Labor Day is upon us, the fall semester is officially underway, and you’ve probably got a ton of Labor Day shopping coupons sitting in your inbox as we speak. Are you a pregnant woman trying to keep to a budget for her maternity wardrobe? Do you need help figuring out which brands are worth your time? Have I got the post for you! In the past two months I have placed approximately 2,947 orders for maternity clothes (and returned approximately 2,945 of them). Benefit from my online shopping obsession and innate pickiness, and let me give you the lowdown on LOFT, Gap, Old Navy, and Isabella Oliver.

Because most maternity clothes are sold exclusively online, I had to contact almost every brand for help with returns or shipping issues at some point. So I gave each store two grades — one for the clothes themselves and one for customer service. Clothes are graded on quality and style; customer service is graded on shipping speed, ease of returns, and responsiveness to customer problems. Both categories are graded with price taken into account (cheaper brands are graded less harshly; expensive brands better justify their prices with high-quality clothes and awesome customer service).

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In a fit of desperation after failing at maternity shopping (see previous post), I signed up to get a Stitch Fix box. For those who aren’t familiar with Stitch Fix, they’re a personal styling service that will send you five items based on a style profile and any specific requests you have for that box (e.g. “I need a special occasion outfit for an upcoming family wedding”).

This sounded great to me, since I tend to be set in my ways when it comes to clothes shopping. I hesitate to branch out from the tried-and-true, so a personal styling service that might nudge me out of my comfort zone and show me things I wouldn’t find on my own sounded awesome.

After the first box I was absolutely in love with the service. I asked for business casual maternity clothes. Everything they sent me was cute and in line with my style profile; the items I sent back got sent back because of fit problems or fabric issues. My five items were:

  • A darling silver necklace that I loved the minute I put it on.
  • A cute navy maternity dress that I considered keeping, but decided against because of the overly generous back pleating (hello, bubble butt!).
  • A coral-colored blouse that I liked a lot but that wrinkled almost from the moment I pulled it out of the box — I knew if I kept it I’d never wear it because I’d have to iron it every time I did.
  • A gorgeous teal blouse that was, alas, way too tight through the shoulders.
  • Comfy, trendy maternity leggings at exactly the right price point — perfect for fall weekends.

One thing I did notice was that the box had a very West Coast interpretation of business casual — see this comic by The Oatmeal for a handy primer on the difference between East Coast and West Coast sartorial philosophy. For example, I have never seen a single pair of stretch leggings at my workplace and I would never, ever teach in such tight pants, but the stylist specifically said that the leggings would be “perfect for work.” I decided I’d mention that my workplace is fairly conservative in my next note and eagerly signed up for my next Fix.

Alas, my second box was kind of a wreck. I might have gotten too specific in my styling note — I asked for sleeveless or short-sleeved work tops and business casual dresses (mentioning the bit about being on the more formal end of business casual), and also said I didn’t need any more pants. These requests went more or less ignored. Instead, I got:

  • Bright purple long-sleeved blouse with a missing button and fraying seams at the cuffs (yikes!).
  • Blue flowered maternity tunic with long sleeves and smocking across the chest — sort of Little House on the Prairie meets 70s flower child.
  • A pair of black maternity “jeggings” that were so tight I couldn’t get them over my bump, which I think was the baby’s way of expressing his displeasure with the entire concept of “jeggings.”
  • A mock wrap dress that actually fit quite well, although I worried that the geometric pattern was making me look even bigger.
  • A bumblebee costume.

Oh, you think I’m kidding about the bumblebee costume? BEHOLD:


See? I was so not kidding about the bumblebee costume. What is WITH maternity clothes and horizontal stripes?!

So our score so far is one excellent box, one poor one. I’m considering a third box as a tiebreaker but I’m actually fairly happy with my maternity wardrobe right now — I may wait until I a) start the semester and b) get more pregnant to see if I really need more/different items.

In the meantime, if you’re on the fence about Stitch Fix I say give it a try! The $20 styling fee is (IMO) pretty reasonable, returns are free and low-maintenance, and if all else fails you’ll have your own bumblebee costume to giggle over for hours at a time!

Maternity clothes: expectation

Maternity clothes: Expectation

Step 1: Avoid buying maternity clothes for as long as possible. Shift to wearing your “fat pants,” jersey skirts, dresses with empire waists, and any blouses that will still button over your suddenly gigantic boobs. (Beware of unexpected cleavage in shirts that were once work-appropriate.)

Step 2: When Step 1 no longer does the trick, buy a few items in a size larger than you usually wear. Feel smug for not investing too much money in maternity clothes.

Step 3: Discover that larger sizes no longer solve your problem–your belly cannot be contained. Order lots of maternity clothes with the intention of returning most of them.* Surely something will look cute!

Step 4: Try on maternity clothes. Discover that nothing fits because maternity size charts are bullshit.** Return everything except for two blouses and an unflattering pair of casual shorts that you have to keep yanking up over your hips, because you’re going hiking this weekend and you’re desperate.

Step 5: See an unflattering photo of yourself in said shorts and a pre-maternity t-shirt. Realize your “baby bump” is in fact a two-tier lump of belly flab; Google this phenomenon and learn that it’s called a “B belly” and is “common in obese women.” Also, realize your boobs look like udders. Shove t-shirt into bottom of laundry basket, then cry. A lot.

Step 6: Halfheartedly place a few more orders for maternity clothes in different sizes. Then google “cow costume” because obviously you are now a cow and might as well dress like one.

Maternity clothes: Reality

Maternity clothes: Reality

See, this is what happens when people who are bad at shopping are allowed to become pregnant. Memo to self: next time just go right for the muumuu.


* Most maternity lines seem to be online-only affairs, presumably because pregnant women should be kept from human eyes and do not belong in shopping malls with normal people.

** OK, I do have one real tip. Most maternity clothes tell you to just order your pre-pregnancy size — e.g., “4 Maternity” if you used to wear a 4. HOWEVER, this advice doesn’t take much account of different body types. If, like me, you carry most of your weight in your hips and thighs and usually buy the “curvy” fit pants, size up when you buy maternity pants or shorts.

Any other real tips to pass on?

So I haven’t updated this blog in quite a long time. To be honest I felt like I ran out of things to write about — and there were also things afoot (pun intended) that took me out of the alcohol-blogging game for a while.


Yep, I’m 19 weeks pregnant!

The ultrasound tech told us it’s a little boy and even printed out snapshots of his, uh, boy parts, helpfully labeled “BOY.” I am not posting those because a) even with the label those pictures look like a bunch of blur to me, and b) I feel that it really should be Baby’s choice whether pictures of his boy parts appear on the internet, a choice that he will ideally make after the age of NEVER.

So that’s what’s going on with me! I have to admit I’ve had an easy pregnancy so far — very little morning sickness, no weird cravings or wild emotional swings, just a propensity for napping. But no matter the symptoms pregnancy is an odd time. This is our first kid and we’re staring down the barrel of a massive life change, one that I don’t think you can ever be quite prepared for no matter how much you try to prepare. It’s also a bit lonely to do this so far from family or a real network of friends — I realized this week that it’s unlikely I’ll get to have a baby shower, for instance, which made me kind of sad. Finally, I’m planning to use my maternity leave as a chance to re-evaluate my career path (that longed-for tenure track job, alas, never materialized, and is unlikely to do so given the age of my PhD), which comes with its own raft of anxiety and uncertainty and sheer blind terror.

But: tiny little baby feet! A first grandchild for my parents to cuddle, the first great-grandson on my mom’s side, a little cousin for my nephew to play with,* and a whole new little person to bring into our home! And life changes are scary but staying in one place because of fear is no way to live, or at least that’s what the inspirational poster I saw on Pinterest told me.

Now, can someone please tell me how to pick a name? Or what stroller I should buy? Or how many dinosaur onesies is too many? (Kidding about that last one, obviously there is no way to have too many dinosaur onesies.)

A must-have for a December baby.


* Or, more likely, “regard with bemused boredom until he becomes old enough to boss around.”

Scene: A tired woman – me – has just finished showing her soon-to-be-former landlord around an empty and freshly cleaned apartment. The inspection has lasted a solid half hour but miraculously, he has found nothing wrong. The end is in sight.

I hand him the keys.

Him: “Can you please remind me which key is which?”
Me: “Of course!”
(My brain: please oh please give me back my security deposit and let me go home soon)
Him: “What is this key?”
Me: “That is the key to the storage unit.”
Him: “The key to the storage unit?”
Me: “Yep, to the storage unit.”
Him: “Did I give you this key?”
Me: “Yes, you did.”
Him (slightly accusingly): “You made a copy!”
Me (confused): “No, no copies, that is the original.”
Him: “Then which is the copy?”
Me: “There are no copies, Landlord. There is only the original key you gave us.”
Him: “Ah, I see. And this is the storage unit key I gave you?”
Me: “Yes.”
Him: “This key?”
Me: “Yes.”
Him: “And you did not make a copy? This is the key I gave you?”
Me (trying to conceal my impatience): “Yes.”
Him: “Ah, OK. And what does this next key do?”

There were six keys on that key ring, FYI. But the story has a happy ending: we got our security deposit back and we’re in our new apartment!