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Of all the questions I receive from PF readers, how and where to find a stylish maternity business suit is undoubtedly the most frequent. The problem is, I don’t really have an answer to that question because I don’t think such a thing exists yet. I am contacted often by new maternity designers who tell me they have come up with the ultimate solution to this fashion dilemma. And I always look at their photos, view their samples, and offer support. But I have yet to see a maternity business suit that I actually want to put on my body, let alone one for which I want to pay a few hundred dollars. I, for one, don’t see why maternity business suits must always be drab, frumpy and well, ugly. Canadian retailer Hatch Maternity designed somewhat attractive business suits, but the company went out of business last year. Italian designer Nicol Caramel designs a very basic blazer to match her must-have, over-the-belly trousers, but there is nothing particularly special about it, except that it actually buttons over your belly. A Pea in the Pod always releases business suits as part of its in-house collection and they are reliably poorly made, ill-fitting, and overpriced.

Blossom Harley Maternity Jacket

So, what is a pregnant woman to do when she needs to be in court, works in a conservative office, has a job interview, or simply needs to appear professional? My best and hard-earned advice is to go with separates. You probably already have a favorite pair of work-appropriate maternity trousers that you are wearing to death. If not, I am a devotee of The Tailored Trouser from Isabella Oliver and, as mentioned above, Nicol Caramel’s Over-the-Belly Straight Leg Trousers, available in black, brown and grey. If you must wear a skirt, the Ripe Black Suzie Pencil Skirt is an ideal closet staple, and very reasonably priced at USD $69. Pencil skirts are another one of those pieces that don’t make the jump over to maternitywear that easily, but this skirt stays put and keeps it structure even if you are toting a sizeable bump underneath it.

The jacket is a bit harder to find. If you don’t need to button the jacket, you obviously have more freedom to wear your pre-pregnancy suit jackets with a maternity top underneath, provided you can still get your shoulders into it. (I tried to squeeze myself into my prized Kate Middleton-inspired SMYTHE Hunting Jacket In Haze with Caramel Leather this morning–bad idea).

But there are those offices and situations where an open, snug-fitting jacket is not appropriate and in those cases, I recommend Blossom Mother and Child’s Harley Pleated Maternity Jacket. This jacket stands out not only because it is beautifully tailored and lined, but it also makes an effort to be a unique and different jacket, something you might look twice at on the rack even if you weren’t shopping for two. The pleated details, the covered buttons, the adjustable belt around the empire waist, the button details at the cuffs–the designer clearly put thought into designing this coat for both fashion and fit, rather than simply ensuring it will button. Blossom releases a version of this jacket every fall and makes small improvements to the design each time. this year’s version has additional pleating around the bust. I own both the 2006 and 2008 versions in khaki and in navy and if I have to look businesslike at the office, I wear this jacket buttoned up with a white maternity blouse, dark trousers or a dark skirt, and a statement necklace. Blossom’s Harley jacket is now available in navy, khaki and off-white for approximately USD $250. It is a cotton jacket and it runs small, so I recommend buying one size up from your pre-pregnancy size.

I am also newly intrigued by The Everyday Blazer, new from Isabella Oliver this fall. I haven’t purchased one yet, as I am waiting for one of IO’s holiday sales to take the plunge. But it looks tasteful and well-conceived and I like the idea of a more forgiving jersey blazer that perhaps won’t restrict my breathing when I try to button it at Week 38. 

In the meantime, if you have a maternity business ensemble you love, please share it here. Readers are eager for ideas and I will readily admit, I am imbued with a serious bit of cynicism when it comes to finding a stylish maternity business suit.

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For me, one of the telltale signs that I was pregnant yet again was the inability to button those top few buttons on my blouse. Only a few weeks into my pregnancies, my button-downs became quick wardrobe casualties because I truly dread being one of those unaware women wearing a button-down blouse that gapes and consequently, shows her bra and sometimes even her breast to just about everyone she meets that day. I have been a corporate lawyer for a good number of years and I have sat within viewing range of far too many of those women. Old, young, heavy, thin, pregnant, not pregnant–it doesn’t seem to matter. Far too many women seem completely ignorant of the fact that their blouse doesn’t fit properly or, in many cases, it does, but it is gaping anyway.

For all of you newly endowed pregnant women who I hope are aware of this problem (and for all of you non-pregnant women who I hope are going to become aware of this problem after reading this), meet Rochelle Behrens and behold, “The Shirt.” Rochelle is a gorgeous, young professional woman who I happened to meet at a Christmas party here in Washington, DC. Having realized that she simply could not wear a button-down shirt without simultaneously revealing her bra, Rochelle incorporated “Dual-Button Technology” into a basic, cotton button-down. Right at that point between the top two buttons of your blouse, Rochelle added an extra interior button to prevent the unsightly gaping with which most of us are familiar. Voila! Problem solved without safety pins, snaps, tape, or any of the other home remedies we’ve all tried to fix this problem.

Pick one of these blouses up to wear during those first trimester weeks when you have no baby bump, but are having problems managing those new assets above your waist. Click here to shop “The Shirt,” which comes in numerous cuts and colors, all of which are priced under USD $100. You may have already noticed that Oprah is also recommending “The Shirt” as a fashion must-have for 2011. I always defer to Oprah’s divine advice, but I will point out that I met Rochelle before she was “Oprah-fied” and she is truly an incredibly smart, entrepreneurial woman with a really great idea that she has managed to turn into a business. She hadn’t even considered marketing the shirt to pregnant women, but seemed thrilled that it might help expecting moms out too. Maybe I can even talk her into designing a maternity version.

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A very quick posting, as I have just finished the five-day process of transporting the boys from Jerusalem to our new home in Washington, DC and I cannot even think about shopping right now–I am just that tired. But not tired enough that I can resist posting this photo of a five-months pregnant Alicia Keys performing this morning in her short little belted romper. She is gorgeous, I love her voice, I send her the most sincere congrats on her pregnancy, but this confirms what I have been writing since the one-piece craze hit the maternity market. Jumpsuits/rompers are not for pregnant ladies. I think this looks hands-down awful.

Back to business. I was online trying to buy a new pair of my favorite Summer 2010 Isabella Oliver pants last night (the ones I have had an ill-fated run-in with a tomato-sauce-laden meal on the flight from Israel Monday night). I happened to click over to the maternity site and realized that the Bacall striped trousers are available in a maternity version and they are currently on sale starting today through this weekend. These trousers are striped with thin navy and white stripes and they look great with white or deep navy on top. They are incredibly lightweight, but they are also well-tailored and made from a crisp cotton fabric. These are real trousers and I am thrilled IO has released them in a maternity version. Not all pregnant women want to wear sweatpants or yoga pants every day, I love when a maternity designer releases a true trouser. They also come in black. If you are looking for a lightweight trouser to get you through the summer months in the office, this is it.

Type promotional code SPREE when you check out today and you’ll receive 39% off the USD $199 retail price of the Bacall trouser here. The discount applies sitewide and drops slightly every day this weekend (36% off on Saturday and 33% off on Sunday). The promotion does not apply to items already on sale.

These trousers would look fabulous on Alicia, don’t you think? If she paired them with a sexy low-cut white top, Alicia could still flaunt her baby bump without having to worry about trying to use the ladies room in between sets while wearing a romper. Let’s hope Alicia finds this blog before she squeezes that bump into another all-in-one. If the classy ladies at IO are reading this, send Alicia some of your maternity clothing ASAP.

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Last night was one of those rare, perfect evenings when I was home alone with a bottle of nice red wine, a full bag of red Twizzlers, all four boys soundly asleep by 8pm, and because my husband was working quite late, a computer all to myself so I could shop online uninterrupted (we share a computer, so I sometimes have to abandon online shopping and sacrifice my computer time in order to further the Middle East peace process).  While I was checking all of my favorite sites and eating an entire bag of Twizzlers paired with cabernet, I discovered that Saks currently has the classic matte jersey Diane von Furstenberg Julian Wrap Dress on sale here in black for USD $298 and the classic Jeanne wrap dress on sale here in black for USD $298 (the Julian is a collarless V-neck style, the Jeanne has a collar).  And most sizes are still available!  The DVF website also has the Julian Wrap Dress selling in chocolate here, also still available in all sizes.

diane-von-furstenberg-black-dresses-julian-wrap-dress-in-blackdiane-von-furstenberg-day-dresses-julian-wrap-dress-in-chocolateThis isn’t a maternity dress, but this is the ideal dress for a woman who is just barely pregnant and still trying to hide it.  I was interviewing for jobs when I was first pregnant with James and I bought this dress in both black and chocolate and it managed to get me through several weeks of interviews (with a pair of Spanx underneath, of course).  The dress continued to fit as I grew in unfamiliar ways during those early weeks and it did a nice job of making my belly look less obvious than it was, due to the color and the very loose, forgiving jersey fabric (I did need to start wearing a camisole underneath the dress as I grew bigger). You should definitely go up one size from your pre-pregnancy size and even if you aren’t quite up to the next size yet, the self-tie belt will permit you to adjust the dress appropriately. I also wore this dress very often after the baby was born.  I went looking for it when I found out my sister was pregnant and it was sold out everywhere, so this is a good opportunity to snag one for yourself.  And obviously, pregnant or not, you don’t need justification for buying yourself a DVF wrap dress.  Every woman should have one in her closet.

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tatafornowtatafornow#2When it becomes time for all of you to shop for nursingwear, I am happy to say that there is now a good selection of nursing T-shirts and nursing camisoles out there from which to choose. When I was first shopping for nursingwear just four years ago, there wasn’t near the selection there is now.  Several nursingwear retailers have also introduced nursing dresses, allowing the postpartum fashionista to spruce herself a bit without worrying about nursing access.

More recently, I was introduced to my first nursing blouse from a new nursingwear company out of San Francisco, Ta-Ta for Now. The designers at Ta-Ta for Now, Grace and Robyn, have kept the working and nursing woman in mind with the Raquel Blouse, because this blouse looks great with a suit jacket or cardigan and is perfect for the office.  This blouse is the best kind of nursingwear because it is extremely difficult to tell it is a nursing top, but you can wear it and not worry about having to take your entire blouse off when it is time to pump in the office bathroom.   I ruined some very nice blouses in my clumsy efforts to pump at the office.

The Raquel Blouse is available in black and chocolate brown and it is priced at USD $59 here at Ta-Ta For Now’s website.  Ta-Ta For Now’s nursing collection currently only includes three pieces–the Raquel Blouse, the Audrey Nursing Dress, and the Vera Nursing Tank.  We need more pieces from this promising company and Grace and Robyn are exactly the kind of entrepreneurial women I love to support though this blog.  So head over to Ta-Ta For Now, plan ahead, and treat yourself to a beautiful nursing blouse.

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I have been a terribly delinquent blogger these past few days and I am so sorry.  I will not torture all of you with stories of what it is like to be staying in a hotel suite with three jetlagged toddlers and one jetlagged baby.  Suffice it to say, there is not a lot of “me” time for actiivities like blogging.  If I manage to take a shower by myself each day (i.e., without one of the children opening the bathroom door and screaming, “Mommy, you naked!” and then dissolving into hysterics), that seems to be an achievement.

twistfronststrip1But being back in the USA has been so refreshing on the fashion front.  I am sure you all take this for granted, but it is so very nice to walk down the street and not feel as if every third person is wearing some kind of costume.  Since I arrived back last Thursday, I have seen two different pregnant women wearing one of my favorite basic maternity blouses, the Maternal America Twist Front Blouse, which reminded me that I have not blogged about it in a while.  This blouse is the ultimate maternity basic.  I checked and it must be very popular among other pregnant fashionistas because Maternal America continues to sell it every season and it is usually sold out in white.   prod_1435I did find it currently available in white at Sierra Lane here for USD $68. Normally, you can’t go wrong with a clean, crisp white blouse, but when you are pregnant, you most certainly can.  Buying a maternity blouse that looks more like a white tent than a nice-fitting blouse is a serious risk.  The knot at the center of this blouse is adjustable so it works from the start of your pregnancy almost to the finish.  At the very end, it can be difficult to wear anything that doesn’t grip at the bottom for fear of unwittingly showing skin.  But this blouse is designed to grow with you and toward the end, I simply wore a camisole underneath it to ensure there was no exhibitionism.  Because it has no tie or sash, like most maternity blouses, this blouse layers especially nicely with a cardigan or a jacket.

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roma dressI write about Isabella Oliver’s maternity line all of the time.  If you own even one of IO’s pieces, you already know how crucial they are to the devoted fashionista’s maternity wardrobe.  I keep in sporadic touch with the very nice women working at IO and they recently suggested that I “test-drive” one of the dresses from their non-maternity line, Isabella Oliver 365.  I already own two jackets from the 365 line, but I hadn’t yet purchased any of their dresses.  I don’t know about you, but my postpartum, “slummy mummy” physique has become very used to jeans, T-shirts, and sweaters/jackets.  Very nice jeans, very nice T-shirts, and very nice sweaters/jackets, but still, it’s become kind of a uniform.

roma dress #2Anyway, we are flying back to NY next week and, believe it or not, I have a real business meeting!  And my husband will laugh at me, but I am not exaggerating when I say I have nothing to wear.  My pre-pregnancy office attire doesn’t fit and is woefully out of style.  And, luckily, I can no longer wear my office-friendly maternity clothing (although I do really love some of my maternity work dresses).  So I asked Lucy at IO to suggest a postpartum-friendly, office-friendly dress for me to try out. Who better than the women working at IO to recommend a dress for the Postpartum Fashionista?  She recommended the jersey Roma dress, which is available in deep purple and black.  I chose the black, figuring the grape color was a little much for a legal office and what could be more postpartum-friendly than black?  And I really do like this dress.  The best part about it is the draping across the front. Looking at the photo (ignore the perfectly shaped model), you can’t tell that the dress is actually two layers.  The bottom layer is just a plain, black jersey slip. The top layer is the draped piece, so when you are wearing this dress, the draped fabric actually is not touching your body.  I find that this allows for more ease in “camouflaging” those parts of my body that have been virtually destroyed by the births of my beloved children.  It is quite easy to wear your Spanx underneath this dress without distorting the draping across the front.  And the draping falls exactly in the right place for the postpartum woman–across the breasts and the stomach.  This may not be an office-appropriate dress for everyone, but it is also a great dress for going from office to cocktail party.  I don’t happen to have a cocktail party to go to after my business meeting, but I will be dressed as if I do.

athena dressThe black Roma Dress is currently discounted 40% from USD $285 to USD $171 here.  The grape color is only discounted 25% to USD $213.75.  This dress runs true to size, but I would go up one size if you are still unsure of your sizing.  Mine is slightly too large, but the draping still looks great and I really appreciate the extra room.  For your information, Lucy also recommended the Athena dress for the postpartum physique.  The Athena dress, pictured at left, is currently reduced from USD $159 to USD $111.30 here.

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My last blog posting prompted several emails requesting recommendations as to where to buy a nice, well-fitting maternity suit. I am not surprised, as the nice, well-fitting maternity suit is an elusive item. It is actually shocking that more designers haven’t caught on to the fact that pregnant women do, in fact, work and sometimes actually need to to do things like go to court or give presentations or go on interviews. I love a nice maternity wrap dress as much as the next pregnant woman, and there are many that are appropriate for the office, but there are those career occasions when you simply need to be wearing a basic, dark-colored business suit. Pea in the Pod is consistently disappointing on the business suit front–the maternity suiting available from Pea in the Pod’s in-house collection isn’t cut well, is poor quality and ultimately you’ll end up never wanting to wear the suit after spending close to USD $500 on it. I learned that the hard way.

iosuitThere are several European designers that do design maternity business suits and I own several of these. I have a business suit designed my Italian maternity designer Nicol Caramel, a business suit designed by French maternity designer Formes, and a business suit designed by German maternity designer Paulina Maternity. They are all cut well, of superior quality and I would recommend to all of you that you purchase maternity suiting from any of these designers…as long as you have no intention of growing larger than a US size 8. What I realized is that these suits are designed for the woman whose pregnancy involves an expanding tummy and not much else. None of these suits lasted into my third trimester because I was just too large to fit into them come about 25 weeks. When I was pregnant with the twins, I acknowledged I was going to need larger sizes and I actively attempted to purchase a Nicol Caramel business suit in a larger size. But even the largest size I could find (an Italian size 46/US size 10) was so tight I never even made it out of the dressing room.

iosuit#2Unless you know for sure you will not be expanding beyond a size 8, do yourself and your work colleagues a favor and take the plunge for Isabella Oliver’s Crepe Business Suit. This suit is, without a doubt, the highest quality and best-fitting business suit I have ever purchased. And it is sized for the normal-sized woman.

SPL134827_002Although Isabella Oliver is a British-based designer, her stylists seem to have tuned in to the reality that most of us do not look like a seven-months pregnant Gisele Bundchen (i.e. pregnant, yet still able to pull off leggings with a short T-shirt). IO’s sizing is accurate and IO’s pants and skirts are adjustable along the inside of the under-the-belly waistbands, allowing for wear from the start of your pregnancy to the finish. The Crepe Business Suit was just released last spring as part of IO’s 2009 Spring Collection and I purchased it for the last trimester of my most recent pregnancy.  The tie on the front of the jacket ensures you will wear be able to wear this jacket right up until the very end (when buttons are no longer your friend).  The suit only comes in one dark color, navy, but the jacket and the trousers together will cost you a cringeworthy USD $478 here and here, so it’s not as if you’ll be buying it in numerous colors. There is also a matching pencil skirt available here for USD $169–again a pricey investment, but it will give you more options in terms of versatility for the office.  No one (except maybe Hillary) wants to wear a pantsuit every day.  Be sure to check Isabella Oliver’s sizing chart before you buy, but stick with your pre-pregnancy size.  Thankfully, there are no unwelcome surprises from IO when it comes to sizing.

yankeeswin  182And one more thing–GO YANKEES!  There is nothing worse than being stranded in Jerusalem when the Yankees are playing in the World Series and we could all be in New York eating hotdogs at Yankee Stadium.  Nevertheless, the boys showed off their support this past weekend at the Jerusalem Zoo…

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inkblouseThere are some incredible online sales happening right now, so if you have vowed not to buy yourself another thing this summer, you may have to reconsider.  Isabella Oliver Maternity has some items reduced up to 70% off, including its classic Maternity Wrap Blouse.  I have bought one of these in white and one in navy blue for each of my pregnancies and then I just wear them to death over the 9 months and throw them out after the baby shows up.  There is no shortage of white maternity wrap blouses out there to pick from, but rather than experiment, I know this is a well-cut blouse that fits easily under a jacket (it doesn’t tie in the back, it ties on the side), has a good bit of stretch to it (it is 3% elastic),  has flattering 3/4 cuffed sleeves, and is made from high-quality cotton.  whiteblouseWhat more could you ask for in a basic blouse?  You will need to wear a camisole underneath the blouse as you become more pregnant, because the V-neck can reveal a bit too much once you have a sizeable bump.  The blouse usually sells for USD $120, but it  is available here for a shocking USD $36.  Sizes are limited in the white, but the navy is available in all sizes.

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It’s very hard to find maternity blouses that fit well and will last you into your third trimester.  First of all, a clothing item with buttons all the way down the front is simply not going to be a typical, go-to basic for the pregnant woman.  I don’t know about you, but I have popped a button or two off of a maternity blouse without even knowing it.  It’s not an attractive look, especially as the places you are most likely to lose the button can be out of your sightline (i.e., under your bump). And I am so tired of maternity wrap blouses, they are so bulky and never fit well under sweaters or jackets.

my-girl-boss-fI recently discovered Paulina Maternity, a German-based maternity line, which makes a great short-sleeved summer maternity blouse called the “My Girl” blouse.  The front half of the blouse is ruched down the front placket and looks like a normal, cotton blouse.  But the entire back of the blouse is made out of elastic cotton jersey so all of the stress placed on the shirt by your expanding belly is absorbed in the back of the shirt.  my-girl-boss-hBecause the back of the shirt stretches so easily, the front of the shirt fits extremely well and I haven’t had to worry about losing a button, even at that very rotund point around my navel where a small button seems a very risky fashion choice.

The “My Girl” blouse comes in black and white and I will tell you, it is easy to notice with the white blouse that the back is made of a completely different fabric than the front.  At this point in my pregnancy, it is obvious that the elastic cotton jersey in the back is doing a lot of heavy lifting and I’ve recently taken to layering a sweater or light jacket over the white blouse to cover up the back. But with the black shirt, it’s barely noticeable and I still wear it on its own.  This blouse is an ideal basic that will last through all 9 months of your pregnancy.  And it is just perfect for your maternity office wardrobe.  Like most European maternity lines, Paulina does run slightly small, so I would order one size up if you want it to last all the way through.  The “My Girl” blouse is available for USD $157 on Paulina Maternity’s English website here. Paulina Maternity ships internationally via DHL.

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