Pregnant woman holds hands on belly (maternity clothing for petite or short women)
iStock Photo

Being a short, pregnant woman in an increasingly tall world presents its own unique challenges. You already exist below people’s sightlines, and now your midsection juts out at the level of most people’s knees or upper legs — even more of a blind spot. People bump into your bump more than they ever bumped into non-pregnant you (and that was already a lot).

And you think it was difficult to reach those dishes in kitchen cabinets before? It’s even tougher now because while you might be able to get onto your tiptoes, your bump won’t allow you to get close enough to the counter for the extra boost to matter. Better off moving all those dishes to a spot on the counter for a few months, no matter how cluttered it looks.

But the most challenging part for vertically challenged me has been finding petite maternity clothes. Designers seemingly think pregnant women gain inches in both width and height, and if you’re 5’3″ and under, you’re truly swimming in anything you ever try on.

Knee-length dresses become midi or full-length dresses. Dress pants become a wearable obstacle. Empire waist shirts become minidresses. The only plus? Capri pants become the only pants you can wear without alterations. Plus, because they turn out to be regular length pants on you, you can wear them year-round. But have you actually tried to find maternity capri pants? It reminds me of hunting down the elusive Beanie Babies in the mid-’90s. After two months of searching for capris, I finally found a pair and cheered in the middle of the store. The cashier looked over and said knowingly, “Oh, you must have found the dress capris.”

Maybe finding maternity clothes is such a battle for me not just because of my height, but because I’m a bargain shopper who struggles with online shopping and has to wear fairly formal attire for my job. (No tunics, jeans, or leggings allowed here.) But even if I sprung for the designer names, the clothes are still made for someone six inches taller than me. This means I either have to hem everything myself or pony up for alterations, and neither is ideal (especially if you have a full-time job and a toddler).

But I’m not one to complain without finding solutions! So here are my tips for the short and pregnant:

Take size advice with a grain of salt.

“Your maternity size is your normal size.” When you’re short, this isn’t always true. I’ve found that I actually go down a size because of my height and where on my body my pregnancy weight settles.

Go straight to the maternity petite section.

Most stores, online or brick-and-mortar, do not carry maternity clothing designed for petite women. However, there are a few short girl maternity staples that are truly reliable. Target (both in store and online) is wonderful for those maternity maxi dresses that won’t drag plus super soft petite tanks and tees to wear under cardigans. Old Navy and Loft also offer petite maternity wear online!

Dresses are your friend.

I have five work dresses. Sure, they were designed to be knee-length and hit me at calf-length. But I found five that still look good that way. My colleagues might now be able to tell the day of the week by what dress I’m wearing (“Oh, Kat’s wearing the rust lace dress again — it must be Thursday.”), but that’s OK.

Don’t pay full price.

I buy the majority of my maternity clothes on consignment shopping apps like Poshmark or Mercari or ThredUp. I would prefer to shop at physical stores, but when the clothes are $4-10 apiece, the bargains balance it out! If it doesn’t fit great, you’re only out a few dollars and you can always re-list it on the app.

This article was published in 2018 and has been updated for 2024!

Kat Cornetta
Kat grew up in Rochester, NY, and attended college in Ithaca and Binghamton, NY. She moved to Boston to earn a graduate degree in educational administration. In addition to her career in education, Kat has a part-time freelance sportswriting career covering women’s college hockey, gymnastics, and figure skating. She contributed to the Boston Herald for a decade before moving over to the Boston Globe, where she wrote their first-ever weekly women’s college hockey notebook. Her long-term career goal is to write a book. An Ipswich resident, Kat is a mother to two sons (born in 2016 and 2018) and owns a cat named after legendary Buffalo Bills head coach Marv Levy. After having her sons in 2016 and 2018, Kat is attempting to balance a full-time job in education with her writing dream and motherhood. She loves coffee, cats and 1990s NFL quarterbacks. She dislikes chewing gum, high shelves and baby pajamas that snap instead of zipper. You can read her work at sportsgirlkat.com

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