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Saturday, April 20

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There is a picture of my mother when she was eight months pregnant with me, that sits on my bookshelf. In it, she has a cool Mia Farrow pixie haircut and some smart patent leather pilgrim shoes in white with a matching purse. Her maternity blouse, however, is a shapeless pup tent under which she and my father could have hidden had a sudden rain shower occurred.

If you are not looking forward to purchasing your maternity clothes, you are not alone. The thought of looking potentially dorky for six to seven months is not very appealing. Thankfully, enormous, saggy, baggy, billowing tops, tees and dresses are things of the past. (Good god, remember the "Baby on Board" t-shirts with an arrow pointing downwards?) The maternity clothes of today are fashionable, form-fitting (if you like) and comfortable, and now let each mother-to-be keep her own particular sense of style.

Unsure which stores to hit or where to begin the hunt for your maternity wardrobe? There are several options to turn to. While some women are able to or don't mind spending a lot on their maternity outfits, others are on a budget or have expenses that are priority over pricey maternity clothes. There are stores in the Chicago area to fit every price range.

For inexpensive, cute and trendy items, visit any Target store for Liz Lange apparel, or try Old Navy. There are always items on sale and/or clearance. If you are heading out to Woodfield Mall or to Michigan Avenue, check out H&M, which stocks maternity clothes that're as cool as their regular clothes. Most items are priced under $25 in these stores.

Motherhood Maternity's outlet store on Fullerton carries some items that are in their State Street store and online, but at clearance prices. Motherhood Maternity is a bit pricier than Target, Old Navy or H&M, but I found the quality was better. Their items are very durable and well-made.

If you are able to splurge, then head over to A Pea in the Pod or Belly Dance. A Pea in the Pod is located in downtown's Gold Coast and features designers such as Anne Klein, Anna Sui, Seven jeans and many more. Belly Dance Maternity, in Bucktown, has clothes by Diane von Furstenberg, Earl Jean and Citizens of Humanity. If you check out their websites, you'll also find some good sales.

Keep in mind that you don't have to stick to regular retail. Try other alternatives like consignment shops, thift stores or even eBay. Besides gently-used children's clothes and toys, The Second Child, in Lincoln Park, also has a large selection of maternity clothing. They carry Japanese Weekend and Mimi Maternity among others, and I've always found their selection to be in great shape.

Some points to keep in mind when shopping for maternity clothes:

• Maternity sizes are meant to reflect your pre-pregnancy size. If you were a small before, you'll be a small in maternity clothes.

•Purchase essential pieces in solid colors. For example, a pair of black pants, shorts and a long neutral skirt can be easily combined with your tops to completely change your look with a few accessories, like scarves and jewelry -- items you already own.

• Invest in light-weight fabrics that breathe. You'll find that you are always hot, even during winter, and layers are key. This is where your pre-pregnancy cardigans and jackets can come into play.

• Buy pants with drawstrings. You can wear them throughout your pregnancy, from very early on and continue to wear them after your baby is born.

However, if you're not quite ready to start shopping just yet, there are some things you can do in the meantime. When you've reached that awkward stage in the pregnancy where your regular clothes no longer fit, but maternity ones are huge on you, there are cool devices that allow you to expand your waistbands. These V-shaped panels of stretchy material attach to the zipper or buttonholes of your skirts, jeans or pants and let you hang onto to your favorite items just a little bit longer. They are usually one-size-fits-all and require no sewing.

Also consider raiding the closet of the man in your life. Husbands, boyfriends, brothers, friends are a hidden source for nice white shirts, sweaters, and comfy cozies like sweatshirts and sweatpants. And, of course, don't forget other mothers. My maternity clothes are already on their third round and several items that I passed on were given to me by new mothers.

So have fun planning your maternity wardrobe and remain true to your own style. You will be comfortable in whatever style suits your life and who you are; there is no definitive maternity look you need to sport. If you are a jeans and t-shirt kind of woman or a dress-up kind of gal, there's no reason to stay away from your look -- it will make you feel good about yourself and enjoy this very special time in your life even more.

A Pea In The Pod
46 E. Oak
312/944-3080

Belly Dance Maternity
1647 N. Damen
773/862-1133

H&M
840 N. Michigan
312/640-0060

Woodfield Shopping Center
5 Woodfield Mall
847/619-9940

Motherhood Maternity
1 N. State
312/541-9210

7601 S. Cicero
773-884-1805

Brickyard Mall
2620 N. Narragansett
773/622-1650

Motherhood Maternity Outlet
1730 W. Fullerton
773/529-0564

50 E. Randolph
312/332-0022

Old Navy Maternity
4905 W. North
773/862-1774

35 N. State
312/551-0522

The Second Child
954 W. Armitage
773/883-0880

Target
6525 W. Diversey
773/804-3610

2939 W. Addison
773/604-7680

2656 N. Elston
773/252-1994

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About the Author(s)

Alejandra Valera is a new mom and writer. If there's a baby- or kid-friendly place, product or event you think she should cover, email her at .

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