Friday, March 29, 2013

How hard can it be to wear a maxi dress?  Since a revival in the late 2000's, maxi-dresses are now an essential item in the pregnancy wardrobe. And the reasons for that are obvious - they are comfortable and there is room for your bump to expand.  But more importantly, they can work with every single body type.  The secret is knowing what style of maxi dress will suit you - and that can be difficult to know.

Almost every day there is another photograph of a pregnant celebrity wearing a maxi dress and most of the time they are spot on with their look but, occasionally, even the celebrities get it wrong.

Now I know that fashion is personal and I still have a lot to learn but I feel like I have a good formula when it comes to wearing maxi dresses.

Here is how you can rock a maxi dress when pregnant, regardless of your body shape or size:

Know what a maxi dress is

A maxi-dress simply means a long, usually ankle length, dress.  There are lots of different styles including empire waist, a-line or even body con.  It can be off the shoulder, bandeau or tank top.  It may have spaghetti straps, or may have capped or long sleeves.  The neckline can vary as well with - vneck, scoop neck or halter top.  These are just some of the many options to choose from.

Ideally, the hemline should graze the tops of your feet.  But try telling that to your bump!  As your bump grows bigger, the dress will get shorter.  So long as it doesn't turn into a mini, who cares? Just focus on the material and the cut.  Look for fabrics that drape over your curves and don't hug you in all the wrong places.

There are a few things to look out for:
  • Add a belt for shape and definition
  • A jacket or cardigan adds shape, as well as variety
  • Colour and patterns can make or break a look
  • Shoes can dress it up or down
  • Accessories are a must-have
  • If you are petite
  • For the full-figure
  • The casual look maxi
  • The formal look maxi
  • Stay true to your style
  • How not to wear it

Add a belt for shape and definition
Depending on the cut, maxi dresses can be very loose fitting.  That sounds great doesn't it?  Won't it hide my wobbly bits?  It might but it could also make you look like the side of a house. Big and terribly shapeless.

It's essential that you keep your bust and bump well defined.  If your maxi dress is too 'boxy' or has too much too much material, rein it it with a belt. Generally, skinny belts look better on skinnier figures while if you are a medium to large build, try a wider belt. Make sure that you don't cinch the belt too tight - add another hole if it is too tight or buy an elasticised belt.

A belt can be worn above or below the bump and look great either way.  If you wear a belt above the waist, be sure to wear it right under the bust, under your 'new waistline'. It will draw attention to the thinnest part of your waist as well as showing a clear distinction between bump and bust.

Busy Philipps

You can also wear a belt under the bump.  Neve Campell's black maxi, beige cardigan and brown belt is one of my all-time favourite maternity looks.  By wearing a belt underneath her bump, she has emphasised and highlighted her bump in the most flattering way.

Neve Campbell

A jacket or cardigan adds shape, as well as variety

A maxi dress is a blank canvas which you can style up with a jacket - be it leather, denim or cropped. You can also wear your regular, non-maternity jackets or cardigans by leaving them open and unbuttoned.  It looks great and you may be able to extend the life of your favourite jacket to wear throughout your entire pregnancy.

A fitted jacket can add shape to an otherwise billowing, flowing dress.  You can dress down a look with a denim jacket or dress it up with a silk or leather jacket.  A cardigan or jacket can also add some warmth to your look - which means that a summer maxi may be able to be worn well into the autumn months (and even the winter months, depending on where you live).

Jenna Dewan-Tatum has worn the same denim jacket at different stage of her pregnancy.  It's easy to see that her bump has expanded but she can still wear this jacket by keeping the buttons unbuttoned.  The denim jacket has also dressed down both of these dresses - meaning that they can be worn during the day in a very casual chic look.

It would also be very easy to transition these looks from day to night by swapping the denim jacket for a bolero jacket and a pair of heels.

Colours and patterns can make or break a look

Patterns are so hot right now.  But buyer beware - not all patterns suit all body types.

While patterns can add much needed colour, you will get more wear from a solid neutral such as black, brown, grey,white (beige or cream) or dark navy blue maxi dress.  They will go with anything and you can dress them up or down with jackets and accessories.

Your body type should dictate what kind of patterns you wear.  The full-figure (which is most of us during pregnancy) should keep clear of intricate, detailed patterns and stick to medium or large prints.  Those of you that are petite (5'4" or under) can wear smaller prints but best to avoid larger patterns that can overwhelm your frame.

If you are petite and full figured, it's probably best to stick to dark, solid colours.  If you do decide to wear prints, try and buy long, vertical prints to elongate and slim down your figure.

Busy Philipps has not shied away from patterns and although this look is not my style, she is able to pull off the detailed pattern - helped by the tiered style of her maxi dress.

 Busy Philipps

Early in her pregnancy, Kim Kardashian wore a very busy patterned dress. Patterns aren't really my style, but I like that Kim has kept her makeup and hair simple in direct contrast to the busyness of her dress.

 Kim Kardashian

Shoes can dress the look up or down

Shoes are a great way to also change up your look.  A pair of shoes can take a maxi dress from day to night and play a crucial role in setting the tone of your look.

Malin Akerman has bucked the trend of wearing only wearing sandals or heels with maxi dresses. She has regularly worn motoboots or Isabella Marant sneakers - the types of footwear that have been forever labeled as dowdy or dated with a maxi dress.

Malin Akerman

If you don't feel as comfortable as Malin wearing boots or sneakers, then there are plenty of options.  For a casual look, a pair of sandals, thongs (flip-flops) or even a pair of ballet shoes will work with most looks.  They key is to feel comfortable.  For a more dressy look, or if you want to add some height, a pair of heels can transform the look from day to night. Wedge heels are very popular with celebrities at the moment and these can add some height to your look.

Accessories are a must-have

Using accessories such as jewellery and scarves are the best way to create various fashion looks with your basic maxi dress.

A solid neutral maxi dress, like the one worn by Jenna Dewan-Tatum below, can be dressed up with a long animal print scarf and an oversized bag.  The dress itself has become the canvas and Jenna has kept the accessories simple but effective.

Jenna Dewan-Tatum

Dasha Zhukova, wife of billionaire Roman Abramovich, is using the power of accessories to give a gorgeous pink/red maxi dress a bit of a bohemian feel with a multi strand beaded necklace (I adore this overall look).

Dasha Zhukova

If you are petite (under 5'4" or 163cm)

If you're petite (5'4" / 163cm or shorter) the main goal is to avoid looking like a tent. So compared to taller and bigger women, you have to be careful with your selection of maxi dresses. Here are a few tips on how to make it work for you if you're petite:
  • Select a style that is well cut without too much extra material which can swamp you and make you look shorter. 
  • Add a belt below the bust to define your bust and bump.
  • Wear a v-neck (not a plunging neckline) as it shows more skin and makes you look taller and leaner. 
  • Select the right prints and patterns - opt for solids in dark neutral colours such as black, brown and olive green. Avoid large patterns. 
  • Ruffles (or tiers) can help you look more proportional. 
  • If you're a petite plus size, opt for medium-scaled prints.

For the plus size

If you are plus size, a maxi dress is a perfect match as it helps to minimise large hips and legs.  Here are some tips on how to choose a maxi dress for your plus-size figure:

  • Keep away from styles with too much flowing material as it will make you look boxy.  Stick to a style that is more snug against your figure without being clingy.
  • Wear wide straps if you carry weight around the upper arms.  Spaghetti straps will only make your frame look bigger - so either stay away from them or wear a jacket to conceal them.
  • Scale the print - opt for larger prints rather than small, detailed prints. As with petites, solid and dark neutrals (such as black, chocolate brown and olive green) are ideal to help slim down your shape. 
  • Wear a v-neck (not a plunging neckline) as it shows more skin and will make you look leaner.

The casual look maxi

A maxi-dress is the perfect companion to a casual, yet chic, look.  The beauty of a maxi dress is that changing the accessories and shoes can transform it from day to night.

Selma Blair is stunning in this white, patterned maxi dress.  The spaghetti straps, long necklace and colourful bag create a casual feel to this look.

Selma Blair

Camilla Alves is wearing a maxi dress that could easily transition to formal, evening wear but Camilla has turned it into a chic, casual look.  She's done this by wearing a white halter bikini top and thong-like sandals and looks stunning.

Camilla Alves

The formal look maxi

Maxi dresses aren't just for casual wear.  Formal maxi gowns are usually made of soft and sheer fabrics that flow effortlessly over your bump.  You can also glamorise a solid neutral maxi dress with a statement necklace and a chic clutch purse.

Jenna Dewan-Tatum

Shiri Appleby

Jessica Alba

Stay true to your style

Remember, as with everything, stay true to your own inner style.

Malin Akerman is the perfect example of staying true to style.

Malin Akerman

Nicole Richie has made the boho chic look her own.

Nicole Richie

How not to wear a maxi dress

And then there are the times when even the celebrities get it wrong.

Kristen Bell could have rescued this look by adding a belt below her bump which would have defined  her shape.

Kirsten Bell

Jessica Simpson was so close to perfection here. The problem?  The plunging neckline exposed far too much skin. This look could have been rescued by wearing a scoop necked tank  to preserve modesty.

Jessica Simpson

A rare fashion fail from Jessica Alba.  The problem with this dress is that there is too much material and it is swamping her small frame.  This dress would probably have been better in the latter stages of pregnancy, when her bump was more pronounced.  A belt added below the bump would have then given much needed definition.
Jessica Alba


There you have are now able to find a maxi dress to suit not only your sense of style but also your body shape.

It might seem overwhelming at first, but stick to the basic 'rules', try out the different styles and you should easily be able to discover your maxi dress style and look effortless chic.

Do you think that a maxi dress and pregnancy are a match made in heaven?


  1. You can also wear your regular, non-maternity jackets or cardigans by ...