Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mum Abroad 6: The Clothes Horse

I like clothes, I like shopping, and I like looking nice. Surprise!

a long blouse and big hair
When I found out I was pregnant, I immediately wanted to buy some maternity outfits. Fail! High prices and poor selection for my tall self in Madrid swung me in the other direction, hoping somehow I'd magically make it through nine months in my own jeans. In the end, I've settled in the middle - maternity wear mixed with my own clothes and accessories. Here are my tips and resources for maternity fashion in Madrid:

1) Build a good foundation.

For undergarments, El Corte Ingles has a decent selection. Their brand of maternity compression tights feel good, but they are expensive for the quality. You can get compression tights or socks of higher quality for a similar price in most pharmacies (they may need to order them in, but it usually only takes a day or two). I haven't had any feet or ankle swelling, but I'm on my feet a lot for work, and compression tights and socks help keep my circulation going and fatigue at bay.

H&M has a surprisingly decent size range, but be aware that not all stores in Madrid have a maternity department. There are more items online than in stores, and, annoyingly, you have to pay for shipping and returns (the Gap has free shipping for maternity wear - an appreciated courtesy as they don't have maternity wear in stores). My favourite H&M store locations are the flagship store on Gran Via and the Principe Pio shopping centre.

If you're having trouble with sizes, try Dama de Copas near Goya, where a professional fitting and attentive customer service come at a reasonable price.

2) Pick a maternity fashion role model.

my bow belt worn up high, a la kate
Not sure of what to wear? I find it helpful to have a fashion reference. In my case, I have two tall fashionable women to look to for ideas - Laura at All the Tall Things, and Kate Middleton. Laura has been a fashion reference of mine for a number of years. Her genius website tracks down tall fashion in regular stores as well as specialty tall shops. She documented her maternity shopping and fashion experience to share with other Tall Girls, who in turn shared their tips and tricks.  Jackpot!

It's also very handy that Kate Middleton is pregnant and due just before me. She's also tall, and I like her style. She's been working in a lot of non-maternity wear, and doing a very nice job with accessories. I've followed her lead with belts at the empire line (in Spain it's more common to wear belts under the bump, but this style does not look good on me at all - I feel like I should be entering a weight-lifting competition or wrestling match), skirts and tops, and a streamlined, tailored look rather than flowing and billowing (which is also a style better suited to shorter people. With a very tall person, there is just so much fabric!).

3) Wear your own clothes for as long as possible. Then put them away.
my sweater, new maternity pants

"As long as possible" means as long as they fit comfortably and you feel good in them. Leggings, long tops, cardigans, sweaters, maxi skirts and stretchy dresses are things that might just make it with you through the nine months. I've just started the third trimester, and can still wear about half of my jeans. Advantages of wearing  your own clothes: you won't get bored with a smaller maternity wardrobe, or frustrated shopping for things, and you'll save money.

Bursting out of a top, or can't do up your jeans? Time to say goodbye. I pack away items of clothes as they no longer fit, so I know I'll fit into - and feel good in - whatever is in my closet. I'll also have a little renaissance with my clothes when I'm able to wear them again! 

4) Shop wisely.

When my mom came to visit, we went on a little maternity spree - it was fun, and it was great to have things on hand so I wasn't not stuck wearing anything that was too tight. We had good luck at H&M, where I got a wrap dress (essential!), some tops, and a pair of black skinny mama jeans. We tried to pick out items that would last for more than one season and were designed with feeding in mind. I chose mostly neutral colours that I can dress up with accessories, and items that suit my own personal style so I will still feel like myself.

There is a surprisingly small selection of maternity wear in El Corte Ingles department stores, where I found one model of jeans that were long enough. However, no one I know is happy with anything denim in this brand (Alia). Having re-sewn almost all of the seams in the jersey belly panel, I don't recommend them either.

My best bet, because I'm taller than the average Spaniard, is online shopping from the UK. Fits for taller sizes are readily available, and price and shipping are even often cheaper than purchasing items here (plus, no duty, which would have to be paid for goods shipped from North America). I highly recommend the brand Mamalicious, and I got a great denim skirt that is not scandalously short from   Dorothy Perkins.

I also recommend going second-hand. For me, maternity clothes are not "investment pieces" that I'm going to be wearing for years, and with all the other baby-related expenses, I'd rather not break the bank on clothes. I picked up a lovely pair of dress pants at a "living room sale" (Madrid yard sale) I found out about from the Madrid Mom Facebook group, and a tall friend generously gave me a pile of tops and dresses.

5) Treat your feet.

a fitted coat with room for the bump
Good, supportive footwear goes a long way toward preventing back injuries and discomfort, and are especially important during pregnancy. I'm on my feet most of the day in the classroom, so I really appreciate the extra support. It's also an area where a splurge lasts for more than nine months!

I needed to replace a pair of black boots this year, and while I loved a fitted, knee-high pair with three inch heels, I kept looking and found a loser, flatter style I also love. They are stylish and I can wear them all day. I ordered them from Long Tall Sally, whose European site ships to Spain (I often shop their UK site though, which often has better sales and shipping costs are about the same. The Canadian site has the best footwear selection, so I'll order from there if I know someone's coming over for a visit.).

I also replaced a pair of walking shoes, had my athletic insoles checked, and bought some new gel insoles for extra cushioning in very flat shoes. The shoes are from El Corte Ingles - it's a limited selection of women's footwear in larger sizes, but all very nice quality.

Finally, I picked up a pair of sparkly ballet flats, also from Dorothy Perkins. They are not supportive, and I doubt they'll last more than a year or two, but they are super-cute, and sometimes you just need a treat!

Essential Maternity Clothing List

If you get nothing else, you'll be good to go with:

  • maternity undergarments (compression tights are like a massage for your legs and feet!)
  • a wrap dress (this can be worn for the full nine months and beyond)
  • jeggings (you might get away with wearing your own the whole time!)
  • tunics or longer tops and sweaters (great for pairing with the jeggings!)
  • supportive footwear (your body will thank you)
  • your own accessories (right now I'm into huge, colourful scarves)
Are you in the Madrid area? Let me know if you've found anywhere else to buy great maternity things!