This is Part 2 of my series “Pregnant in Charlotte”. If you missed Part 1, check it out here.
“I’m not fat; I’m pregnant.”
If you’ve ever been pregnant, odds are good that you’ve said it, or at the very least thought it. For those of you who haven’t yet experienced that awesome moment when the button on your pants finally pops, get excited. Because of course, when we are pregnant, we outgrow our normal clothes and must, ultimately, come to own maternity clothes.
The truth of the matter here in Charlotte is this: there aren’t a lot of options for shopping for maternity wear. I recently discovered this when my mom made a special trip down from Virginia to help me buy my first few staples. Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise. Fewer stores means fewer overwhelming decisions to make. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.
Despite that, here are some thoughts on the maternity-clothes-shopping-in-Charlotte experience.
A Few Quick Tips Before You Go Shopping:
- Beg, Borrow…but don’t steal because that’s not nice. If you aren’t the first of your friends or family members to get pregnant, check with others to see if they have anything they’re no longer using that you can borrow. This could be particularly useful if the person you’re borrowing from was pregnant during the same time of year you are. If you aren’t the same size as others in your friend group or family, this may not work, but it’s definitely worth looking into.
- Be open-minded. Maternity clothes aren’t normal clothes. They just aren’t. So don’t go into your shopping trip thinking they are, or you’re destined to be sorely disappointed. Instead, go into your shopping adventure with the mindset that this is something new and different, and that it may take a few trips to get the hang of it.
- Don’t be afraid of the fake baby bump. You know what I’m talking about. That foam thing that mysteriously shows up in your dressing room, whether you asked for it or not. You may not know which side is up (because I certainly never do), but either way, just strap it on, and give it a whirl. It may not look exactly like your bump will look, but it will give you a better idea of what to expect than your currently barely-showing belly will, so just go with it.
Now, onto the good stuff…
Where to Go:
- Destination Maternity Outlet. That’s right, I said outlet. This hidden gem was previously unknown to other already-moms in my friend group, but since I work north of Charlotte, it was a can’t miss on the tour-de-maternity-wear when my mom was in town. Located in Concord Mills Shopping Center, this store has many of the staples I was looking for, and one of the greatest employees ever: Melissa.
- Why I love this place: Melissa. As the first stop on our shopping adventure, this Destination Maternity was bound to be a bit of a mess. And then it wasn’t. When my mom and I first entered the store a sweet, bubbly woman approached us. I stared at her, no doubt like a deer in headlights and said simply: “This is the first store we’ve come to. I’m 14 weeks pregnant, and I have no idea what I’m doing.” A smile spread across Melissa’s face (the genuine kind, not the condescending kind) and she responded: “Ok, great! So, tell me a little about yourself. What kinds of clothes do you usually wear? What kinds of colors do you definitely not wear? Is there anything you know you’re hoping to try?” And just like that, we were off. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman in the store when people are waiting on her hand and foot. Two hours later, my mom and I left with two bags full of items I now wear daily, and I couldn’t have done without Melissa.
- Random thought: I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what the true price difference is between the outlet version of this store and the regular, but I do recommend beginning at the outlet because there were at least a few items that I know were a tiny bit cheaper, and if you can save a penny, why wouldn’t you? Plus, Melissa.
- GAP Maternity. Yep, that’s a thing. You may not know about it if you don’t already have kids, primarily because around these parts, GAP Maternity is not actually its own store. On the contrary, at both Northlake Mall (off Exit 18 on I-77N) and SouthPark Mall (at the corner of Sharon Rd. and Fairview Rd. in south Charlotte), this store is actually located inside GAP Kids. Regardless, this is a great place to visit for some classic styles and a few staple pieces that GAP is traditionally known for.
- Why I love this place: I am preppy. Despite some of my best efforts to be cool and in style over the years, I have come to accept that I’m just not those things. I am traditional, and I’m OK with it. That being said, GAP Maternity is also pretty traditional. With cute button-down shirts and simple v-neck tees, I know that when I go shopping in this store, I’m bound to find a few staples that I can mix and match with some of the funkier pieces I’ve found elsewhere, and when you’re shopping for clothes that you’re only going to wear for a few months at most, that’s important. Note: If you’re not super traditional like I am, don’t overlook this stop. With jeans, shorts, and, again, a bunch of simple tees that go with pretty much everything, this store is a can’t-miss.
- Random thought: Though I was surprised to discover this, the maternity section in Northlake’s store is a bit bigger than the one in SouthPark. There are a few differences in what each store carries, so if you have time to do both, I recommend it. If not, I’d stick with Northlake for more options and a more organized, user-friendly experience.
- Destination Maternity (a.k.a. the Mothership). If you have time for only one-stop shopping, this is the place to do it. Because in fact, this is not just one store. This is three stores in one, (at least that’s what they told me when I arrived.)
- Why I love this place: Motherhood, Pea in the Pod, Jessica Simpson (yes, you read that right), and Destination Maternity all have lines here. So, whether you’re on a tight budget or ready to splurge, there’s something for everyone. From what I can tell after a few trips to this store, merchandise seems to be organized from most expensive to least expensive, from the front of the store to the back of the store. Clearly, the folks here know what they’re doing. They entice you with adorable fashions in the front windows, but shoppers beware: many of these front-of-store items are more expensive than I’d be willing to pay for even if I knew I could wear them for years. To only be able to wear them for a few months makes many of these out of my budget. You may want to work back to front in this store, but that’s only a suggestion.
- Random thought: In addition to the great shopping in this Destination Maternity, there is also an Edamame Spa, specifically designed for mamas-to-be and new moms. With massages, facials, body treatments and more on the menu, this is a special treat that can the perfect way to end a long day of shopping. (Dads, if you’re looking for a sweet treat for your baby-mama-to-be, this may be a great way to go. Because Edamame is specifically geared toward pregnant women or those who’ve recently delivered, you can rest assured that your wife and baby will be well-cared-for and happy, and that’s a win-win.)
- The Milky Way. The place to be for bras that fit, comfy loungewear, and more. As we women know, pregnancy doesn’t just mean a bigger belly; it means bigger…everything. So, if you’re hoping to spend the next few months comfortable and confident, take a trip to The Milky Way to be sure your undergarments are as up-to-date as what’s being worn on top of them.
- Why I love this place: OK, admittedly I haven’t been here yet. But I will be going soon. The sweet ladies at Destination Maternity recommended it to me when it became apparent I wasn’t going to fit into just any ol’ bra off the shelf.
- Random thought: Admittedly, most of my already-mom friends survived pregnancy without a trip to The Milky Way. However, for women with non-standard body types, at least during pregnancy, this store may be an invaluable piece of the puzzle.
Though a quick Google search of maternity stores in Charlotte will tell you there are a few other stops along the way, I have found that most of these smaller shops, often within larger department stores, carry the same brands and lines already found in those listed above. So, unless you have all the time in the world to scour each and every rack, you should find most of what you’re looking for here. Of course, there are online options as well, many in stores I previously had no idea carried maternity wear, but there is a fine art to shopping for maternity wear that I didn’t have prior to becoming pregnant, so do what you feel most comfortable doing.