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Dressing the Belly

Stylish maternity wear for every taste and budget

Preggers, on Michigan Avenue

1647 N. Damen Ave., 773-862-1133; Renaissance Place, 1849 Green Bay Rd., Highland Park, 847-926-0053; bellydancematernity.com
Of all the high-end maternity boutiques, Belly Dance has the biggest selection. In addition to its own fairly reasonably priced NoM line, the boutique carries $50 metallic-thread Michael Stars T-shirts, Majamas pants for around $50, and Olian dresses suitable for work for about a hundred bucks. More expensive choices include jeans from Juicy Couture, Paige, and Serfontaine ($176 to $198); sexy dresses by Liz Lange, Chaiken, and Juliet Dream; and work pants in the $100-to-$200 range. Belly Dance carries a good selection of swimwear year-round and an array of diaper bags that includes the hard-to-find Petunia Pickle Bottom.

555 N. Michigan Ave., 312-494-8580; Orland Square, 460 Orland Square Dr., Orland Park, 708-349-3135; Deer Park Town Center, 20530 N. Rand Rd., Deer Park, 847-540-1948
The Gap's maternity line represents the intersection of best quality for the least amount of money. The fibers are mainly cotton with some spandex and rayon thrown in, construction is sturdy, and prices range from the mid-$20s for long-sleeved tees to just over $100 for a faux-fur-trimmed down parka. You won't find many prints or colors that go beyond basic neutrals, but the jeans, pants, tops, and dresses here can become the bedrock of your pregnancy wardrobe.

The Glen Town Center, 2670 Navy Blvd., Glenview, 847-486-1060; Deer Park Town Center, 20530 N. Rand Rd., Deer Park, 847-438-8310; Sherman Plaza, 1608 Sherman Ave., Evanston, 847-905-0236; shopmama.com
This small but growing chain, based in Minnesota, targets fashionable moms, with about a quarter of the boutiques' floor space devoted to maternity clothes from upscale brands such as Japanese Weekend, Ripe, Olian, Noppies, and Juliet Dream. Also find nursing bras; stylish diaper bags from OiOi, Fleurville, and Reese Li; Peanut Shell modern-print baby carriers; and Mama Mio's line of natural creams and oils.

2142 W. Roscoe St.; 773-281-6577
Moms-to-be rave about the customer service from owner Trudy Robinson Foley and her staff. Foley has a strong interest in fitness, and what sets her boutique apart is its small but excellent collection of Ocean Lily and Bao Bei workout gear, made from technical fabrics suitable even for experienced runners; Kickin' also is the only U.S. store to carry Ilant swimwear from Australia, in both fashion and workout styles. This also seems to be the only boutique with 7 For All Mankind maternity jeans. You'll find a well-edited selection of clothing suitable for work and the weekends from Olian, Ripe, and Julou, among others. Accessories include nursing bras, Peanut Shell baby slings, Storksak diaper bags, and Baby Jogger City Series strollers. In keeping with her philosophy of helping moms feel good from the inside out, Foley offers free monthly "try-me" prenatal fitness classes, such as yoga and Pilates.

3530 N. Southport Ave.; 773-248-4477, kristak.com
What started as a tiny maternity section in the original Krista K boutique (3458 N. Southport Ave.; 773-248-1967) rapidly became so popular that owner Krista Kaur Meyers opened this store just for moms-to-be in 2006. If $500 "mom bags" (Susan Fitch) and $500 tailored wool-blend suits (Cadeau) don't scare you off, what you'll find here is chic, upscale maternity wear, with the independent boutiques' best selection of professional clothing mixed in with more casual pieces. Fast-talking manager Heather Bruno is intense but friendly and very focused on helping women put together a functional wardrobe that will keep working even during those out-of-shape postpartum months. Top-selling brands include Olian, T-Bags, and jeans in the $190 range from Paige, Citizens of Humanity, and Chip & Pepper. If you need a nursing bra, ask; they're available but not on display.

909 S. Lombard Ave., Oak Park; 708-524-9668, majamas.com
Check the labels on the maternity and nursing loungewear at mama boutiques all over town and there's a good chance you'll find the Majamas brand. Local designer Germaine Caprio started the line because she was tired of wearing a nursing bra around the clock and wanted a supportive, discreet top to replace her bra. What she created is a line so hip that we know moms with kids in grade school who still buy the clothes. They're comfortable but not so slouchy that you'll feel like a slob, even on those days when showering becomes a challenge. Here at the flagship store you'll find the biggest selection of Caprio's soft and stretchy tops, dresses, and pajamas in funky fabrics, as well as the popular Yoga Pant and gear (bras, bags, some baby items) for the expectant and new mom.

815 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-525-0282, mcshanesexchange.com
If you don't mind lugging your pregnant self up a flight of stairs to the second floor of this consignment shop housed in a Lincoln Park brownstone, you'll find a small section of maternity clothing that runs the gamut from low- to high-end brands. It's worth sorting through the overpriced Old Navy wear to score markdowns like a gray wool-blend tunic and pants from Liz Lange Maternity (not her Target line) for $6, a Juliet Dream denim skirt for $12, or a black silk Cadeau peasant blouse for $8. You're unlikely to have any luck getting the staff to crack a smile-but at these prices, do you really care? The Webster Avenue location does not carry maternity clothing.

At Macy's throughout Chicago; Water Tower Place, 835 N. Michigan Ave., 312-335-1818; 4999 Old Orchard Center, Skokie, 847-679-7094; 118 Orland Park Place, Orland Park, 708-364-1704; Woodfield Mall, 5 Woodfield Shopping Center, Schaumburg, 847-413-9023; mimimaternity.com
Mimi Maternity is the mid-priced line of maternity clothing owned by the same company as the lower-end Motherhood Maternity and A Pea in the Pod, which competes with expensive boutique brands. The sweet spot here seems to be classically styled pieces in natural fibers, such as cashmere sweaters for $128, silk and cotton blouses, and a cute double-breasted wool coat. Another plus is what tends to be a large sale section with big markdowns; on a recent visit, a good number of the items were still in season.

Many locations throughout Chicago; check store locator at motherhood.com
The selection at Motherhood Maternity may be the ideal combination of trendiness and lower prices. A small step up from Old Navy in quality, the clothes go beyond basic, neutral pieces, featuring plenty of pretty colors and trendy prints, for a fraction of the price found at the hip, independent boutiques. A modern-looking wrap tunic, for instance, runs $24.98, while a two-piece set with a patterned, Empire-waist top and black pants is only $39.98. The downside? Many items include at least some heat-trapping synthetic fibers, which may not be worth the savings if you're due in summer.

Selected locations throughout Chicago; check store locator at oldnavy.com
Old Navy's maternity line is like its regular clothes: inexpensive and, although perhaps not built to last, certainly sturdy enough to get you through at least one pregnancy. The selection runs toward casualwear, with a basic selection of styles in neutral colors. Cotton-spandex boot-cut jeans, as well as cords and twill pants, are a relative bargain at $32.50, while a couple of work-pants options were just a few dollars more. You'll also find sweats and hoodies, blouses and T-shirts, and a deeply discounted clearance rack with a mix of in- and out-of-season items.

900 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-943-MAMA, preggersmaternity.com
The cutest of the independent maternity boutiques, Preggers—an outpost of an original store in Traverse City, Michigan—is worth a stop if you're downtown. Venture up to the fifth floor of the Bloomingdale's building and you'll find a similar, albeit smaller, selection of upscale clothing found at other boutiques: Japanese Weekend, Olian, Ripe, T-Bags, Noppies, and Citizens of Humanity jeans, as well as high-end diaper bags by Storksak and Mia Bossi. One bonus is that co-owner Emily Zipser has a design background and can help plan your nursery; Preggers carries baby furniture from Oeuf and Pali. The boutique is also an excellent destination for shower gifts since about half the store is devoted to adorable baby clothes, booties, and gadgets like the Sleep Sheep, a cuddly sound machine.

Multiple locations throughout Chicago; find the closest one at target.com
Liz Lange just may be the patron saint of pregnant women. She started her original, upscale maternity line partly in reaction to the predominant tent-style tops and Peter Pan collars that made pregnant women look like second graders, and many of her tops and dresses for Target have fitted, sexy cuts designed to show off your belly. Virtually all items, including blazers and dresses for work, are less than $30, and many moms swear that the jeans, which top out at $29.99, are not only the cheapest but also the best fitting anywhere.

Illustration: Julia Kuhl

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