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The Modern Guide to The Thing Before Preppy

Friday, August 13, 2021

Maternity clothes? Baby clothes? Must-have baby items for a minimalistic approach?


A reader question:

I am so grateful for this community you've cultivated here on your corner of the internet. My husband and I love your blog not only for things of a sartorial nature, but the wonderful glimpse into your world. Thank you.

I'd like to pose a question to your readers. We're looking for advice on the following:

At 37, I am expecting my first child. As relative late bloomers to the family creation game, my husband and I are a bit mystified by all the maternity and baby clothing currently available. I'm having a bit of trouble sourcing maternity clothes that don't make me look like a completely different person (OCBDs and classics are my general style). Baby clothes are also outrageously trendy and full of graphics. Could your readers possibly advise us on the following: 

  • What exactly do (or did) SWNE types wear for maternity clothes? Everything I've found seems to be extremely trendy or has an emphasis on 'showing off' your baby belly with graphics or hideous elastic ruching.  

  • Where do you find well made baby and children's clothes that aren't too expensive, trendy, or laden with graphics? Natural materials and good quality are something we've had trouble finding. 

  • Do your readers have any must-have baby items to mention? We are taking the British approach and are purchasing all of baby's things ourselves (no baby shower). Besides the essentials, we're looking to keep a fairly minimalistic approach to baby paraphernalia.



  1. In response to the baby and children's clothes question - take a look at Primary. Great colors, very high quality and no graphics. And Congratulations!

  2. My wife liked clothes from Pea in the Pod. She found a few things she really liked and bought those. She also inherited stuff from friends and her sister. The stuff she liked and found comfortable, she wore often and had in a small rotation.

  3. Forget fussing about buying "good quality" baby clothes, certainly for the first year. They only last about 2 months until they're too small and usually end up covered in sick or similar! We just bought loads of cotton baby grows.

    1. Most frugal Yankees will buy baby clothes at yard sales since they will be worn so briefly.

    2. Congratulations! Agree with all the comments so far about not overspending on baby clothes. They grow so fast and everything gets messy. We bought a number of plain white onesies made by Burts Bees from Target and then pants, shorts, and solid colored onesies from Primary. We supplemented those in the first year with finds from yard sales (many still with tags) and a few nicer items from Nantucket Kids for special events, though we saw few of those this past year.

  4. Congratulations! It has been a couple of decades since I was pregnant, but I will make a couple of suggestions. I would look to create a capsule wardrobe and not invest too much money in a temporary wardrobe. I know that Target has a maternity section and may have some solid basics. I am rather tall and picked up a couple of items in the men's department.

    As for baby items, it seems the sky is the limit these days! Most of the items are not necessary. I would stick to the basics at first- car seat, stroller, baby monitor, thermometer, etc. See what needs arise after the baby is born before springing for the extras. We did find that a baby wipe warmer (a fairly inexpensive item) made changing time more pleasant for our babies.

  5. Both of our children lived as babies in solid color onesies or solid color tee shirts and diapers, especially in the warmer months. The two purchases that were super useful were the lightest weight umbrella type stroller and the carrier that could be turned into a slouchy chair and propped up on the table or banquette at a cafe. Saturday breakfast out became the center of our social life until they were old enough to enjoy the park. We called the carrier the "baby bucket."

    For maternity my wife lived in very bright and billowy Mexican dresses purchased from vendors at defunct gas stations. Blindingly bright pink, yellow, turquoise...

  6. Clothing for babies to about 12? We always liked Janie and Jack, which my late mother turned us onto shortly after our son was born. Here's a link to their newborn collections:

    Some of their items can be a bit pricey, but J&J have routine sales and clearances, so with care it's entirely possible to clothe a baby/toddler/small child nicely without breaking the bank. Plus, it's always nice to begin cultivating the habit of looking presentable even when the child is far too young to realize it.

    Best Regards,


  7. Repeating the above: don't overspend on a short one-time wardrobe.

    Hanna Andersson for soft, pretty baby wear.

  8. Check out Marks and Spencer kids' clothing on-line. Free shipping from England for orders over $100. Adorable baby clothes. I bought school uniforms from M&S, too--a fraction of the cost of American uniforms and MUCH better quality.

  9. Congrats! Maternity clothes can be tricky, but here are a few ideas from places I shopped while expecting:

    Target - lots of understated shift style dresses - wide stripes or solid colors. The Nines by Hatch line there is nice.

    Gap - great options for pants and tops.

    JCrew - excellent more "dressy" options.

    And borrowed my husband's oxford button downs - I paired them with (quality and opaque) legging on the weekend.

    Baby Items:

    Crib - Pottery Barn, Kendall Crib is classic and gets high safety ratings

    Stroller - Uppa Baby It's fantastic! Worth the money, 100%.

    Binky - Nuk brank makes one where the outer nub glows in the dark! AMAZING for finding and popping lost binky in at night without too much disruption.

    Baby Clothes - 100% agree with prior posting - babies grow so fast! Focus on soft items made with natural fibers that wash well. Baby Gap was a favorite for me. And get some Dawn dish detergent (the blue kind) for pre-treating ALL the stains. It works like magic! (And skip the "baby" laundry detergent. Fragrance / dye free works just as well for a fraction of the price).

    Enjoy, take it easy, and best wishes!

  10. I always struggled with this, so you are definitely not alone! Babies really do outgrow their clothes quickly. I always recommend H&M for babies and toddlers. There are so many classic pieces mixed in with all the trendy items they offer, and often in natural fibers with an adjustable waist on even the smallest pants and shorts (you will learn quickly how important this is, and many retailers don’t add adjustable waists until you reach toddler sizes for some reason). For special occasion pieces, I like Edgehill Collection at Dillard’s and Smocked Auctions.

    For myself, I always had one or two good pair of jeans (usually purchased at A Pea in the Pod or Motherhood Maternity). Over the years I think I have had best luck with Old Navy maternity in general, with a few pieces from Target mixed in. I purchased a small handful of things off ThredUp with my third child and was really pleased with those purchases. Good luck!

  11. Congratulations. For a classic maternity look, you should take some time to watch Father of the Bride II - the costume designer put Diane Keaton into oversized men's shirts and accessories that drew attention to her neckline and face. For a recent surgery, I decided to follow the same path, buying some really good second-hand OCBDs in the men's section of a great charity store in Sun Valley. If you buy just a couple of pairs of maternity pants, and start wearing some lovely scarves, you could reproduce your classic look without spending a fortune.

  12. Hanna Andersson for baby clothes. Not too many 0-12 month size; babies grow fast. It was easier to buy from HA 40 years ago because the line was very basic, all cotton. It was sold years ago and the line expanded but when I bought for my granddaughters, I stuck with the classic cotton clothes. They go on sale quite frequently too. Stains used to come out of the clothing much easier than other clothes too.

  13. Congratulations—what a happy event! About dressing, seems to me that empire waistlines, trapeze shapes, and caftans will see you through with comfort. For a more active look, a man’s button-down with the cuffs turned back and natural fiber slacks with the side seams extended by your tailor might serve. Toward the end of your term, consider knitted shoes with arch support, such Arcopedico flats. // About baby clothes, might be very satisfying to seek out well made, natural-fiber, items at tag sales and consignment stores. My very best to you …

  14. I absolutely second the recommended mens OCBD with maternity khakis or jeans.

    We also love Hanna Anderson...still buying from them for my 10 year old.

  15. I echo the calls for Hanna Anderson! Excellent quality, unparalleled comfort. I recommend thrifting, too, as HA wears like iron and retains its value. Congratulations to you and your husband!

  16. Congratulations!  My husband and I had a little girl this year; right before my 37th birthday!

    For basic maternity clothes that I wasn't too focused on keeping forever were from Target and Old Navy.  I bought a few longer lasting pieces from Seraphine.

    For baby clothes: whenever anyone offered their hand-me-downs I never said no.  I definitely am focused on fabric content as well; the amount of polyester that occurs in baby clothes is alarming.  Especially sleepwear.  Someone previously mentioned Janie and Jack: I've noticed (from purchasing gifts for others through the years) that the quality has gone downhill quickly.  They are now focused on collaborations with Disney and create clothes that I view as, um, "unfortunate".  Look at the Cat and Jack line at Target; one of my favorite outfits has been a Navy Blue eyelet summer onesie.  Every once in awhile Carter's will come along with a gem.  Baby Gap, yes; depending on your color preferences (mine run cool) definitely look at H & M and Zara.  For sleepsacks we love Malabar Baby; they come in various thicknesses and are a respectable price point.  

    For gear: yes I agree you don't need much but that nesting urge is hard to fight for getting the nursery done before baby arrives.  Gear that we're thankful for everyday?  Yes, agree on the UPPAbaby products; we have the Mesa car seat and the Vista2 stroller.  The stroller came with the rumble seat and the bassinet.  Absolutely worth the cost and we're looking forward to using all for the future as well.  Another product that has allowed us some semblance of calm has been the Owlet sock with the camera.  In fact, I'm using both at the moment while baby naps!  The Owlet sock keeps track of baby's heart rate and oxygen levels.  Yes, I can feel the eyerolls but it's an amazing product that helps us sleep calmly at night.  If the heart rate or oxygen levels go outside of a healthy range then an alarm goes off.  And agree on having a small thing of dishsoap handy to pre-treat stains.  For set in stains I use my ol' standby: Restoration.  Congrats again!  - hrplo

  17. Lovely news , congratulations to you. As a granny I’ve found Hannah Anderson and Mini Boden have nice things, Patagonia has nice warm things for little ones, they also have a section of gently pre worn clothing on their website so you might find something nice there. LL Bean also has clothing for little ones. Best wishes.

  18. I also forgot to mention Carters has great inexpensive onesies, since you will be doing lots of laundry:) Burt’s Bees has all natural cotton clothes and Zutano, which can be found on their website or amazon’s had great booties which actually stay on little feet!! They also have nice cozy clothes, very washable.

  19. I liked sizing up in regular clothes because maternity items were so hideous. I also found some cute dresses on Amazon that were terrible quality but cheap and flattering. I have a 2 & 4 year old, and did foster care prior to that. Buy onesies and swaddle ups for the baby. That's all you'll need for a newborn if the baby prefers to be worn. Some of mine liked gowns and some preferred pajamas as layers. For nicer items I was always surprised by how nice Mini Boden items were. I felt the sizing on Patagonia was weird - and far too big and short for a regular to slender child. I love North Face fleeces as jackets and found they were stretchy enough to fit over several sizes and weren't too bulky to be unsafe in a car seat.

  20. I bought only a few maternity items when I was pregnant--one pair of slim pants, one pair of jeans, and I believe a skirt. Otherwise I found that shift dresses worked very well, and my shirts/sweaters are a looser fit anyway so that worked out well! Thankfully my Barbour worked during the colder weather, along with slightly larger sweaters (non-maternity.)

    For my son, we stuck with the staples for the first few months (Gerber onesies, and we also liked Primary and Burt's Bees!) For nicer clothes, Papo d'Anjo and Boden were excellent. For everyday, Baby Gap occasionally has some non-graphic tshirts that were good quality, and their pants are good as well. They also make a lovely duffel coat! Hanna Andersson is always a good bet. I was not happy with the quality of Crewcuts clothing.


  21. I didn't spend much money on new clothing items for myself when pregnant, it was an easy to have my existing wardrobe tailored to fit my expanding body. I had more difficulty in finding comfortable shoes as my feet widened during my first pregnancy. A pair of Tods driving mocs mocs did the trick as the fine leather leather accommodated my expanding feet. Big sweaters over leggings with my Tods was a go to look for me, with the occasional cardigan and pop over shirt with an elasticated waist line.

    Ralph Lauren's infant and children's clothing line worked well for my children, and can often be found on sale. The infant stage goes so quickly, my boys all lived in baby grows and onesies (often RL or Carters). Wishing you the best!

  22. When my spouse was pregnant (our youngest of 3 heads to college in a week), Pea in the Pod and Target were her places; she was lawyering full-time during the first pregnancy. She also co-opted some of my shirts.

    Infant/toddler clothes, there was no one place, but we learned that less expensive was better because they invariably get stained and wrecked.

    You end up needing a compact/folding stroller if you live anywhere near civilization, but we had a hand-me-down stroller with three bicycle wheels that we used a lot in less-congested areas & on walks. We walked a lot with them.

  23. Congratulations. I agree with those who recommended thrift in baby clothes shopping. For the first couple of years they grow so fast. You are constantly buying bigger sizes/or seasonally required items. Consignment or thrift shops are a good option.

    Minimalist purchases for non-clothing items is a good goal. However if you have a fussy child who won't nap you might end up buying a lot of things to help with that. For our first we purchased anything and I do mean anything (bouncy seats, swings ...etc.) to help him nap during the day. Good luck and make sure you take lots of pictures.


  24. I think Gap and Hannah A clothing are perfect for both mother and baby. Say yes to offers of previously worn kids clothing and just sort out items to your liking. Wash and mend at your own pace.The dreaded plastic containers labeled make it easier to stay organized. Try and keep the container the same brand to stack and store. Congratulations, it’s a remarkable ride.

  25. I agree with prior posters on the thrift store for baby clothes. I have seen so many new or nearly new items when I've been in those sections. As far as other essentials--I see so many new parents with way too much stuff that they drag along. I wasn't a parent, but I was a very hands on aunt (my sister had to return to work when my nephew was only a few months old) and I hated lugging around anything that I didn't think would get used on the outing. And my sister didn't go bananas with baby stuff either, a cute but not over the top nursery with the basic items is all you need. I will say, Onesies were the best thing ever invented for babies.

  26. All great suggestions- if your goal is to double down on spending money on things that will last only months. The great thing about late to the baby game isn't that all your friends should have BAGS (and bags, and bags) of kiddie clothing to share. Reuse and repurpose all the things that were well loved and well used by your friends. Put the money you would have spent on clothes into the college fund.

  27. I was cleaning out a dresser drawer and thought of this thread. My daughter received quite a few of the muslin "blankets" when she had her first child (which were stored in the dresser) - and I thought they were ridiculous. However, they turned out to be so useful. They can be used as a very light cover in the summer, as a sun shield on the baby carriage, for a burp cloth, cover for breast feeding, etc. A lot of the equipment moms are convinced they need now are silly but those muslin blankets are great.


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