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Maternity Style in the Workplace

You might feel miserable during the first three months of your pregnancy, but there's one perk of the first trimester: You probably don't need new clothes. Once you hit that 14- or 15-week mark, though, those black dress pants might not button so comfortably anymore. It's tempting to slip on black yoga pants and call it a day -- after all, black equals professional, right? -- but if you want to keep your professional identity intact, invest in a workplace maternity wardrobe.

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The Transition Period

At first, no one at work will be able to tell you're pregnant. Then, for a few weeks -- or more -- you will be in an awkward phase where you don't look pregnant, but you do look like you've gained weight. However, maternity clothes will still be too big, and baggy clothing never looks professional. Get through this period by buying a skirt in a size up, pants with an elastic waistband -- which will also serve you well in the awkward phase you have dressing a postpartum body -- and empire-cut dresses from your pre-pregnancy closet. Loose sweaters, cardigans and tunics can also help conceal a growing stomach that hasn't yet popped out.

Invest in Basics

Unless you have an unlimited budget, it's simply not possible to totally replace your wardrobe with maternity counterparts. Therefore, it's essential to spend your money where it counts: on classic basics. Washington stylist T. Espinoza calls this a "wardrobe cluster," or a small combination of clothes that can be mixed and matched to creation multiple outfits. Her formula consists of investing in four tops, four bottoms, one sweater and one jacket or blazer -- this will give you 20-plus outfit options. That last piece -- the maternity blazer -- is essential for looking polished in an instant, says Charleston, S.C.-based stylist Megan Brandle. "Look for a great tuxedo-style blazer that will be flattering and stylish," she recommends. "Avoid traditional-looking blazers because, in maternity brands, they can look a bit frumpy." Stick to buying basics in neutral colors, including black, brown, gray and navy; save the pops of color for your accessories, which can come from your pre-pregnancy wardrobe.

Use Accessories to Your Advantage

As the weeks and months go by, a pregnant woman tends to wear the same outfits over and over again. Change them up with accessories, says Brandle. "Buy really good basics and play them up with various shoes, scarves, hats and jewelry. That way you don't feel like you are wearing the same thing over and over," she says. Keep the accessories professional; if you wouldn't wear bejeweled chandelier earring pre-pregnancy, it's not appropriate while you're with child. Don't forget about shoes, which can go a long way in staying stylish and professional at work. You might need to buy new shoes a half-size up because a woman's feet can grow during pregnancy -- particularly if she's prone to swelling. Follow the same tips for shoes as you do for maternity clothing -- only buy neutral colors and styles that go with multiple outfits.

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Watch the Fabric and the Sizing

If you buy inexpensive maternity clothing, it can quickly fade and pill after multiple washes. "Nothing is more unprofessional than wearing a faded and pilled top to a very important meeting," Brandle says. The key way to get around this is to invest in higher-quality clothing. If you're worried about the price, do the math -- "Your cost per wear will be pennies," says Brandle. Additionally, don't try to squeeze into clothing that you have clearly outgrown. It will call attention to your growing size rather than hide it. This applies to undergarments, too, particularly as your chest grows throughout pregnancy.

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