Tips for Buying Ethical and Sustainable Maternity Wear


Pregnancy is such a special time. There is really nothing that can compare to the feeling of connection you feel to the beautiful new life that is growing in your belly. It is a time when you really start to contemplate the state of the world that we are leaving to our children. Instead of a general concern for the future of mankind, the health of our planet becomes personal. My growing bub, and my toddler are a huge part of my motivation for what I do. So when the sustainability of planet becomes wrapped up in our hopes and dreams for the child we are carrying it can be a huge motivator to find sustainable maternity wear to clothe our baby bump. But these are motivations that can be frustrated by the seeming lack of sustainable maternity wear options available. However, there are a few options available to us, we just need to think outside the square a little.

So to encourage the most sustainable maternity wardrobe possible, here are some principles that will help your maternity wear shopping:

1. Choose roomy non-maternity styles: As much as possible, find non-maternity clothing that fit a baby bump. These include billowy dresses, dresses with an empire line that sits above your bump, skirts with elastic waists that you can pull down below your bump or hipster/low-rise tights and underpants that sit below your bump, cardigans and coats that can be worn open. Sometimes you can get by with choosing a size larger than you normally wear, sometimes you will find that things you already own can be worn for much, if not all, of your pregnancy.

2. Experiment with minimalism: Most of us aren’t minimalist when it comes to our wardrobes, but the discreet 9 months that we will need our maternity wardrobes give us an opportunity to trial a minimalist approach to our wardrobes. Choose mainly neutrals and one or two core colours, and clothing that is suitable for layering. You can add interest by drawing upon the colourful accessories you probably already own, or use this as a chance to invest in a few.

3. Choose multi-purpose garments: Many maternity wear tops and dresses are also nursing wear. If you are buying maternity wear, try to ensure that it is also suitable for breastfeeding in. This will extend your use of your maternity clothing for at least another year.

4. Invest in good quality: Genuinely sustainable maternity wear labels are few and far between, so this is a time in you life where you may need to invest in a few conventional maternity wear garments, especially when it comes to maternity bras and swimwear. When buying from mainstream brands, be willing to spend the money to invest in good quality. This ensures that the items will last you through all of your pregnancies, and can be resold or given away to another mum when you are finished with them.

5. Scour the markets for secondhand: Baby and children markets are common- babies and children grow out of their clothing so quickly that many parents consider it worth their time to host a stall to sell their children’s old clothing. These markets are a great place to stock your children’s wardrobes. They are also a great place to also find second hand maternity wear. However, as most people buy poor quality fast fashion items, I wouldn’t rely upon second hand as the main maternity shopping strategy- second hand maternity is often not in the best condition, and you may have trouble finding garments that you like.

6. Learn to sew: If you have access to a sewing machine, now is a great time to learn to sew your own clothes. DIY Maternity has some fantastic tutorials for altering thrifted clothing for maternity wear and simple patterns for making maternity garments from scratch. Why not give some of them a go?

7. Sometimes ‘almost’ is good enough: To buy maternity wear you won’t be able to buy everything from ideally sustainable labels. Be comfortable with buying a few things that are almost there, but not quite ideal. I usually don’t like to buy bamboo clothing, but it is stretchy and versatile and more easily available in maternity wear than other fibers. So I’ve chosen a few bamboo dresses which aren’t ideal, but they are good enough for this point in time (and a much better choice than conventional cotton). As long as you are thoughtful and planned with your wardrobe shopping, as few good enough items won’t do too much damage.

8. Treat yourself: You will need to buy some new clothing during your pregnancy- it will be impossible to get through your 9 months without doing this. So use this as an opportunity to treat yourself. Be willing to buy your self something special, even if it is more than you would usually spend on a garment. In particular, take this approach to any non-maternity styles that you find which will accommodate your bump. Consider these items an investment that is worth treating yourself to- they will stay in your wardrobe for years to come, so they are worth the investment. Tell yourself that you will invest in a few extra garments now, and that you will restrain yourself from buying new garments in the next few years to make up for it.

People Tree Cardigan maternity

Here I am wearing a second hand maternity dress with a Fairtrade (non-maternity) cardigan partially buttoned

If you stick to these broad principles, you should be able to have a reasonably sustainable maternity wardrobe.

To help you on your search, I’ve also curated some recommendations for garments and brands that you can look out for. These will be featured in next week’s post, so do look out for them. Do you have any tips for buying maternity wear?



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  • Isa

    Thanks for this post – and the next one with suggested brands. I prioritise ethical clothing in my everyday life, and I don’t see why pregnancy should be any different. In fact, it seems anathema to contemplate buying something like nursing wear, designed specifically to nurture my baby, when the person who made it, or the resources its made from, don’t nurture the planet. The thought of child labour being used to create maternity wear for Westerners makes me feel ill!

    • I’m so glad you found these resources useful Isa. I feel the same. As long as the harms of fashion are in the dark, most people will ignore them. It is up to us to shine a light on the issues, and to lead the way showing that we can dress ethically and sustainably if we put in the effort to find out how

  • Sophie – The Ethical Wardrobe

    These are great Summer! Will defs be sharing. The best thing about this is that they’re great principles for clothing generally – not just maternity wear!!


      Thanks Sophie, I am so glad you think so. I completely agree that the principles apply more generally. If you are careful with what you select you can create a wardrobe that looks great, is versatile and works well with less. If you get that right then you can start to afford to spend more on individual garments because you are buying much, much less. This makes sustainable fashion far more accessible for most people

    • I’m so glad you found it useful