Where can butches find maternity clothing?

May 31 | Guest post by S. Bear Bergman
Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter.

Please welcome guestposter S. Bear Bergman, author of Butch is a Noun and recent parent to son Stanley. S. Bear also wrote a post for Offbeat Bride called "Wedding suits for butches, transmasculine beings, and other festive gender-benders" a couple years back. -Ariel

Can we talk about pregnant butch girls and maternity clothing? My partner of 10 years and I are expecting our first child in November. I am a little softer (and I hate to even say it, "girlier") on the inside than I am outwardly.

I am starting to show, and my clothes are of course not fitting as well as they used to. I need to go shopping for maternity clothes, but am concerned about the very feminine options that I have seen thus far. -Deena

This is definitely not what one may have in mind for non-girly maternity wear.
Congratulations! I hope your entire pregnancy is smooth and unremarkable in all ways (our midwives taught us that an utterly boring pregnancy is the best thing to wish someone). I really, really feel you on the maternity-clothes issue. The flowers, the bows, the level of twee-ness… well, it's not really a butch's dream wardrobe, is it? But fear not, there are some options. Depending to some degree on your work situation and generally what you have to be dressed for between now and November, you ought to be just fine.

I assume you've already figured out that there's no requirement to wear a pregnancy-styled top, and that you can just buy bigger shirts and wear those. The only shirt-related advice I have is that a) a clean button-down dress shirt over a pregnant belly is dress-appropriate for nearly any event known to humanity and b) now is the time to ask friends who wear larger sizes if, come October, you can borrow a couple of t-shirts and a hoodie.

Now, let's talk about other options…

The Bella Band

Now, let's talk about The Bella Band. This magic thingum is worn over your hips, across your unbuttoned/unzipped pants, to hold them in place. In general, it'll buy you a couple months more in your pre-pregnancy pants. Using it requires an untucked shirt/sweater/tunic so that the band doesn't show, but this thing is great both as you grow out of your pants and as you grow back into them.

Note that there are roughly one zillion imitations of the Bella band, and in my opinion many of them are simply not as good — whatever they're made of just doesn't have the right hug-the-body factor. I assume this must be down to the Lycra content, and if you know more about Lycra than I do, perhaps you can find the right fabric and run up a few of your own. Regardless, these things come in plain, lace-free black and white.

Overalls

If you're a DIY/crafty sort, or if you have DIY/crafty friends, you might like to buy a couple pairs of painters' overalls and ask them to trick them out for you.

Overalls are primo masculine pregnancy wear. Depending on your shape, you can probably just buy big overalls, cuff up or hem the bottoms, and call it good. Overalls can also be hemmed up to a shorts length or a capri length if that's your style. Check in with your local dry-cleaners — most will do hemming for $10 per pair or so. For weekends and casual jobs, overalls are great and very comfortable for a pregnant body, since they help give the belly some support toward the end. If you're a DIY/crafty sort, or if you have DIY/crafty friends, you might like to buy a couple pairs of painters' overalls and ask them to trick them out for you. They can be dyed amusing colors, embroidered, bedazzled, customized with patches, or whatever appeals to you.

Chef pants

Chefwear, bless them, sells many, many perfectly good looking pants in a huge variety of colours and patterns, each and every one of which has an entirely elastic waist. You can choose from anything from plain black to flying, flaming jalapenos. There are also plenty of stops in-between for solid, pinstripe, and herringbone patterns that will be fine for work situations, and are comfortable all day. You can either choose to wear them below the belly or up over it — depending on what might be comfortable for you. These are relatively reasonable in price, so you may like to pick up a variety. The only drawback here (besides the big Chefwear label, which can be easily removed with a seamripper if you prefer) is that these pants always look a little baggy/relaxed. Makes them hard to dress up enough for anything fancy. (Psst… you can also find chef's pants on Amazon!)

Amish pants

Don't laugh. The nice people at Plainly Dressed will sell you traditional Amish-styled men's broadfall pants, made to measure, in high-quality cotton twill that will take a crease beautifully, or microfiber for days when you just need a pair of trousers that look dressier. Buy them with a pair of their suspenders, and you'll be surprised at how comfortable they are to wear even all knocked up. They do take a while to arrive — sometimes as much as six weeks — so be prudent in ordering early. These are a great trouser with buttons up both sides, cut modestly (aka: big) and made incredibly well, individually and by hand.

The full-cut shirts they sell, though not exactly broad in color array, are also great for pregnancy — and you can get them in linen! Lovely, cool linen for your overheated pregnant self. Just saying. Something to keep in mind is that Plainly Dressed have done extensive work for theater, film, civil-war reenactors, and so on.They do not expect that you will be Amish or Mennonite to wear their clothes, which is why I chose to include them. You may be able to find less-expensive versions of some of these things online, if you are willing to say they're for someone Amish or Mennonite, which I was not.

Business Clothing

Certainly, there are "business" maternity clothes (which is the code for things that do not look frilly or like overgrown toddler clothes) and you can sometimes find nice looking things secondhand online by searching business or executive along with maternity. But in the world of clothing that will feel, fit, and look as much like men's clothes as possible while still having room for a pregnant belly, there's what I've found. It's not much, but it has so far been enough to get a number of butches, trans guys, genderqueerfellas, and similarly gendered peeps through pregnancies, so I'm hoping it helps for you! If you have to go to a formal event, write back, and we can talk about Utilikilts.

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  1. Old Navy sells long solid color tanks that are great for layering. Where they're long, the bella band will work really well.

    2 agree
  2. Great post! I'm femme and even I had trouble finding maternity clothes that I liked. A butch friend tried to convince me that overalls were the way to go because that's what she wore while pregnant, but I'm just not an overall-wearin-type femme. (They look good on butches though!) That said, I fit into large shirts up until the last month when they were no longer long enough to cover my huge bump. So, I'd add to your recommendations for large tops to try to find large LONG tops. I resorted to wearing long A-shirts at the end which butches could also wear (either alone or under shirts) and look pretty hot in too, I might add. 😉

    2 agree
    • I'm totally with you on finding LONG tops. Even some maternity clothes are cut too short for those later months. If you plan to wear regular clothes throughout, pay special attention to length.

      1 agrees
  3. Thrift stores and resale shops are also great resources for all varieties of maternity clothes. Sure, you'll have to pick through the lacy/frilly stuff, but these shops are generally the best for finding a solid variety of simple or plainer clothes with room to grow. Just this weekend, I picked up new-looking plain maternity tanks and tees for $3.00 each at a local Kid-to-Kid shop.

    1 agrees
  4. from a friend who, while not butch, had a decidedly butch work uniform requirement while pregnant, i've heard that just putting a rubber band (or bands) around your pant buttons will get you pretty far. i think that's particularly effective with longer shirts – which most men's shirts are. sounds like the same idea as the bella band, but cheap =)

    2 agree
  5. Buy several maternity camis/tanks to wear under anything–they are very long and cover the belly and band…and you can wear any shirt over them, since they pick up the slack between the regular top and the expanding belly. They are pretty cheap too at places like Target and Old Navy.

    1 agrees
  6. i was going to suggest fisherman pants, like on etsy, or yoga pants, in terms of comfort.

    and i second the old navy tanks. the bella band could work with men's cargo style shorts. i think overalls are really uncomfortable, but if that's your thing, that's cool 🙂 i suppose butch maternity benefits from the fact that it's trendy to have fitted, longer shirts for both men and women right now 🙂

    1 agrees
  7. I *LOVE* my maternity overalls! My mom ordered me (through my last pregnancy) 3 pairs of long and 1 pair of short through Site-to-Store @ Walmart.com. The denim isn't terribly thick so they're not too hot for summer. One pair is a bit short, so I think I may cut them into shorts. (I'm pregnant again.)

    She also found me a couple nursing maternity camisoles. They are plain white and plain black, strappy tops. I don't think they look overly feminine and think they look great under my overalls.

    • i love overalls and would love an excuse to wear them! any source other than walmart for these? we don't shop at walmart.

  8. It sounds like starting a butch maternity clothing line might be a good idea…

    7 agree
  9. OMG, the chefwear idea has calmed ALL my fears of finding maternity clothing for me. I'm plenty femme so I don't mind the occasional frill, lace or bow, but I'm plus-sized. I'm not sure if OBM has done a post on that yet or not, but I'm terrified that I won't be able to find plus-sized, professional maternity clothes that I can afford. The chef's wear looks PERFECT and I can easily have it hemmed. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    3 agree
  10. Old Navy here too; they do a good job of a more T-shirt-and-jeans aesthetic. I'm not butch but I'm not into ruffles and bows and pink and blah. But really that was pretty easy to shop around.

    Old Navy isn't the sturdiest stuff in the world, but I didn't buy a lot, wore it non-stop, and most of it has lasted through two pregnancies, though I had to buy a couple new dressy things for the second pregnancy (since the dressy things from the first from Old Navy just look too worn to still be dressy).

    1 agrees
  11. ok, so these are maybe a little more girly than some like but i LOVE Suzy Shier for maternity tanks. the have a tank in their classic line that comes in a range of colours, straight across bust line, thick straps, shelf bra(!!), long, and ruching on the sides which means i could wear them right up to the end. and they're great for nursing after….and they're often on sale for 3/15$ or likewise wicked deals….

  12. I loved Thyme maternity (not sure, but it might just be in Canada). They sell great, normal looking maternity clothes. No frills, no giant bows, pink hadn't thrown up everywhere. It was like shopping in a normal clothing store, just more belly room.

    I lived in their basic tees and cardigans

    2 agree
  13. Thank you to everyone who has commented and especially to the blogger. I am the Deena in the post and am so excited about this options I have been given!! Thanks so much!

    2 agree
  14. I had a little too much luck in the teen section. Many things are cut long and the XL fit great. That opened up more options for me.

  15. Ooooh, bookmarking this (as I did with the OBB post on butch suits/tuxes) for future reference!

    Remember — overalls are a pain to remove and refasten for the bathroom. Overalls and overactive pregnancy bladder may not be a good match!

    1 agrees
  16. Suspenders are your friends. (I wore mine with both regular jeans and maternity jeans) Yes they're a pain in the bathroom, but having my pants constantly fall off was more of a pain.

  17. Chefwear pants were absolutely essential to my butch maternity wardrobe. I already had a closetful, and I didn't need to buy any new pairs b/c the elastic waistband easily accommodated me — and I was carrying twins, so I wasn't exactly small.

  18. A butch friend described her pregnancy style as "fat man fashion". She had a Bob's Big Boy look going on, and it was pretty adorable.

    4 agree
  19. This may sound strange, but it's pretty simple to turn mens jeans into maternity pants by sewing some knit material onto the top. I personally went to the hospital in some mens pants and came home in the same ones. Old Navy also has some pretty standard button down shirts I wore well into my last month (when nothing will be comfortable no matter what you wear).

  20. maternity clothes pretty much suck. that's why i wore *nothing but* super large men's clothing from thrift stores the whole time. no one even knew i was pregnant until i was in my last trimester. hit up your local thrift stores for extra big jeans, flannels, shorts ect. this is also good because not only are maternity clothes ugly, they're also fairly expensive for something you'll only wear for a few months.

  21. I used the Bella band during the first half of my pregnancy. Then, I found this stretchy tank top at Target and I wore it nearly everyday! It fit under all my shirts and over my unbuttoned pants. I used one of those button expanders to help keep things in place. then, I just wore my regular clothes.

  22. Can I just say how much I straight up love the wisdom and wit of Bear? FOR REAL.

    "Nearest Exit" gets loaned out to all my friends as a litmus test of sorts – everyone has loved it. <3

    4 agree
  23. As a plus size mama on a tight budget I tried the large shirts but I just looked sloppy and even heavier. I found that if you are looking for a frill-free maternity style, you can trick out regular tees and tops by using a couple of safety pins or mitten clips (usually on kids mittens, like alligator clips with a little string). Gather the tee in the back so it pulls snug under your breasts; pin in place. It's a nice way to show off your preggie belly without getting into the maternity clothes nightmare scene.

    1 agrees
  24. I don't know if there are H&Ms in the states, but if there are: great maternity section! Just your usual H&M clothes, but with extra comfiness around those areas you need it 🙂 And for European mama's: JBC!

  25. Heidi Klum makes a line for Motherhood store that includes your basic super long tanks and legging. I spend the whole third trimester in black, grey or white tanks and black leggings. Occasionally I threw in a sweater. Her line is decently priced and the fabric is soooo soft which is awesome for that itchy skin. I still wear a grey slouchy sweatshirt with a star on it and the leggings from her line. The woman is a super model and has had an armful of babies so she knows what works.

  26. No problem with girly clothes, but I had a nightmare of a time finding maternity jeans to fit my size 16-but-pregnant body. Never did find any I loved, so I'm glad I never paid full price for any of them (yay, thrift stores!), but would have loved finding a pair of relaxed fit jeans in a maternity department!

    Also, the site for the Mennonite/Amish clothes doesn't work, even though their old page says it should.

    1 agrees
  27. as a fat person, i would be so offended if my pregnant friend asked to borrow my wardrobe as her maternity clothing. that is not something any of my friends would do! t-shirts & a hoodie are not expensive. go to a thrift store and save your friendship.

    1 agrees
    • I've seen articles that say a pregnant woman shouldn't wear plus size clothes anyway because they tend to have more fabric in places where pregnant women don't change (like shirt sleeves, which would lead to a pregnant woman having sleeves that go over her hands. I'm fairly short (4'11") so I've experienced a similar phenomenon with clothes made for average sized people. It's nice to have in winter when there's a cold wind and I can pull my hands into my sleeves to keep my hands warm, but not so nice if you don't want wrinkled sleeves. You have to keep pushing them up all the time, too, because they keep falling down)

  28. Hi Bear!

    Don't forget about the DIY / crafty option!
    You can take your favourite old pants (or something you just purchased) and get yourself, a tailor or a friend to alter them for you by cutting off the conventional waistband and putting on a stretchy lycra one. There are a bunch of DIY tutorials listed here:
    http://www.luvinthemommyhood.com/2010/03/maternity-sewing-tutorial-roundup.html

    (It's a really easy sewing project and I suspect that most tailors would do it for not a lot more than it would cost to hem a pair of pants, especially if you brought in your own stretch jersey fabric to use for the band.)

    The DIY'd pants would work for people of all gender presentations.

    Also: do not forget the power of the butchy and baggy plaid shirt and classic butch accesories. Wear whatever pants/tank combo works for you (may I recommend altered Carharts or altered pinstripe pants?) and add your favourite old plaid shirt on top of it, a flagging bandana in the back pocket and add a trucker wallet with chain and it's bound to help someone continue to pass as a masculine person (also help hide/distract from the ever-rounding breasts.) How about some cufflinks for butching up that oversized office shirt?

    p.s. for butches who ID as transmasculine or genderqueer, they may not like the cut of those heavily praised Old Navy A-shirts. The cut of the shoulders in them is quite narrow and might feel feminine to some guys (depending on which of their shirt designs is popular when the shopping is done, and personal aesthetics). An extra big Hanes undershirt might be more suitable, or something bought from a men's "big and tall" shop.

    1 agrees
  29. This post is right on time. My wife (mostly butch, I'm high femme) is 9 weeks pregnant with a lovely bump :). We've found some semi dressy full panel cargo pants from Destination Maternity that she wears 2 sizes up to get a looser fit. She pairs them with maternity T's and tanks under men's short sleeve button downs from Express. This uniform works for her business casual corporate environment. She also has a belly band to hold up the men's dress pants she used to wear for meetings. At home men's shorts replace the cargos.

  30. i had the hugest frickin' belly ever seen… i'm not even exaggerating… no multiples in there either, just one normal sized baby boy. anyway, i think the main issue is time of year. late pregnancy was summer for me. my aunt gave me these cargo shorts that looked like the army shorts i would usually wear — only they had a gigantic elastic at the top (i drew a smiley face on it). totally gender neutral. and i would wear a guy's button down or plaid shirt just around my shoulders, not buttoning it up, with a Target "wife beater"* style humongous tank top on underneath.

    *my apologies anyone who finds that term offensive

    on the other hand – pregnancy was a good time to shed alot of preconceptions about who i am and how i project myself in the world, which i've found useful since having the baby too. i got a bunch of hand me downs, most of them unlike anything i would buy for myself in real life: one tall thin friend apparently favored synthetic dresses and tunics in the latest patterns. Ewww! but i ended up liking them, or at least not giving a shite if i wasn't projecting my usual identity/coolness/blah blah all the time…

  31. Many moons ago when I was preggo at 19 I discovered the joys of linen drawstring pants! I bought the largest size at the store and Voila! Non girly maternity pants that were super flexible with a growing tummy.

    Also, later on, I found some empire waist styled shirts at Old Navy that were not maternity shirts, and those worked great for about a good 6 months or so at least. :)They were women's shirts definitely, but they were button up and didn't have a collar. More open on the chest area but totally work appropriate.

  32. Fruit of the loom mens xl undertanks in black are the best. Big cords or dickies shints and done! Old navy tanks are even roomier if you're not onto the girly curves. I have one mossimo tank I live in.

  33. I'm not sure asking your bigger friends to loan you clothing when you're pregnant is wise. Couldn't that cause offense?

    1 agrees
  34. Target!! They have a whole maternity section and the clothes are pretty typical, they do have dresses, but they also have a great selection of maternity jeans, tees, v-necks, tank tops! A lot of solid colors and stripes.

  35. I'm plenty girly, but pregnant me was NOT having it with excessive frills and embellishments. I still needed business casual for work, but I hated all the (5) colors that were appearing across every maternity store I could find (except Old Navy and Target). I ordered myself a Stitch Fix, and it was just what I needed! They really looked into what I liked (I even linked a My Style board from Pinterest to my profile), and they sent me clothes I needed that were good for both pregnancy and breastfeeding, and that I couldn't find anywhere else. Those clothes quickly became my favorites. I don't know if Stitch Fix has much in the way of butch maternity clothing, but they're probably up to the challenge.

    • Stitch Fix has started doing men as well so they might have more options for a butch look now.

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