Reader L is having abdominal surgery and is at a loss for how to dress for court with a sensitive middle… as I see it this issue could be relevant to other readers with sensitive midsections due to surgical procedures, early pregnancy, C-section scars, etc. What are the best conservative clothes that are loose in the middle for situations like court? She writes:
I’m a prosecutor (ie suits or suit like separates daily) and I’m having abdominal surgery this fall. The doctor says 4-6 weeks recovery but that’s just time off work. That’s not to be able to wear things with actual buttons and set waistbands! Any suggestions on how to create a small but doable court appropriate wardrobe for the recovery after I’m back at work?
Maybe I’m oversimplifying things (and assuming regular shift and empire dresses are out for some reason), but I think I have just the answer for you, Reader L: maternity clothes. For those who don’t know: There are two main kinds of maternity bottoms. The first is the “underbelly” waistband — a soft, stretchy, approximately 3-inch waistband designed to go UNDER the belly. It’s mostly intended for use in early pregnancy when there is no real bump, but your middle may be sensitive. The second is the over-the-belly waistband, which I always preferred just for modesty’s sake. It’s a soft, stretchy waistband that is much taller (maybe 12″?) that’s designed to go all the way from just below the bump to the top of your bra in general, completely covering the belly.
Many women wear these pants for several months after the baby’s born, particularly women who’ve had C-sections and might have a sensitive middle, while many women (particularly those who’ve already had one kiddo) may also wear these pants very early in their pregnancies because their middles are sensitive — i.e., before there’s any real baby bump.
In other words: both kinds of pants can be worn even if you don’t have a bump. Depending on your scarring, stitches, bandages, etc., you may find the over-the-bump pants too itchy or fussy, so you may want to focus on the under-the-bump kind of pants.
We’ve rounded up some maternity workwear basics over at CorporetteMoms, but I’ll also note that you can often get great deals on maternity stuff at eBay. You may also want to ask a mom friend to share an “in search of” post on the local moms’ listserv for you. Most maternity skirts are very stretchy — i.e., comfy but not that appropriate for court — but you can find the odd “suiting” material pencil skirt (like this one, on sale at Isabella Oliver; this one from Japanese Weekend isn’t in a suiting material but is a reader favorite at CorporetteMoms). I’d probably want to be in pants and flats if I were recovering from surgery (no fussing with pantyhose, for one), so I’ve mostly rounded up pants for you:
- Pictured at top and on final sale: Theory Maternity Urban Max II Pants, available at ShopBop for $82.50 (were $275). (“Urban” is a specific kind of fabric from a season or two ago — some outlets, like Amazon, still have the matching blazer; you may already have a matching set in your collection.)
- Gap‘s washable work pants were great, and they come as trousers, bootcuts, crops and more. Unfortunately they only have full-panel ones at the moment, but if memory serves they have had all sorts of demi-panels in the past — you may want to search eBay specifically for that item.
- J.Crew recently started offering maternity pants. If memory serves, people disliked the pants because all they did was add a panel, so the fit is very similar to non-maternity pants. These might be perfect for you. Admittedly these styles are a bit more casual than usual court attire, so know your office/judge.
- Rosie Pope and Isabella Oliver are the two “higher end” maternity brands that might have appropriate clothes for you. I’d also check out Japanese Weekend and Olian as reliable maternity brands. Don’t forget to check places like Gilt or Zulily also — note that the maternity clothes may be hidden in the children’s section of the site.
- Then we come to the big box maternity stores like Destination Maternity. I bought a few pairs of dressier pants from here — I ordered others that I returned because I wanted to see the difference in quality. As anyone who’s been pregnant recently will tell you: The quality on suiting separates isn’t great in general. Still, it’s a limited time, and for a specific purpose — so it may be fine. I’d look for a pair of pinstriped pants or something (like these) to add some variety to your wardrobe.
Ladies, those of you who’ve had abdominal surgery, what’s your best advice for Reader L? We haven’t talked about maternity clothes in court in far too long — those of you who’ve been there recently, which were your favorite finds for conservative maternity clothes?
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