Off the Rack ~ The Full-Bust Maternity Clothing Landscape STINKS

Off the Rack ~ The Full-Bust Maternity Clothing Landscape STINKS

Well I’m a day past my official due date and baby shows no signs of coming out on her own yet! My husband and I are already on our parental leave and waiting for labor to start (or waiting for our Monday evening appointment for medicated inducement, as the case may be). So what better time to write a new Hourglassy post??

During pregnancy, I avoided buying maternity clothes until I had no choice, instead wearing the items I already own, plus adding a couple dresses from brands I already shop with in a size up. Eventually, I had to get some proper maternity clothes, and I quickly discovered that the maternity clothing landscape absolutely sucks if you are busty. A lot of brands just tell you to buy your usual size, claiming that their items are cut for maternity. And then when I came across an actual size chart, I found that many of them listed less bust room than straight-size clothing charts. It’s like maternity clothing designers have completely overlooked the fact that most women’s boobs increase during pregnancy even if they weren’t “full-bust” in the first place!

So what to do? After buying and returning several orders from Seraphine Maternity and Pinkblush, limited success with Mother Bee Maternity, and moderate success with a few second-hand dresses that I got on Poshmark and later was able to find on Amazon, I basically gave up on dedicated maternity brands and started looking to the busty brands I already know and love. And that, my friends, is the key to success! When it comes to actual maternity brands, I also came up with a few rules. So let’s start with the good…

Urkye and Mirror Mirror Moda were my absolute saving grace! For Urkye, I ordered a bunch of “Kopertówka” tops that feature a cross-over neckline and ruching in the belly, which gave both my boobs and belly room to grow. My previous Urkye size was 38 o/oo, so I went up both in waist and bust size to 40 oo/ooo when possible, but if the color I wanted was sold out in that size, I took 42 o/oo and you can barely tell the difference. The 42 may be a bit big on me when my body shrinks back down, but I’m sure I’ll be able to keep wearing the 40’s since I used to sometimes sister size into 40 if 38 was sold out. Plus, I’ll be able to breastfeed in this style since you can just pull each side of the bust off to the side. I didn’t save a regular photo, but I did post one shot of this top in Hourglassy’s Instagram stories, so here’s a screen shot of that:

I also ordered a “Koperta” long-sleeve dress, which has a cross-over neckline and high waist seam, in 40 oo/ooo. I really wanted more Koperta dresses in other colors, but didn’t feel like I could justify buying tons of new dresses. Plus, all my preferred colors were sold out in my size and I didn’t want to size up even further with a dress since it’s a bigger ticket item. (I’m hoping to keep wearing this dress post-pregnancy.) Still, the one Koperta that I bought has garnered me lots of compliments, and the slightly more neutral color allowed me to build lots of different outfits around it.

40 weeks, bra size UK 32J.

As for Mirror Mirror Moda, all but one of my old dresses continued to fit me throughout the whole pregnancy, including size small! Here are two size small dresses:

19 weeks pregnant, bra size UK 30HH.
33 weeks pregnant, bra size UK 32HH.

And two size mediums:

29 weeks, bra size UK 32HH.
40 weeks + 1 day (today!), bra size UK 32J.

Up until about two-thirds of the way through my pregnancy, I had some successes with pinup brand dresses I already own that happened to have a more blousy fit or were made of stretchy fabric, so here are examples of those:

23 weeks, bra size UK 30HH. This is the Retrospec’d “Evita” dress in size Australian 12. When I bought this dress, it was listed as running big. I’m typically between 10 and 12 with them, but since this rayon fabric has no stretch and it included a belt, I chose size 12 to be sure there was no button-gaping. During pregnancy, I simply skipped the belt and wore it up to about 6 months.
21 weeks, bra size UK 30HH. This is the Trashy Diva stretch rayon “Sweetie” dress in size US 10. Not typically a full bust-friendly style, the Sweetie has a somewhat high waist seam and belt loops. However, as my bust grew, it pulled the seam up so it ended up hidden under my boobs and I simply skipped the belt. Still no button-gaping, though this was about the max I could comfortably wear it before it became a bit too snug for comfort.

I also bought three dresses from Pinup Girl Clothing that I never photographed, which I wore all the way through pregnancy—the “Joanie,” “Viva,” and “Rian.” Joanie and Rian are wiggle dresses, but with no waist seam and made of soft, stretchy fabric in which I took size large (instead of my pre-pregnancy medium). Viva is also very stretchy, with only an underbust seam, in which I got size medium.

Joanie dress
Rian dress
Viva dress

As far as actual maternity brands, my main issues were:

  1. Not enough boob space
  2. Too many florals and barely any modern prints

Some examples:

I tried this dress from Pinkblush (for a cosplay getup for NY Comic Con) in size medium since the reviews claimed it ran big. The waist was too big, the armholes were huge, but the bust space was pathetically small, with the empire waist seam sitting directly on breast tissue and pulling the armholes forward in a really uncomfortable way.
I loooooove the more modern and slightly upscale styles from Seraphine Maternity, but their fit just plain sucks unless it’s stretchy fabric. I tried this dress in size US 10 at under 3 months pregnant, and it was just a giant sack in real life.
I had high hopes for this Seraphine dress in size 8 since it at least has a waist tie, but it had no waist or contouring for the breasts, so the string tie did nothing to make it fit right. Plus the shoulders were strangely wide, so it just looked misshapen all over.
Mother Bee Maternity “Faux Wrap Butterfly Sleeve Dress with Ruffles” in size large. This is more of a fast fashion brand, but the fabric they use is soooooo soft and the prices cannot be beat. Unfortunately, even in size large, there just wasn’t enough bust room and the neckline was embarrassingly low and open.

Finally, a few maternity brand wins:

Mother Bee “Surplice Ruched Top” in large. Unlike the surplice neckline dress above, this top has some gathering at the underbust, so it worked out a lot better. And in fact, the underbust band was actually snug enough that I could have even gone up to size XL for more coverage and it still would have fit nicely. It’s also nursing-friendly since you can pull the sides of the bust over.
Here’s me in the Mother Bee top at about 22 weeks and bra size UK 30HH.
Mother Bee “Knee Length Dress with Tie Belt” in size large. This one was definitely big in the waist, but fit my boobs pretty well all the way from 2 months to 8 months (up to bra size 32HH…it’s a little scandalous now at 32J). The wide waist tie meant I could cinch in the waist and you’d have no idea it’s bigger than needed. This photo was taken at about 25 weeks and bra size UK 30HH.
Finally, a Seraphine success! This is actually a JUMPSUIT, not a dress. I wore it all the time until it got too cold for capri-length pants. And it’s nursing-friendly—there’s actually a split panel behind the bust cups so you don’t have to expose your entire boob to feed. I got size 10 for more bust coverage since you can cinch the waist with the wide tie and it’s stretchy jersey fabric. This photo was taken at about 22 weeks and bra size UK 30HH.
No photos of me in this one, but it’s another Seraphine success. This is their signature knot dress, which comes in maxi or mini length, and with long sleeves, short sleeves, or sleeveless. I got it second-hand since it’s too expensive for a basic dress otherwise (and it’s widely available on Poshmark and eBay), in size medium since it’s stretchy jersey fabric. This one fit for the entire pregnancy. Only thing that stinks is it’s not nursing-friendly, so I won’t be wearing it post-birth.

I also made my own maternity dress in the same style as the Seraphine knot dress from Simplicity pattern 9600:

This was the only way I could get a dress in a fun pattern! I picked up a multicolored sprinkles (as in, the ice cream topping) print on navy blue from Joann Fabrics. I also got a lemons print on white, but never got around to making a second dress. One word of advice—size down from what the pattern suggests. I went with size 18, which is supposed to fit bust 40” and waist 32”. Even though my waist was still 30” at the time (bust was, in fact, 40”), I stuck with 18 thinking I’d need room to grow…but then the shoulders were too wide and the dress was bigger than I needed overall. So I’d say look at the listed measurements, then go down one, if not two, sizes, since the pattern incorporates way more wearing ease than necessary, especially for stretch fabric.

Lastly, this is the best of the second-hand Amazon dresses I got from Poshmark (I have it in long and short sleeves), the Coolmee brand ruched bodycon minidress:

I got size medium and it lasted me the whole pregnancy. The cross-over panels on the skirt also fit my hips really well and kept the skirt from riding up.

Okay, so when shopping for maternity-wear, what should you look for? Whether buying from maternity brands, straight size brands, or dedicated full-bust brands, these are the features I found to be the most flattering and the most comfortable:

  1. Cross-over neckline to accommodate fluctuations in breast size
  2. Ruching in the ribs down to the upper hip to accommodate a growing belly
  3. Gathering somewhere around the bust (shoulders, underbust, or side of ribs)
  4. Stretchy fabric
  5. Empire waist
  6. Wide waist tie

Things to avoid:

  1. Anything that has no bust or waist contouring (unless you’re going for the oversized look)
  2. Surplice neckline without any gathering
  3. A defined waist or waist seam (unless you can pull it up under your boobs to make it more of an empire waist)
  4. Skinny waist tie (avoid anything string-like)
  5. Brands that don’t list a real size chart or simply tell you to buy your same pre-pregnancy size
Back to blog