You make careful decisions about everything you do during pregnancy.
If you want to skip fast fashion and set yourself up with a wardrobe full of stylish, affordable, totally ethical maternity clothing, here’s how.
Where’s the Ethical Maternity Wear?
Don’t be surprised if you come up dry on your first search for ethical maternity clothing. Only a handful of brands bill themselves as ethical, and even less of those are actually so. The main reason for this is profit. Few companies are willing to fork out for sustainable materials, fair wages, and safe working environments.
Fast fashion is cheap. The prices of maternity wear you find in high street chains are often hard to ignore. Yet, the consequences of buying fast go far beyond your wallet. Underpaid workers suffer in unsafe factories, often in countries that lack adequate regulation. Synthetic materials and unsustainably-produced natural materials can also contribute to climate change.
With just a little effort, it’s possible to look great during your pregnancy without propping up these unsustainable practices.
Baby Bump Must-Buys… and Things to Go Without
Don’t let the fast fashion brands fool you. You may think you have to buy a whole new wardrobe as soon as you miss your period. As it is, you’re very likely to have a few items in your closet that can carry through much of your pregnancy.
Anything that zips or buttons down the front is useful as it can be worn open for extra space. These include cardigans, sweatshirts, shirts, and denim jackets. Many of your casual dresses may prove to be roomy enough for your bump. Bottoms are more of an issue, since it’s your waistline that will be growing the most.
If you have skirts and trousers with elasticated waists, these may well last you through the first and possibly most of the second trimester. Leggings are also useful during pregnancy, especially those with fold-down “yoga” waistbands. (Not skin-tight yoga pants — you’ll no doubt be shedding those pretty soon!)
It’s during the final trimester that maternity-specific clothing becomes the most important. By then, only a few items in your regular wardrobe will fit your changing body. You’ll want a few versatile dresses, perhaps in a yielding jersey knit. Those, along with two or three good pairs of trousers and/or skirts with stretchy belly panels, are perfect. If you need new tops, look for loose-fitting tops with nursing panels for post-delivery use.
Not splurging on new clothes during the first trimester means you’ll be able to afford higher quality, ethically produced pieces later on. Much better than stuffing your closet full of cheap fast fashion!
To get you started, we’ve found you some maternity shopping gems. Here are three companies making ethical maternity clothing in the UK.
Ethical Maternity Clothing Brands in the UK
Jojo Maman Bébé
Despite its Frenchified name, Jojo Maman Bébé is a thoroughly British brand. Newport native Laura Tenison founded the company in 1993. Ever since, she’s been dedicated to running her business as ethically as possible. The majority of the work is done in Wales, yet they also maintain fair, respectful relationships with carefully-monitored overseas suppliers.
The brand trims its carbon footprint down to the bare minimum, using sea freight instead of air, and low-energy lighting in their stores. They’ve even developed their own recycled fleece.
Their in-house charity, Nema Foundation, helps to relieve poverty in Northern Mozambique. No wonder they’re one of the few certified B Corps, a selective group of companies that put people and planet over profits.
Best of all, their line of maternity clothing is affordable, versatile and comprehensive. They have everything from comfy jeans to winter coats and tights. Everything is available online or in their dozens of brick-and-mortar stores. Just be careful not to make the fast fashion mistake of buying more than you need!
Over a decade ago, two new parents discovered that ordinary baby clothes didn’t fit over bulky cloth nappies. While that may not sound like the most promising start to a fashionable clothing company, those parents ended up founding Frugi.
The brand is now one of the UK’s best organic clothing brands for mothers and babies. All their clothing is made of soft, pliant cotton. This cotton is certified organic by both the Global Organic Textile Standard and the Soil Association.
The versatility of their line for mums makes it even more eco-friendly. Every piece is designed to be equally functional during pregnancy and nursing. Besides this, it all looks good enough to wear long after.
They donate 1% of profits from their peppy printed garments to three carefully selected charities. These include an orphanage in India not far from their own factories. Frugi claims to visit these factories often and to hold them to high safety standards (though it should be noted that they only have their own code of conduct to answer to).
Tiffany Rose is best known for their maternity evening wear and wedding gowns. However they also offer a wide range of more casual dresses to suit any occasion, from the office to a picnic in the park.
Our favourite piece in their collection is the Naomi dress. This flattering design includes some ingenious feats of engineering. The built-in sash is adjustable to encompass any circumference, and a scoop neck flatters blossoming bosoms. Best of all, this piece doesn’t stop being useful after delivery — it doubles as a nursing dress!
Like all Tiffany Rose designs, the Naomi dress is manufactured in the UK. Many of their fabrics also come from British mills, including the Naomi slinky jersey. Tiffany Rose won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2013, in recognition of their national pride and international following.
However, ethical shoppers should note that for the most part they use synthetic materials such as polyester and viscose. While these are great for stretching over growing bumps, they can release microfibres into the water system when washed, upsetting marine ecosystems.
The most reliable and ethical source for maternity clothing is the second-hand market.
This way, you know you’re not adding any wasted material to the landfill. Plus, you’re not supporting any underhand companies. Charity shops such as Oxfam almost always have a small stash of maternity wear. There are also a few maternity-focused second-hand stores peppered across the UK, like Apple Tree in Cambridge.
Online shopping aficionados will find all the second-hand maternity wear they need online. Websites such as ebay, Etsy, ThredUp, and their competitors have an array of choice.
There are even cheaper ways to stock your closet. Try typing “maternity clothing swap” into your Facebook search bar. You’ll find both Facebook groups and local public events where mothers trade their used maternity wear for clothes or cash.
Finally, don’t forget about the cheapest method of all. If you have friends and family that have been pregnant, ask them for hand-me-downs. You’re sure to get stacks of belly-panel jeans and tunic tops for your efforts.
It seems there are options for fair, affordable and ethical maternity clothing in the UK. Just as long as you know where to look.