Surprise, Surprise!

Lovely blogger Sarah Miles, author of not one but two yummy blogs, The Voice of Sarah Miles and What Would Nigella Do nominated me for a Beautiful Blogger Award. I feel very unworthy of this, particularly considering that I have been neglecting my blogging duties badly for over six weeks.

20120821-213947.jpg

But I think the award – which stipulates that I share ten interesting facts about myself – will go some way towards explaining my absence….

1. Six weeks ago I lost weight. So much so that on at least four separate occasions people mentioned it to me – and not in a good way. ‘Wow, look at the weight you’ve lost’; ‘Gosh Claire, have you lost weight?’; ‘Where the hell have you disappeared to?’ The issue is that when I do lose a few pounds it comes straight off my face so I look a little skeletal. Not a good look.

2. Five weeks ago I was performing in a show in Guildford, ‘Company’, with my wonderful friends Nan, Barry and Twig. The week before the show started we had a luxury Saturday night off from rehearsals so Twig, Nan and I decided to go out for a glass of wine and food with our poor, dear other halves. We had a deadly wee night and I got far too tipsy on only 4 glasses of red wine. The next morning I was up with a blinding hangover at 6.30am. At 8.30am I was being sick into the sink. I couldn’t believe that I was so ill and yet hadn’t had that much to drink, so I put the sickness down to ‘exhaustion’ from being in the show.

3. During rehearsals and during the week of the show I had pretty bad stomach cramps. I put the stomach cramps down to ‘exhaustion’ from being in the show and secretly hoped that I didn’t have a stomach ulcer.

4. Each night of the show I squeezed myself into Twig’s size 8 dress which her mummy had sent me over from Ireland. On the last night the button popped on the dress. ‘Must be starting to put on some of that weight again’, I thought to myself.

5. I have been so absolutely exhausted for the last six weeks or so.

6. When I explained my symptoms to John he jokingly asked if I was pregnant. It was a joke because I was then the skinniest I have been in a long time. It was also a joke because I have a copper coil fitted and it is practically impossible to get pregnant when you have one.

7. A copper coil is said to be over 99 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy.

8. Four weeks ago I would have recommended the copper coil to anyone as a good contraceptive.

9. I would no longer recommend the copper coil as a good contraceptive.

10. I am now twelve weeks pregnant with baby number 2.

20120821-213351.jpg

A Guide to Fabulous (never Frumpy) Maternity Fashion

Hello! This is a guest post today from Claire’s sister Mairead.

As a girl who loves fashion and also went through three pregnancies (with very huge bumps each time!) I was very flattered when Baby Loves Porridge asked me to share my top tips for maternity fashion with all you lovely bloggettes.

The pitter-patter of tiny feet need not mean an end to being stylish and fashionable; there are lots of ways to keep mums-to-be looking and feeling fabulous throughout your pregnancy.

20120419-142752.jpg
The two pregnant sisters !

Of course one way of dressing your bump is to hide it under layers and layers of oversized clothing. But my approach has always been to embrace my bump and show it off in its best light. As soon as I had shared my baby news, I wore clothes that hugged the baby bump, not hid it. The right clothes can help give your body shape so you look pregnant, not bloated. After all, when we become pregnant many of us feel and look positively ‘glowing’ as those hormones pump around our bodies.

So here are my top tips to looking fabulous, not frumpy in maternity clothes.

1st Trimester
During the first 3 months some women put on very little weight and their figures stay much the same, allowing them to continue to wear their own clothes. Others, like me, find that their body changes very quickly, and after 5 or 6 weeks they feel their body shape alter in several places – mainly waist, tummy, boobs and hips. To save you money buying too much maternity wear at this early stage, instead follow these tips:

1. Have a Wardrobe Overhaul
You will have several items in your wardrobe that will be suitable for the first trimester. You will probably have shift dresses, empire-line dresses and tops, any loose-fitting or elasticated waisted skirts and trousers, and nearly all your jumpers, cardigans (unbuttoned) and tops. These will all be fine for the first trimester at least.

2. Invest in a Bump Band
If you find that your bump is causing some of your jumpers or tops to creep up, then buy a Bump Band. These are literally bands of pregnancy-friendly fabric that ‘hug’ your bump snugly, while still allowing plenty of room for growth. They allow you to wear your favourite tops for longer, as they cover your ever-growing belly while your tops become shorter and shorter! These bands also have a ‘spanx-like’ effect so when you are wearing a fitted dress or tunic top, the band will give you the effect of looking slim all over with a lovely bump, rather than looking bigger all over.

20120413-185954.jpg
Similar Bump Bands available at Topshop for £7

2nd Trimester
It is at this stage that I think it is important to invest in a few key pieces that will see you through the rest of your maternity.

1. Maternity Jeans
During my last pregnancy with Nancy, I really did live in my jeans. It was a much more practical wardrobe solution with a 4 year old and a 2 year old running around. I tried on many pairs from Mamas and Papas to New Look to 7 For All Mankind (available at A Pea in a Pod) but I found the most comfortable and most stylish were the super-skinny legged jeans from Topshop Maternity. I was pregnant with Nancy in winter and spring and always felt stylish in my maternity skinny jeans and long, bump-hugging tunic top or funky jumper with long black patent knee boots or ankle boots.

Coloured jeans are all the rage for spring/summer 2012, and Seraphine have a large collection of maternity skinny jeans in a range of colours.

20120413-070356.jpg
Cobalt blue skinny jeans from Seraphine £45

2. Dresses
I’m a girly girl and adore dresses! I wear them A LOT – they’re definitely my favourite piece of clothing, and they are so pregnancy-friendly that I spent the majority of my maternities in dresses. What I didn’t do, however, is to buy many actual ‘maternity’ label dresses, as I found these tended to be boring wrap-style dresses in very dull colours and prints. Instead I found that by scouring the high street and going up a size or two in shift dresses or empire-line styles I felt much more fashionable and on-trend. Just make sure you choose at least knee-length or midi as the dresses will automatically rise up with your bump.

No. 1 on my favourite shops to buy gorgeous ‘maternity-but-not-actually-maternity’ dresses was Zara. Zara offer fabulous dresses in shift styles, and also in many fluid and pregnancy-friendly fabrics. My maternity wardrobe was filled with patterned dresses for work that I teamed with leggings or tights, depending on the season. I also found a wonderful maxi dress in Zara that I wore to a wedding with my bump. Zara’s clothes are always colourful and their choice of fabrics and patterns mean they have a ‘catwalk’ look to them so you really can’t go wrong to do a spot of maternity shopping here. As their stock is always changing it is worth checking out their range every few weeks.

20120413-190501.jpg
In a non-maternity Zara strapless bandeau dress (x2 sizes bigger than normal) at 8.5months

The dresses below are currently in
Zara Spring 2012 collection and would look perfect with a baby bump.

20120416-215512.jpg
Red dress with belt £39.99

20120416-215525.jpg
Handkerchief print dress £69.99

20120416-215534.jpg
Cap sleeve dress £45.99

Good old Primark also did not fail when it came to buying cheap but on-trend dresses for work and for casual wear. I found that buying dresses in one or two sizes bigger was perfect, and because they were never very expensive you didn’t feel guilty about spending money on clothes that wouldn’t be in your wardrobe for too long (you hope!).

20120415-141942.jpg
Claire in ‘Darling’ pleated shift at 4.5mths & me in a ‘Primark’ sequin gold dress at 3.5mths

H&M’s 2012 summer collection includes these pretty knee-length chiffon dresses that I thought would look adorable with a baby bump. They have an elasticated waist and 3/4-length elasticated sleeves. And they are a complete steal at only £14.99, so you could afford to buy one a few sizes bigger than usual in every colour!

20120419-212429.jpg

20120419-212438.jpg

20120419-212447.jpg

20120419-213504.jpg
H&M chiffon dresses £14.99

Topshop has most definitely the best ‘maternity’ section. Its dresses and other maternity pieces are based on current stock and fashions and adapted to fit the lady-in-waiting, so you can look just as funky and fabulous as your non-pregnant friends.

20120415-165117.jpg
Pretty blossom top from Topshop £36 would look perfect teamed with a pair of skinny maternity jeans

Asos Maternity have quite a decent range for the stylish mum-to-be, both for casual and work wear. I bought a few pieces from here for work, although neither item lasted right through to the third trimester as my bump grew significantly larger! I don’t think their maternity sizing allows for much more than a neat little bump, at least not in the more structured tops and dresses that are fitted under the boob.

20120413-074952.jpg
Asos maternity tulip dress £35

Many of my friends rate Next and New Look for their maternity ranges. I personally felt both were slightly ‘mumsy’ and didn’t find anything suitable in either store. Do note, though, that I’m not an overly conservative dresser and if you do like a smart work look, then Next have some good maternity options.

Isabella Oliver seems to be the staple maternity retailer for the mum-to-be who has a little more money to spend (their casual maternity dresses are around £100, evening/maxi dresses at £2-300), and celebrities are often papped in this label. Again, the range veers more to the conservative end than following current fashion trends, but possibly is a good investment if you plan on having more than one child and can re-use key pieces again and again.

20120415-191213.jpg
Ruched T-Shirt Dress from Isabella Oliver reduced from £99 to £79.20. Available in green, blue and pink.

Finally, add a short jacket to your maternity dresses to add instant glamour on a night out. Even dresses in jersey fabric (perfect for comfort as the fabric softly skims over your bump) look more glamourous with a tailored jacket, as they highlight your bump while making you appear leaner overall.

20120414-120034.jpg
Actress Bryce Dallas Howard in bright dress and tailored jacket which highlights her baby bump rather than concealing it

I saw this soft black waterfall jacket in Dorothy Perkins recently and, although it isn’t officially maternity, it would skim over your baby bump and be perfect over your maternity dresses for the spring and summer.

20120415-163716.jpg
This jacket is a bargain at only £30. Available in black and slate.

3. Leggings
As mentioned above, good maternity leggings or tights (depending on weather or season) are an important investment, especially during the last few months as restrictive trousers, skirts and jeans become very uncomfortable for the gorgeous mummy-to-be. Again, Topshop for me has the best range of maternity leggings and in a good range of colours. For tights I found the M&S maternity tights most comfortable for me and my baby bump.

20120417-100026.jpg
High Waisted Maternity Leggings £15 at Topshop – super soft and comfy

4. Maternity Lingerie
A very important investment as your body changes is a good maternity bra. All women will notice a change in their boobs during pregnancy – some more significantly than others! – but all you lovely pregnant ladies should go for a proper bra fitting during the second trimester. M&S, Debenhams and other independent lingerie stores offer bra-fitting services and will advise you on which bra to buy. I always went to M&S for this; I found the ladies to be helpful, informative and friendly and, in my opinion, M&S offers the most affordable and attractive range of maternity lingerie on the high street.

20120416-221609.jpg
2 pack nursing bras £30 at M&S

As with maternity clothing, maternity lingerie can often be very boring! But, as we know, when we become pregnant many of us feel at our most sexy and sensual. If this sounds like you, and you fancy splashing out on some gorgeous lingerie that will make you feel ‘blooming sexy’ then go to Hotmilk Lingerie. The colourful maternity lingerie from this New Zealand-based label will leave you feeling beautiful, confident and sexy as ever. Hotmilk Lingerie also offer a range of lingerie for nursing mummies – again, most high street stores offer only a very basic range in nursing lingerie.

20120414-212150.jpg
Hotmilk Lingerie have a wide range of sexy maternity & nursing lingerie

You will probably also invest in maternity swimwear to wear on the beach if you’re brave or, more likely, for those swimming sessions you plan to have. Swimming is not only the exercise of choice for many pregnant women but it is also very relaxing for you and your bump. High street stores such as Next offer great maternity bikinis and ruched swimsuits, or you can invest a little bit extra somewhere like figleaves.com which stocks structured and functional swimsuits and tankinis. You can choose plain black or from a range of trendy designs.

20120415-193154.jpg
This vintage inspired Halter Maternity Swimsuit £35 is made from a soft, stretch fabric and features ruched sides.

5. Special occasions
If you have a very special occasion or wedding to attend while you are pregnant go to Mama La Mode for designer maternity and occasion-wear. Designers such as Alice Temperley, By Malene Birger, Twenty8Twelve and Issa (Kate Middleton’s favourite designer!) offer fabulous pieces to show off your baby bump in style.

20120419-142300.jpg
In a gorgeous ‘By Malene Birger’ dress at Maggie’s christening at almost 9mths!

3rd Trimester
My advice for fashion in the third trimester is simply to wear clothes that are as comfortable as possible for you and your bump. Stick to easy-wearing dresses and tunic tops. Wear block colours with loud prints to avoid looking too big, especially if you have an enormous bump like I did.

20120413-185715.jpg
Gwen Stefani always managed to look on trend and fab with her big bump.

20120415-190458.jpg
New Look have a set of 3 maternity vests for £12.99: essential wardrobe staples for the summer.

And, although it saddens me to say it, as your due-date gets ever closer do put away those heels! I refused to do so during my first pregnancy with Molly, joining celebs like Victoria Beckham in the ‘pregnancy-in-heels’ debate, and I paid the price with horrendous neck and back ache. I had learned my lesson for my second and third pregnancies and, although only 5ft, learned to finally accept my tiny height in little ballet pumps and flat boots. Towards the very end I lived in a pair of FitFlop sandals as my feet expanded with my bump. In the final few months don’t forget that a pair of fabulous designer sunnies and a spot of bright lippy will always make you feel better, even with swollen ankles and a puffy face.

20120417-100808.jpg
FitFlop sandals £55 online, but you can get discounts in independent shoe shops so look around

……………………. xx …………………….

I hope this advice helps…just remember, embrace your new shape during pregnancy and dress yourself accordingly – but don’t spend a fortune on maternity wear. There’s lots of fabulous fashion out there and in your wardrobe to ensure you stay gorgeous and stylish!

Love, Mairead @ Bean Boutique