9 best maternity dresses

Isabel Dexter

Let’s be honest, maternity wear has a big image problem. It’s as if the powers that be have decided that the minute you see that little blue line on the stick, you are suddenly gripped by an obsession with mumsy florals, monochrome, chintzy prints and the sort of inoffensive pastel shades that were beloved by Hyacinth Bucket, rather than the nuanced pastel hues hot footing it down the runways for this spring/summer.

Add to the mix that you’re basically dressing a body shape that you’ve never had before, and one that changes daily too, and it’s not surprising that it can be tricky. So while others are calling you "blooming" or "glowing", you may be feeling as though you’re having to completely reassess your sense of style.

Luckily, the choice for pregnant women is getting better. There are some solid high street finds, from the excellent Asos range to Topshop’s small but trend-led collection of maternity wear, and of course Next, Marks and Spencer and Gap.

But there are also some more luxe labels, like HATCH, which was founded in 2011 by Ariane Goldman, a former Wall Street maven, who wanted to create chic, timeless styles that you can wear at every stage. Alongside fellow US brand Envie de Fraise and British brand Isabella Oliver, Hatch is an elevated choice for those of us who can’t (or don’t want) to lose the elegance of our usual 9-5 dressing just because of our bumps.

Alongside leggings, maternity jeans (if you’re a jeans gal) and a long silk scarf (useful for discreet feeding afterwards), investing in some easy to wear yet still elegant maternity dresses should see you through. Here’s our pick of the best, whatever your budget.

Clary & Peg phoebe dress: £70, Clary & Peg

Set up by two mothers who met at an antenatal class when eight months pregnant, Clary & Peg is a fashion label as much as a maternity label, with a focus on vintage-inspired maternity wear that’s distinctly trans-seasonal. A cool Seventies, boho aesthetic makes for desirable velvet print jumpsuits, simple dungarees in a range of colours and runway-worthy frocks with lust-have prints and detailing galore. Look out for their new collection too, which launches in March.

With everything designed and made in England, the brand has an emphasis on sustainability and ethical fashion. Not only that, but the pieces are genuinely versatile. This button down pinafore is a case in point. With a distinctly Mia Farrow aesthetic, the linen viscose fabric is fully lined and the button down style makes it ideal for feeding. Pleats at the back give a flattering shape, while the two front pockets look cool as well as being practical.

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Asos Design maternity nursing pink mini smock dress with faux horn buttons: £28, Asos

Asos have revolutionised maternity wear for the British high street, with on-trend offerings that are easy on the wallet. For those of us tired of the endless knee-length or mid calf frocks that seem to be a prerequisite as soon as you’re pregnant, the mini length of this blush pink smock dress is a welcome alternative. When you’re sporting a bump and potentially wearing a more comprehensive (read scaffolding-esque) bra than ever before, the chance to still show your legs is very welcome for many of us.

Plus this versatile dress works as well with black opaques and a long cashmere cardi as it does with bare legs and gladiator sandals, making it an all-season winner. Granted the fabric isn’t luxe and it’s possibly one of those dresses you chuck once the baby is born (although it is good for nursing too), but at less than £30 a pop, it’s definitely worth adding to your pregnancy wardrobe.

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Isabella Oliver leonie maternity tie dress: £149, Isabella Oliver

A focus on style and comfort, but combined with luxury fabrics that fit, flatter and grow as your body does, Isabella Oliver offers an elegant alternative to the high street. The entire in-house team is based from their London studio, with an enormous attention to detail placed on design, cut and fit. This means that not only are all the pieces really flattering, but they’re stylish enough to wear after pregnancy too.

This is a classic wrap dress that’s yes, floral and yes, pretty, but has nothing in common with the usual mumsy maternity fare. The lightweight crepe fabric is fluid and flattering – and the hem hits the knee for a classic effect that works with heels or flats. We'd style it with biker boots and a leather jacket for colder spring days and to add some edge. But you could also dress it up for a formal event like a wedding or party, where you still want to be comfortable.

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HATCH slouch dress: £151.90, HATCH

Looking for something chic and elevated? Hatch is a US brand created to fill the void in the maternity clothing market, namely seasonless yet trend-led pieces that are simple, chic and fun. Mother-of-two founder Ariane Goldman has designed the collection to work before, during and after pregnancy and the flattering shapes and eye catching hues are testament to the fact that maternity wear can be striking and cool.

Their slouch dress in bold azalea is a dream. The deep v-neck can be worn over a lacy cami if you’re feeling modest, while the dolman sleeves and chic side drape make it work for a formal event. It also looks good with bare legs and flat sandals come summer.

It’s worth mentioning too that HATCH partners with organisations such as Every Mother Counts, which helps women around the world who do not have access to essential maternity care, citing the chilling statistic that more than 800 women a day die from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth.

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H&M mama nursing dress: £19.99, H&M

A perennial favourite, the nautical stripe dress is a wardrobe mainstay whether you’re pregnant or not. Whereas once upon a time we may have been told to stay away from horizontal stripes when pregnant, the truth is that they’re actually really flattering and a great way to emphasise your growing bump.

This easy, breezy jersey dress from H&M is not only a steal at £19.99, but it looks, and feels, a lot more expensive. Note the boat neckline, three-quarter length dolman sleeves and fitted shape around the hips. A double layer at the top allows easier nursing access and seriously, it’s pretty much all we want to wear on weekends at the moment.

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Topshop maternity jacquard knot midi dress: £49, Topshop

If you still want to wear runway-inspired pieces now that you’re pregnant (and why wouldn’t you?), Topshop’s small but perfectly formed selection of maternity wear is ideal. As well as some of the best stretchy black maternity leggings around (perfect if you generally fit into their clothes, ie are leggy and relatively slim), they have maternity versions of their seasonal collections that are cut to flatter. Plus nearly everything wears well and is machine washable, so it’s perfect work and weekend wear.

This nude jacquard dress ticks all the style boxes. The kimono sleeves are an on-trend touch and the knot detailing is intricate enough to elevate this dress to partywear, while being comfortable and easy enough for in the office. This is one of our favourites, it looks great with wedge heels (if you can’t break your heel habit) or cowboy boots. Add a suede jacket with fringing and you’ll be about as far away from Hyacinth Bucket territory as you can get.

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Gap boatneck stripe dress: £39.95, Gap

A modern, chic option for weekend wear or a more casual office, this simple jersey dress from Gap is sure to become a firm favourite. The navy and red colourway elevates it from the usual nautical fare, plus there are shirred detailing at the sides which is ultra flattering for your growing belly. The length (around an inch above the knee) is ideal for when you want bare legs without flashing too much thigh and the details of the cut: a boat neckline and three-quarter length sleeves, give a laidback luxe feel.

This gets extra points for the cotton mix fabric, which is very comfy and wears well even after multiple washes. We particularly like the Brigitte Bardot aesthetic when worn under an oversize white cotton shirt and with box-fresh white pumps for easy, breezy spring dressing.

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JoJo Maman Bebe navy oriental print pleated maternity & nursing dress: £45, JoJo Maman Bebe

Yes, it’s a floral. But not as you know it. This chic offering from the cult brand JoJo Maman Bebe walks that fine line between timelessly stylish and looking just right for this spring/summer. The navy is incredibly flattering to all skin tones and ideal for when you’re looking and feeling a little sleep deprived post-birth. The oriental floral print is cool and distinctly non-mumsy, while the semi-fitted shape is flattering for during and after pregnancy, making it a great investment buy.

Note the super soft fabric, as well as easy and discreet breastfeeding access, because let’s face it, the last thing you want is having to fuss about your dress when dealing with feeding and nursing.

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Next animal maternity batwing dress: £34, Next

Taking a walk on the wild side? This seasons obsession with animal print, from the runways to real life, has spawned a whole host of covetable pieces on the high street – as well as puns aplenty. So unleash your inner “I am woman, hear me roar” rallying cry and opt for a leopard print dress that’s the ultimate antidote to the play-it-safe neutrals, blacks and florals.

Next’s modestly priced frock is one of those hard-working pieces that you’ll wear multiple times during your pregnancy. Knee-length, with an adjustable tie waist and short, batwing sleeves it’s one of those ideal office staples that looks meeting-ready just by throwing on a blazer. Equally great to wear at home for a weekend party or just a Saturday meandering around the shops, it’s another dress that works for winter or summer, depending on accessories, and the bold print is surprisingly flattering on all skin tones and body shapes.

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The verdict: Maternity dresses

For a gorgeous, easy to wear day to day option you can’t beat the phoebe dress from Clary & Peg. It literally goes with everything, works for all seasons and is really easy to feed in too once your baby is born. For something more special, the HATCH slouch dress is a real beauty and will be a wardrobe favourite long after your pregnancy, thanks to the cut, colour and elegant design.