Building a Vintage Wardrobe: Retro Maternity


Since my wardrobe will be changing in a big way in the next few months, I've been planning ahead by ordering a few vintage maternity patterns and looking for places to find cute comfy clothes for the months ahead.

When I was pregnant with Olivia, I wore a lot of simple sun dresses, skirts, maternity jeans and extra long t-shirts. Maternity clothes can be VERY expensive so I hunted around the sale racks at Target for long, stretchy shirts, skirts with stretchy waistbands and the like. The only actual maternity clothes that I bought were jeans, since they had the stretchy belly panel.

As most of you know, I totally love 1940's fashions so I thought that I would build my little maternity wardrobe on 40's fashions also. YUCK! 1940's maternity clothes are (generally) not so cute at all! In fact, a lot of vintage maternity clothes are downright ugly.

The 40's styles had extremely boxy shoulders to make the mommy to be look like a football player in pajamas. Not too cute in my opinion, but that was the way things were back then!

They're aren't all awful, just look at this 1940's beauty by Vogue

However, check out those straps to keep your skirt up- probably not the most comfortable thing in the world.

Luckily, by the 50's designers realized that pregnant ladies are adorable and that their clothes should match their bodies. 50's maternity fashions were still very tent-like. Showing off the belly with stretchy t-shirts has only become popular within the past decade or so.

When my momma was pregnant with me in 1985, her clothes were still very much like a tent. But like I said, at least the 50's ones are cute tents with ruffles and peter pan collars! :)


If you're going all out vintage, you can find maternity patterns and ready made blouses on etsy and ebay. The ready made blouses that I found were WAY too expensive for my thirfty sensibilities, so I nabbed 4 patterns (for $30 including shipping) not to bad! Check out the sweet details on these smocks. Not only are they adorable, but they look quite comfy!!


Vintage maternity bottoms are quite strange. Some have holes cut out of the front so that your growing belly pops right through. Some have adjustable ties or hooks and eyes so that as your bun cooks, you can adjust the fabric to fit. In the 40's and 50's, expectant mommas wore a lot of pencil skirts (paired with smocks or jackets above) and a few even had cute capris, slacks and shorts for summer and beach wear.

 For today's vintage momma-to-be, we can find modern maternity capris, stretch pants or skirts with stretch waist bands. The thicker waistbands are the most comfortable, in my opinion.

Much like bottoms, retro maternity dresses had pleats, gathers or adjustable panels in the front to allow excess fabric to be taken out as the belly grew bigger. Since showing the baby bump has become fashionable today, modern moms can wear regular vintage dresses (or modern sun dresses) long into their pregnancy.

 Another fashionable thing for the momma to be is to take the rockabilly route with sweet swing dresses. Most retro reproduction clothing companies online offer their dresses in larger sizes to make room for your bump.

While many of us vintage gals love our heels and high wedges, they just aren't practical for a wobbly mommy. All mommas know that, once you reach that 3rd trimester, the pregnancy waddle tends to will kick in, some ladies feet and ankles swell and heels will be your WORST enemy. Being a momma is hard work so treat yourself with comfy shoes!

 I lived in flats and very low wedges when I was pregnant the last time. I'm pretty sure that will be the same case this time around. Look for flats or other low-heeled shoes with cute details or dress them up on your own with little bows, shoe clips, flowers, etc.

A Word About Purses and Jewelry
If you're expecting your first baby, carry your purse as often as you can. In fact, change out your purses daily if you like. Soak up the purse love because once that baby is here, you'll be a diaper bag toting momma. Sure, you can carry a purse and a diaper bag if you like but after carrying my baby's car seat, my diaper bag, my purse, possible umbrella, coat and so on, I wanted to lighten the load pretty quickly!

Now, my wallet and a tube of lips are permanent residents in the diaper bag pocket. After the baby has arrived, savor date night and bring that long lost friend, your purse for a night on the town! The same goes for things like earrings and delicate necklaces. Wear them now and enjoy every minute of it! Babies are born with a reflex to grasp things and those sparkly, shinies dangling so beautifully by mommy's face will be the first thing they reach for.

If you're an earring lover like me, spend the next few months looking for the perfect clip-ons and screw backs. You can also re-string beaded necklaces with tiger tail (wire) so that when baby pulls, your beads won't be lost in the battle.I bought a bakelite beaded necklace and within two days, Olivia broke it! Luckily, I was at my mom's house so she helped me find all of the beads in the couch cushions and she re-strung it on tiger tail.

Under Things
Weather your a momma or a maiden, a slip is a must have. Most modern slips are very stretchy and have elastic waistbands. I found this 1940's slip and panty pattern on etsy. Check out the wrap-around back. This wrap and tie detail allows room for your belly to grow. The panties have an elastic waistband.

As your belly grows during pregnancy, so do your breasts! Weather or not you plan on breastfeeding, make sure to take good care of your breasts throughout pregnancy by moisturizing and wearing a great fitting bra. Experts suggest that a gal wear a bra at all times during pregnancy. The weight of your new breasts can put excess strain on muscles and ligaments so a supportive bra will help take some of the weight off. Sleep bras are a WONDERFUL thing!

During pregnancy, be sure to get fitted for a new bra every few months. If you're like me and went up to a G during pregnancy, most specialty bra or maternity stores can order abnormally gigantic bras! :) Look for bras who no under wire for comfort. Even if you're not breastfeeding, a nursing bra can be a very comfortable option during pregnancy and often allows more room for growth since the cups are made of stretchy fabric.

Also, if you're wearing your lovely vintage fashions, invest in a box of nursing pads, which slide right into your bra. Some gals leak in the later days of pregnancy and take my word for it, it can be enough to soak your entire shirt! Nursing pads soak up the fluid like a diaper, protecting you and your clothes from wetness and awkward moments. Keep them in your purse when you go out in case you need a fresh one. Ah, the joys of pregnancy!

For the Modern Vintage Gal

There are many days in every pregnant gals's life that she just doesn't feel pretty, doesn't want to feel pretty and just wants to sit around in her pajamas. Often on these days, the world requires her to leave the house for one reason or another and she has to get dressed.

For this reason, make sure to keep a super comfy pair of pants and a few cute t-shirts on hand. Even if you vow to be fashionable for all 40-ish weeks of your journey, keep those pants and t-shirts in the back of your closet.

Shop etsy and cafe press for adorable retro maternity t-shirts.


  1. I loved your post it is soo helpful to expectant mommies...I was wondering though how do you make your own clothes because even if I had a sewing machine its been that long since I've used one I know I just wouldnt be able to make anything worth wearing...please help!!

    Also, is there any chance you could do a vintage winter wear blog as I am struggling to stay vintage and keep warm or find footwear suitable for the snow and ice coming along soon!!

    Loretta x x

  2. Hi Loretta!
    I was taught to sew when I was about 12 and have been sewing things ever since! My best advice is to start small with something like an apron or skirt and work your way up to more complex garments. If you have a friend or relative who sews, ask for help! Most sewing machine manuals will show you how to thread your machine, wind a bobbin and the very basics of how to use it, After that, it's just practice and patience! :) When I started out, one of my main problems was learning how to adjust the tension but your manual will show you how to do that too. I bought a great little Singer sewing machine at target for under $100. I just hosted a vintage apron sew-a-long a month or so ago and I went over how to read a pattern and how to sew the whole thing. I'll have more sew-a-longs in the very near future. As for vintage winter wear, I agree it is hard finding things to keep you warm when you're so used to wearing skirts. I wear a lot of knee-high socks and oxford style shoes, wool jackets and the like. When it gets -really- cold, the only way to go is pants! If you get a little practice with sewing, you can easily sew your own winter wear too! I've sewn a pair of overalls or wide leg swing pants in an afternoon. If you ever want to give that a whirl, the modern pattern that I use is mentioned in my building a vintage wardrobe: pants post.
    At any rate, I will definitely cover cold weather clothes VERY soon! It just got cold in St Louis 2 days ago so I'm breaking out my cold weather clothes too!

  3. I love some of these vintage maternity fashions, they are totally cute! Loretta, some sewing shops offer beginners classes too, which might be worth checking into. Hugs all around!

  4. Thanks for this post! It's super helpful. ^__^

  5. Thank you so much for your help!
    I'm looking into classes now at the college where I live.
    and can't wait for your winter post!
    I would love to visit St Louis it looks like a gorgeous place to live...I live in the Isle Of Man, UK
    Loretta Jane

  6. Hi Brittany,

    So I was going through this box of vintage that I picked up at an auction a while back, and realized that one of the outfits is maternity! It's from the 40's or possibly 50's I am guessing, I would call it a lounging set with pants and a top. The pants have a tag "Dutchmaid Ephrata PA size 16 Rayon. They are what I would call a bright (read BRIGHT) pinkish red, wide leg. The waist band has 3 buttons so that you can adjust the fit as your tummy grows. The top's tag reads Dutchmaid Ephrata PA size 16 washable, and is sort of smock like - white with the pinkish red stripes and pinkish red trim on the short sleeves and front pockets. Red buttons down the front. The outfit is in excellent condition - and if you want it I would be happy to send it to you as a congrats giftie! (I won't be having any more critters, and someone should be enjoying this jem! Email me if you are interested.


  7. Saw this listing and thought of you![0]=tags&includes[1]=title

    Congrats on your little bundle!


  8. maternity wear has come pretty far, huh? I mean, yesterday I saw jeggings with a belly panel.

  9. I've never had kids (nor do I intend to have them), but this is a wonderful post! Sounds like wonderful advice for any mother to be : ). And I'm in love with the 2nd pattern.

  10. I sewed the Vogue for an independent study over the summer! (I'm in grad school for fashion history.) It turned out just gorgeous (unlike the other two I did). Do you remember where you found that image? My copy of the pattern was the only one I had seen anywhere online until now.


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