Maternity Jean Rundown – Which Styles Are Best For You? (Psst…We Have a Favorite)


PB065365 I have amassed an embarrassingly large amount of maternity jeans.  This large pile is partly due to crazy-good finds at a certain second hand maternity store (Childish Things in Boulder for you local gals), incessant Gap coupons for 40% off, serendipitously finding an old pair of maternity jeans from my first pregnancy, and borrowing from M.

The biggest difference I’ve noticed between my two pregnancies….which were only 2-3 years apart, BTW…is the amount of maternity jean styles available.  While pregnant with Raines, I was searching (and searching and searching) for under-the-belly jeans.  But the second time?  It’s not just under-the-belly vs. panels, it’s under-the-belly styles with hidden panels, no panels, side panels, back panels.  You want an actual panel?  There’s a vast assortment of demi-panels and high panels with enough fabric and color choices to make my head swim.

(wearing: On S – Isabella Oliver skinny maternity jeans c/o Isabella Oliver and Isabella Oliver ruched cami….On R – Penguin striped pants, Smart Wool socks, Converse sneaks)

Want more good news?  Gap Maternity has been on fire – for maternity clothes as well as jeans – leading the way with a ton of panel/no panel choices that are both flattering and affordable.  But if designer denim is your thing (YUP –  it’s mine!!)…as one would expect, the big name designers have also learned a few tricks in the last couple of years.  There’s currently lots to love about maternity denim.

So which style of maternity jean is right for you?  After trying what feels like every style of maternity jean on the planet, there’s a clear favorite (and M agrees!).  But since everyone is different – and each pregnancy is different – you’ll want to take our favorite with a grain of salt.

Below is a list of all of the styles I’ve tested.  This is by no means an exhaustive list of all maternity jeans on the market.  It’s just an overview of the various types, along with my notes as a frustrated (and huge) second-time mum.

ps.  Never fear – I’m not actually pregnant again.  These pics are from my second pregnancy.  Little Pax will be 1 in Nov.  Sob!  

pps.  The pics are small (there’s a ton) but all are clickable, if you want to see them in more detail.


No Panel – A True Under the Belly Fit

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What I’m Wearing:  These happen to be Gap Maternity denim shorts that I hacked off even further.

The Good: 

  • The jeans are contoured down lower in front (and a bit higher in the back) to fit expanding bellies…and avoid muffin top.
  • Because these are truly cut to fit under-the-belly, bum slippage (resulting in a saggy bum) is at a minimum.
  • These look like normal jeans!  No one will ever guess that they are maternity.  Which gives me hope for use post-pregnancy. (UPDATE:  9 months post-partum, and I’m still wearing them!!)

The Bad: 

  • For women carrying really, really low (like me), these jeans were still not low enough in the front to last all nine months.  Midway though,at the end of the day, I was back to using rubber bands to keep them buttoned…and sitting for long periods of time was painful.

What To Look For: 

  • Because these have the potential to be worn post-pregnancy, look for styles and washes that are meant to be worn a bit big so they don’t look ridiculous when the baby weight comes off. Think boyfriend jeans, not skinny jeans.
  • Also be sure to try on several different styles and sizes.  A waistband that sits even lower in the front would be better for moms carrying low.


No Panel – With a Hidden Elastic in the Waistband

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What I’m Wearing:  Rock and Republic Tyler Maternity Jeans

The Good: 

  • The fabric is soft and comfortable.
  • Because there is so much stretch in the fabric and the hidden elastic in the waistband (exactly like little kid jeans), these jeans fit throughout your entire pregnancy.

The Bad: 

  • There’s so much stretch in the fabric that wearing them – even for an hour or so – leaves you with a saggy bum and billowing thighs.
  • While the elastic waistband allows you to zip them up all 9 months…the fit is off.  Major bum slippage.
  • These were some of the most unflattering jeans I tried.

What To Look For: 

  • I wouldn’t.  Be very wary of any maternity jean whose only fit device is a hidden elastic waistband.  We are not toddlers.


Panel – Demi 

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What I’m Wearing:  Maternal America Megan Maternity Jeans

The Good: 

  • The demi-panel is a good choice for those waffling over the panel vs. no-panel debate.
  • The demi-panel has give, so will expand for a growing belly.

The Bad: 

  • If you are a second-time mum, your stomach will be big before it is hard.  So a demi panel will initially give you a weird muffin-top above the panel.  Not. Cute.
  • The demi panel has give but isn’t big enough to hold onto the belly.  The result?  Major bum slippage.
  • Demi panel jeans are often cut slim (to account, I think, for the lack of hold) so if you are carrying as low as I did, they are not comfortable later in pregnancy.

What To Look For: 

  • If you are a first time mum who doesn’t plan on having any additional kids, then look for a demi-panel that….hunh.  No – scratch that.  You can do better.


Panel – Full

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What I’m Wearing:  Gap 1969 Full Panel Long and Lean Denim in Dark

The Good: 

  • The panel is flattering for all 9 months.
  • A full panel is great for second time moms – amazing during those first few ‘fat-or-pregnant?’ months -it helps to smooooth and hold everything in.
  • Because a full panel holds onto the belly, bum slippage is at a minimum.
  • These jeans actually helped to relieve some back pain in the first and second trimesters.

The Bad: 

  • The panel can be hot, and can make some feel claustrophobic.
  • A dark panel shows through lighter tops.
  • At the very bitter end of my pregnancy, the panel stopped being supportive and comfortable and became constricting and simply too tight.  But I get HUGE.  So this won’t happen to everyone.

What To Look For: 

  • A soft, silky panel.  Something with stretch, but very, very smooth.  Else it will itch like crazy on a sensitive, growing, belly, and anything bulky will show through.  Gap’s are the best.
  • A flesh-toned panel.  Flesh toned panels hide better under tight maternity tops.  Joe’s Jeans has great nude-colored panels, but I found them too itchy.
  • Try M’s trick – she came up with a DIY full-panel that solved all of the full panel issues


Panel – Only In the Back

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What I’m Wearing:  Uh…I’m not.  The model is wearing Gap’s 1969 Back Panel Legging Jeans.  I had a pair of Gap’s back-panel jeans (cropped, light-wash) during the first round of pics for this article.  I then somehow deleted most of those pics.  (Tantrum ensued, etc. etc.).  After I recovered from my mad and we took the next round of pics, I had already tossed them.  (But this also explains why my belly is two different sizes in this article, LOL!)

The Good: 

  • They were comfortable early into my pregnancy.
  • Looks exactly like normal jeans from the front.
  • At $80, they are one of the more affordable (yet still decent) pregnancy jeans.

The Bad: 

  • The back-panel is just a bit awkward.  It made the fit a bit too big early on…but didn’t provide enough stretch to be comfortable later on.  (Remember that I carry soooo loooow.)  I ended up using a rubber-band in the buttonhole for a bit…then switched back to non-maternity denim and other maternity styles.

What To Look For: 

  • If you try these on early in pregnancy and LOVE them…they’ll probably be a good choice for now and post-partum.  I wouldn’t expect them to fit for all 9 months unless you get lucky.  Also be sure to test them against your non-maternity jeggings (with a rubber-banded button).  I suspect it’ll be close.

Panel – Front Only (and just a tiny one)

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What I’m Wearing:  Isabella Oliver Skinny Jeans c/o Isabella Oliver

They are no longer making these jeans, but the Bardot jeans seem similar.  These jeans have a small band of stretch ONLY in the front – just under the belly.  Click the middle picture to see what I mean.

The Good: 

  • I walked out in these jeans and my husband said, “Whoa!  Easily your hottest pregnancy jeans EVER, Babe!”
  • Because the stretch is only in the front (where you need it), bum slippage wasn’t an issue, AND I could fit into these jeans up until the last month.
  • They looked amazing post-partum as well.

The Bad: 

  • I had really high hopes for these jeans – these were the only jeans I could find that had the ingenious tiny, front-only panel.  Alas, these jeans fit more like jeggings, not jeans.  Which was a problem because the fabric was only 2% stretch (jeggings are typically 20%).  The result?  They were darn near impossible to put on.  I had to sit down and pull (and pull and pull) them over my size 5.5 feet.  Ridiculous for a pregnant lady.  However, once they were on they stayed put and looked amazing.  So YES – I did wear these from time-to-time.

What To Look For: 

  • Isabella Oliver’s Bardot jeans look wider around the ankle, so they may be easier to get into.
  • Personally, I’d like to see IO reissue their original skinny as a jegging (aka with a whole lotta stretch). The tiny front-panel has so much potential.  Readers, I’d love to know if you see this panel style anywhere else.


….OUR FAVORITE Maternity Denim Style….

Panel – Side Only!!

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What I’m Wearing:  J Brand Maternity 12″ Skinny Jeans

As you can tell from the side pic, these jeans have side panels.  The front and back look like normal jeans.

The Good: 

  • I can’t say enough good things about these jeans.  The side panels give you just enough stretch as you grow, without sacrificing the fit in the bum.  These jeans look amazing and fit well through your whole pregnancy.  And well into the post-partum stage.
  • Because the panel is on the side, you don’t need to worry about feeling it on your skin…and if a little panel peeks out from under your shirt?  Who cares!  (And BTW – no one ever noticed. )

The Bad: 

  • Because of the panel placement, the front pockets are fake.  Gives you a nice lean silhouette, but no place to stash your hair-bands.

What To Look For: 

Did we miss any other styles of maternity denim?  And we’d love to hear which pairs of denim you swore by…