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Build A Better (And More Stylish) Maternity Wardrobe

Q&A with fashion designer Ingrid Carney

Gone are the days of cringing when someone says “maternity fashion”. Shapeless tops and uncomfortable bottoms in itchy fabrics are all in the past. Now, there’s affordable maternity and nursing wear that make mamas-to-be look runway ready thanks to Ingrid Carney, the talented designer behind Target’s new maternity line, Isabel Maternity by Ingrid & Isabel. The line includes 120 pieces, most under $25.

For years, Ingrid has worked to change maternity and nursing fashion from “No way” to “Yaaaas!” She knows exactly what women crave – on-trend clothes that keep us just as fashionable as our pre-baby bump days, and bonus points for comfort and a price point that doesn't break the bank.

We asked Ingrid for the low-down on the new line, what is trending in the world of maternity fashion, and what moms-to-be really need in their wardrobe.

ST: It seems like maternity fashion is constantly evolving. What are some of the current trends for fall?

IC: We focus on what mom wants, from basics that make getting dressed easier to the same trend pieces she would be excited about even if she weren’t pregnant. For this fall, we’re loving simple dresses layered with our Isabel Maternity by Ingrid & Isabel Cozy Wrap, comfy athleisure looks, and off-the-shoulder and cold shoulder tops and dresses that are so flattering on an expecting mama. In designing, we really look not just for the styles mom wants, but the fabrics that will be comfortable and cuts that will flatter a changing body while offering functional details like stretch and recovery or built-in nursing functionality.

ST: What pieces do you consider maternity wear essentials?
IC: Comfortable seamless camis and leggings are a perfect smoothing first layer that you can reach for throughout and after pregnancy. Great denim is an essential in any wardrobe, so I would recommend that mom finds a pair she loves, whether it’s with a supportive over-the-belly style like our line’s Crossover Panel or an under-the-belly fit with inset pants. And definitely dresses—they can be an easy throw-on-and-go outfit when you need it, or they can be styled to fit almost any occasion.

ST: What about working mamas?
IC: Choose simple pieces that can be styled and accessorized multiple ways. For example, our pleated tank dress can be worn under a jacket or cardigan for work, but can easily be dressed up for date night or dressed down with sneakers. An easy black skinny pant can be paired with maternity tops or even with flowy non-maternity tops to create many different looks.

ST: Are certain fabrics more comfortable for expecting moms?
IC: This can be very different for every mama. It may even be different from her pre-pregnancy preferences. Some women find they love more fitted clothing to show off their bump. For that mom, stretchy fabrics that will grow with her during pregnancy are key. Other women prefer a looser, flowing style and can’t stand a snug fit. For her, we would recommend lighter-weight woven or knit fabrics that have a nice drape. Either way, we always prioritize soft finishes that won’t irritate the belly and that make mom feel good.

ST: What kind of pieces can be used to extend the wear of pants and shorts, both when mom is a few months along and again after post-delivery?
IC: The Isabel Maternity by Ingrid & Isabel line offers Bellaband for Target, which is a stretchy seamless tube that can be worn over unbuttoned pre-pregnancy jeans, pants, and skirts so that mom can wear them comfortably (and no one needs to know her pants are unbuttoned). That’s a great use early in pregnancy and after as mom transitions back into her pre-pregnancy wear. However, it can also be used later in pregnancy with any bottoms that are still too loose or that the belly is pushing down.

ST: Moms don't want to give up their activewear! What should they look for so that their back is supported during their pregnancy?
IC: We actually designed our Crossover Panel just for this reason! We talked with so many mamas who LOVED their active leggings, but found that non-maternity styles would pinch and dig uncomfortably, no matter how stretchy they were. We set out to design a style that would fit throughout and after pregnancy, and our design provides gentle lower back support that increases as mom’s belly grows. As an added bonus, the crossover back design comes lower on the back than traditional over-belly panels, which helps to keep mom cooler.

ST: Any tips for choosing a nursing bra?
IC: Just as mom’s belly will change during pregnancy, so will her breasts. As a result, many women buy their first nursing bras in the second or third trimester when their pre-pregnancy bras are snug. After baby arrives, there can be even more changes in size, and some women find they fluctuate a full cup size before and after feeding. A seamless nursing bra like the Isabel Maternity by Ingrid & Isabel seamless drop cup nursing bra will comfortably adapt to those changes while still offering support. Clasps that are easy to release with one hand will be a lifesaver when you need one arm to hold baby when nursing.

ST: How can moms easily transition from maternity to nursing wear?
IC: First, there is absolutely no shame in wearing maternity clothes after giving birth. It’s about what’s comfortable and flattering for you as your body changes. Isabel Maternity styles are designed with that in mind: Our shirred dresses accommodate a growing belly and offer added coverage on a softer belly after baby. Our fabrics stretch during pregnancy and recover to fit after baby.

Similarly, our nursing wear is designed to fit throughout pregnancy: Seamless nursing bras and camis stretch at both the bust and belly so that mom can comfortably switch over as soon as her regular bras are too tight. Our short-sleeve maternity and nursing dress has a double-layer bodice that lifts to allow nursing, all in an ultrasoft and stretchy fabric that will see mom through her whole pregnancy as well.

Mom doesn’t need two totally separate wardrobes for maternity and nursing. She needs styles that work for maternity and postpartum.

ST: What kind of pieces will help moms as they recover from having their baby?
IC: Let’s be real for a second here: nobody’s taking their pre-pregnancy jeans to the hospital and wearing those home after baby. It takes time for the body to recover after making a beautiful, tiny human, and moms should absolutely give themselves permission and space to heal. At Ingrid & Isabel, we want to be a part of supporting mom, rather than being a part of the intense pressure she can feel to “bounce back” after baby. We created Afterband for Target to give moms some extra smoothing and support after baby. The bone-free design also lets mom engage her core muscles while she recovers, and it offers belly coverage while nursing.