We take mum-to-be Jen to the shops before she pops...
My cousin Jen is the epitome of the trendy twenty-something. She holidayed in Ibiza with the girls and married the man of her dreams in an Instagram-worthy ceremony in a sky-high city bar. So, when the announcement of a new arrival came, we all knew that this was going to be one fashionable baby.
But, as both bump and baby’s wardrobe started growing, Jen’s started slowing. Turns out, finding maternity wear on the high street is not as easy as she first thought.
“It’s a nightmare trying to find decent maternity clothes,” Jen blurted out over brunch when I asked how the pregnancy was going. “Everything looks like a potato sack with stripes on it.”
Of course, you can find stylish maternity wear at the click of a finger with Jojo maman and bebe, John Lewis, Clary and Peg, ASOS and Boohoo all offering maternity collections. The high street, however, is another matter...
So, we decided to put the high street to the test.
The brief: With the bump due in September, Jen needs fashionable maternity clothes that are more modern than mumsy.
Tucked away by the fitting rooms in the Manchester Arndale’s Topshop is a surprisingly large selection of maternity clothing. Nine rails featured a mix of floaty dresses and summer separates alongside some rather unusual choices for a summer collection – namely a selection of chunky knits in various colours and anoraks.
“I mean look at this…” Jen says, pulling out a fitted jumper. “Why would you want one of these in your summer wardrobe? It looks like they’ve just thrown some items in there to try to bulk out the collection…”
Highlights from the collection included a vibrant printed floral top with a distinct boho feel and a cute striped dress with tie front. The black ripped maternity shorts felt very festival-ready, even if the design wasn’t as well thought-out – instead of a full elasticated band across the top, the shorts simply had elasticated sides and a normal zip and button fastening, meaning that the shorts probably wouldn’t accommodate Jen’s bump after a couple of weeks of wear.
“Some of the range feels like it’s just had a maternity label stuck on it - these ribbed t-shirts for example are just like normal t-shirts. Once they’ve stretch to your bump I don’t think they’d go back, the top would just be ruined.”
A tie-front crop top was also an unusual choice when paired with the festival shorts, but could have been a good work option with tailored maternity trousers.
Whilst the collection was pleasant, it was surprisingly safe for Topshop. We had expect a bit more personality from the trend-lead retailer, but instead discovered florals and stripes – which are hardly ground-breaking on the maternity scene (3/5).
New Look, Debenhams, Primark, Dorothy Perkins…
…all didn’t have maternity options in store, despite offering extensive collections online. An hour in and we’d only found one store that offered a maternity collection. After traipsing round the shops, Jen’s prophecy had proven accurate: it is difficult to find maternity ranges in-store.
“It’s just a shame that there isn’t even the option to try out a few pieces to get a taste for the sizing and fit of the collection,” Jen commented. “If you’ve got petite and tall sections in-store, then why can’t stores have a couple of maternity pieces too?”
Whilst Dorothy Perkins didn’t offer a specific maternity range, Jen advised the floaty fit of the clothes could lend itself well to mums-to-be. Sizing-up on popular floaty styles revealed that the store did have some options for maternity wear, even if they weren’t from a dedicated collection (2/5).
From office wear to underwear, H&M is a one-stop shop for everyday essentials and the maternity collection rings true to this mantra. Whilst the collection does hint at a more mumsy style of fashion (the strawberry motifs on t-shirts felt a little twee and again florals and stripes were out in full force) overall the basic collection was nice.
Though Jen advised that the floaty floral dresses weren’t something she’d typically wear at the weekend, they were perfect for her job as a Primary School teacher and offered a good selection of cute prints and relaxed silhouettes. However, where H&M really shines is its well-thought-out essentials.
“I live in these skinny maternity jeans,” Jen commented, pointing out the retailer’s strong selection of elasticated-waist jeans in a range of washes, colours and fits. “The band is really nice and high so they’re comfy, but then they’re skinny on your waist like proper jeans. You wouldn’t even know they’re maternity jeans from looking at them.” Unlike Topshop’s festival shorts, the H&M equivalent had yet again another high elasticated panel for comfort.
By far the largest maternity collection – albeit compared to Topshop’s nine-rail offering and the other store’s non-existent selections – H&M trumped the other high street stores with a smart and simple collection of essential items that could easily be mixed and matched or swapped with more personal pieces (4/5).
“There seems to be an unwritten rule in maternity fashion that as soon as you pop you have to wear Breton stripes….” Jen warns. True, even Topshop struggled to steer clear of the popular maternity pattern. The same seems to be true of florals too – as your bump blooms, so should your love of flowers plastered top to toe in sugary sweet shades.
"All the shops we visited today are places that I usually shop, so it’s good to see that most stores are catering to mums-to-be, even if it is online."
But as someone who enjoys browsing the stores and trying things on before I buy, shopping maternity clothes online just doesn’t really work for me."
“I’m not asking for a full range in-store. Just a few pieces so you can get an idea for the style and fit of the collection. Topshop was going in the right direction, even if not all the items felt like well thought-out maternity wear. But the winner has to be H&M - it's the place to go for all your maternity essentials like jeans.”