size larger than your usual pre-pregnancy fit.
The Verdict Maternity Dresses
For comfort and good value for money, we recommend the Floral Print Maternity Tube dress from Mothercare’s Blooming Marvellous range - and we’ll be investing in a number of their other items this summer too. It’s the best by far for mums-to-be on a budget. If you’re happy to splash out a little more, however, the Seraphine Navy Dot Woven Maternity Dress impressed us by offering a well-cut crepe style still priced for the mid-market. It’s an ideal choice if you need something that will take you through from the early days stuck in long boardroom meetings to summer afternoons in the garden when you’re finally enjoying those early carefree days of maternity leave, awaiting your new arrival.
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