Reader Request: Dressing for a Post-pregnancy Midsection

dressing post pregnancy belly stomach

Reader Liz asked this question over on Facebook:

I would love it if you could share some tips for working around a post-twin-pregnancy belly. Snug tops make me look like I’m still a few months pregnant, though it’s been about 3 years and I’ve lost all but 5 or 10 of the 50 pounds I gained; I have abdominal muscle separation and a fair amount of loose skin there, but can’t afford elective surgery, so I’m trying to just work around the protruding belly. Fitting pants has been tricky, as anything that works in the waist tends to be baggy everywhere else, and skirts don’t sit evenly around my middle. With tops, I need extra length to cover a triple-D bust *and* my belly, and even then it seems to be really hit-or-miss with just about everything except peasant-style blouses.

I am always both honored to be asked post-partum style questions, and a little leery that – as a non-mom myself – I’ll suggest items and practices that would work in theory but are useless in practice. So, as always, I’ll offer my two cents and ask you all to continue the conversation and offer more resources in the comments.

Soft but structured jackets

This piece is a solid bet for anyone hoping to add shape to or downplay her midsection. Drapey cardigans will just add volume, but if you can find some blazers or jackets that are soft but structured, they can help streamline your silhouette. Think heavy knits, twill, and ponte, though some linen and tropical-weight wool may work, too. Blazers may be among the only options if you need a jacket that is both long and structured, but moto style jackets (like the one shown above) and utility jackets are good alternatives if shorter length works for you.

A snug camisole underlayer

I know that some women opt for shapewear to make loose skin a little less loose, but I also know that shapewear every day is neither comfortable nor healthy. If it’s not too hot for layers, adding a snug camisole under your lightweight sweaters or blouses may help re-shape your abdomen a bit. I’m a huge fan of Karen Kane’s Supersoft Tanks for this purpose since their nylon/spandex fabrication means outer layers slide over without sticking, and they come in plus sizes, too. But if you need something more breathable, a cotton blend will work. Old Navy’s v-neck camis are 94% cotton and come in regular, petite, tall, and plus sizes. A color that’s nude to your skin tone will work under everything, including pale colors and white. This may help pants and skirts fit better at the waist. Speaking of which …

A friendly tailor

Fit issues with pants and skirts can be addressed through tailoring. If you can find pants that fit comfortably at the waist but that bag out elsewhere, buy them and have the seat and legs taken in. (Always buy to fit your largest or hardest to fit feature, then have the rest altered.) Skirt length and waistband width can be tailored, too. Otherwise, you might be limited to knit bottoms or styles that are meant to be snug and therefore created with lots of stretch. If jeans, dress pants, and skirts are proving impossible to fit off the rack, consider getting them tailored.

Tall size tops

If length is an issue for tops, you’ll get more torso length to play with buying tall sizes. If you’re not actually tall, you may find sleeves to be long and shoulders to be wide in some cases, but those can be tailored as needed. If fitting your bust is a specific concern, Hourglassy has lots of great resources and recommendations.

Long over lean

Tricky, it’s true, especially if leggings and skinny jeans won’t work. But one of the best ways to balance out the volume of loose, flowy tops – which are currently working well for Liz – is with slim bottoms. Mid-thigh length tunics worn with leggings, skinny pants, skinny jeans, or jeggings will skim your midsection. J.Jill is a great resource for tunics, as is Eileen Fisher.

What else would you suggest to Liz? Are others of you having similar fitting challenges? How have you dealt with them? Other styles or resources to recommend?

Top images courtesy Nordstrom – left | right

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10 Responses to “Reader Request: Dressing for a Post-pregnancy Midsection”

  1. Susan L

    I find the gypsy/peasant blouses cover a tummy- I have relatively slim hips and if the top is elasticated round the hem it sits at a more flattering level.

  2. Sewing Faille

    I’m leery of offering suggestions for the same reason as Sally, but maybe dresses could work? It sounds like many of your difficulties are related to waistlines or waistbands, and a sheath or shift dress would avoid both. I’m guessing you would have a hard time finding one that fit as RTW (I mean, even I do, and I’m pretty close to a standard size and body shape), but a tailor or a dressmaker would probably be able to make you something awesome based on your measurements. And then, like Sally suggested, you could wear a tailored jacket (or even a tailored shirt) to emphasize your waist and downplay your midsection. Good luck, and hope that helps!

  3. Gisele

    I sympathize with Liz. 7 years postpartum and I’m skinny, but still look like I might be expecting kid #2. Which I will never be.

    I’ve become a big fan of knee-length dresses in stretchy printed fabric, and have found excellent bargains on some at Twice. I feel like it brings attention to the swingy hem at the sexy gams (and could highlight bosomage too if one wished) and distracts in the middle with the print. In the winter I’m all about scarves, again with eye-catching prints.

    Have you seen the clip of Jennifer Garner on the Ellen show, talking about her “baby bump”? Ahhh, so great.

  4. Stephanie Lewis Horman

    I’ll add two things. First I’ve found that higher wasted jeans even if it means a larger size help hold things nice and still. I like ones with a bit more spandex under loose tops. Also I hope its okay to suggest another site but themomedit (formerly aint no mom jeans here) has so many ideas. She is a tiny little thing so there or some tricks she can pull that don’t work for me but lots of great ideas and recommendations.

    • Jennifer

      So much love for the high-waisted jeans. As a plus-size apple shape, they’re a godsend, although surprisingly hard to find. Also, I like to buy my skirts a little longer than knee length so that I can wear them high-waisted. Pencil skirts work well to hold in the tum, although I usually wear a tee or blouse over them. I like ones with stretch or an elastic waist. I do like the idea of A-line or circle skirts, but find them hard to fit. Most of my dresses are empire waisted to disguise a bit, but definitely watch any ruching or pleats coming down from the waist–those tend to read maternity wear to me. Never been pregnant, btw, but I think the dressing tips might be similar.

  5. Kacie

    To the OP — do you happen to have diastasis recti? If so, there are some specific exercises you can do to help remedy the condition, or even a shapewear/band type of thing to help hold your abdominal muscles in properly and heal.

    Note that those exercises are *not* the same type of sit-ups and whatever that someone without the condition might do to flatten their abs. In fact, those same moves could make it worse!

    Sorry you are dealing with an unwelcome “souvenir” of childbearing, but know that you aren’t alone and there are resources out there that can help! In the meantime, yes dress to flatter the shape you have.

  6. Stephanie Lewis Horman

    I thought of one more thing. Some of this depends on how your body is or is not similar to mine but here goes. I’ve found that ever since having my first who is now 12 my stomach and general front region is softer then it ever was before. Even now that my abs are very strong there is still sort of a droopy squishy layer. Anyways if anything digs into it at all I get a muffin top ( sorry Sal I know you don’t like the term) sometimes even if I could not possible size up. I find that skirt with soft yoga bands help with this so much as do higher wasted things. For me at least anything firm must hit above the navel.

  7. CK

    I am not a mother but I do have a squishy lower midsection. I have found a specific Karina dress that works for this – the Ruby. It’s swingy and has an attached sash that you can tie in the front or back. I probably have 6 or 7 of these. They aren’t cheap but they sometimes offer coupon codes on their facebook or instagram page. With these I also wear either tights or Jockey Wicking Skimmies slipshorts, which help to suck things in a bit and also prevent chub rub in the summer. Also, NYDJ jeans are the only jeans I wear that don’t inspire people to give up their seat to me on the bus.

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