Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Maternity Uniforms

Ah, maternity uniforms!  You'll most likely have a love/hate relationship with them, for various reasons I'll share below.  At this point in my pregnancy, I'm twenty-two weeks along.  I've been wearing a mix of maternity and normal uniform pieces, so I'll share what I've learned so far.

If you're a Reservist (and probably Guard too), you're in luck!  You'll be issued maternity uniforms, or at least the basics to get you by.  As soon as you learn that you're pregnant, it's best to see the clothing monitor in your orderly room, also known as the Commander's Support Staff (CSS) office.  When I learned of my pregnancy, I found out that budget constraints were making for a long wait time.  Better to put in your request before you actually need them and can't wear your normal uniforms anymore.

The stretchy panel at 22 weeks.
If you're Active Duty, your doctor will give you a note that you'll take to finance.  Your finance office will then give you an additional clothing allowance to purchase your own maternity uniforms.  According to Mrs. H, my lovely AD resource, this happens for each pregnancy and is not a one-shot deal!  Unfortunately, quantities are limited at the local Clothing Sales stores on base, so your best bet is ordering them through AAFES.  It's not a really helpful process when there's no way to try them on prior to ordering.  While the sizing for ABUs is similar to non-maternity uniforms, the jumper, blues blouse, and semi-formal/formal blouses are only sold as XS through XL sizes.  My Clothing Sales store tends to have these in stock, so try them on if you can.  

If cost is an issue for you, try the Airman's Attic at your base or try asking around your squadron.  Perhaps there's a woman who was recently pregnant in your squadron that might have some to loan/give you.  Ask around, you never know what you'll find!  I've found that the pregnant Airmen (or Airmen that have been pregnant while serving in the past) tend to bond and look out for one another.  I've enjoyed this new camaraderie with other moms.

Lastly, check out your local craigslist or similar websites.  I found a number of uniforms for sale when I first buzzed around.

Non-Maternity Uniforms
If you're putting off buying or wearing maternity uniforms as long as you can, there's a few things you can do.  I found that the pants were the biggest/earliest issue in my pregnancy, because the button fly was unforgiving.  Plus, having received my pants during BMT, they were fitted to a once smaller waist.  The elastic in the waistband is no help either.  Many pregnant Airmen use the rubber band trick, which you can see in this lovely pictorial.  I never resorted to this, but I did go around with a couple buttons undone and a loosely worn belt on top of it.  

While the policies and enforcement will vary from command to command, I've seen a number of pregnant Airmen getting away with strategies that might work for you.  In one particular case, an Airman was given permission to wear PT gear in the office, because of difficulties with morning sickness and having outgrown her ABUs (while waiting for maternity ABUs to arrive).  Another Airman still wears the regular ABU trousers well into her second trimester, but doesn't button any of the buttons and folds the front inside on the diagonal.  With the ABU blouse covering the front, you wouldn't know the difference.  Again, feel it out in your squadron and ask other moms.

AFI 36-2903
As always, AFI 36-2903 is your bible for guidance on the wear of maternity uniforms, unless your commander has given you permission to do otherwise.  **There is no rule or regulation as to how soon you can wear maternity uniforms.**  If you need them, you need them.  The AFI does specify (Paragraph 1.2.5.) that maternity uniforms can be worn for up to six months after delivery, so don't feel stressed out that you'll need to fit back into your normal uniforms right away, or that you'll have to purchase larger, non-maternity uniforms.

Who doesn't love the maternity jumper?!
If you should have to wear an infrequently worn uniform, I'd highly recommend checking out the AFI well in advance of your event.  I learned late in the game that service dress required me to wear a long-sleeved blue shirt, which I didn't own (a maternity one).  Thankfully I was able to wear a non-maternity one and it fit fine.  Plus, under the jumper you couldn't tell if I left part of it unbuttoned (which I didn't need to).  Service dress also required the satin tie-tab, which I've only ever worn with semi-formal dress when not pregnant.  Semi-formal dress requires the white long-sleeved blouse, pretty standard, but it requires that you have chevrons on that shirt, which is atypical of non-maternity uniforms.  Do your research so you're not having to scramble at the last minute!  Don't forget those maternity pantyhose! 

What I'm Wearing
Currently, I'm wearing the maternity ABU trousers and my regular ABU top.  All of my other items are non-maternity, including outer garments, cold weather gear, and sand t-shirts.  I've had to wear the jumper for my Deserving Airman Commissioning Board, when service dress was required.  I haven't had to wear blues, since I'm not typically there on Blues Monday.  Plus, now that the Space Command has put an end to Blues Monday, I'll probably rarely wear them.

Like a little bell!  Avoiding this bad boy for now.
I was issued one set of maternity ABUs, a short-sleeved maternity blues blouse, a long-sleeved semi-formal white blouse, maternity blues trousers, and the jumper.  If my ABUs become unserviceable, I have to swap them out or purchase my own.  When I ordered my sizes, I went down one size from my normal ABUs (which were issued at BMT), since I'd heard they ran large.  This probably wasn't the best advice.  I can see myself having to get another pair of maternity ABU pants eventually, as I felt like I was stretching the elastic waist to the max when I was first trying them on.  The ABU top is very much babydoll shaped at this point, so I haven't worn it yet.  I would look downright ridiculous with that flared top right now, so I'm holding off until I absolutely can't fit into my normal ABU tops (which are huge) anymore.  My normal ABU top covers the elastic panel in my pants, so it's a non-issue.

Maternity cold weather gear is non-existent.  If I was Active Duty in a cold location, I'd be in search of maternity thermals in off-white to wear under my uniforms.  I have my issued thermals that I just fold down in the meantime, but I don't know how much longer they'll fit.  Fortunately, most of the outer garments are so large, they'll grow with me.  I'm still blousing my pants and wearing my boots, which I intend to do for as long as possible.  I can see this being an issue as my stomach gets larger.  Interestingly enough, the maternity ABU pants aren't hemmed at the bottom (despite being available in short, regular, and long lengths), so keep this in mind if you decide to start wearing athletic shoes with your uniforms at some point. 

A Love/Hate Relationship
Many women have a love/hate relationship with the maternity uniforms.  Ask around and most moms will tell you that these must have been designed by a man, due to the lack of stylishness and functionality.  You can see in my pictures that most of these pieces are pretty unattractive and are meant to function, rather than flatter.  The elastic in the maternity ABU pants can be really bothersome.  The suggestion was made to me to take the elastic out and replace it with a drawstring cord of some type, so it's not as uncomfortable.  The maternity jumper is something no one looks attractive in, but at least it has hidden side pockets!  It's a very "freeing" garment though, which is a plus, and there's nothing constricting you.  Be careful - the sizing runs big.  I can fit my entire family in the jumper, husband included.  You might consider having it taken in on the sides, which was recommended to me as well.  Just be careful that your maternity blouse underneath doesn't make it look lumpy if you have it tailored.  

My biggest complaint is the lack of functionality in the maternity ABUs.  It's as though the designer viewed pregnant women as completely useless, even in the office.  There are no hip pockets in the pants, only tiny pockets on the sides.  The blouse has no breast pockets, just two small patch pockets in front.  Neither garment has pen pockets.  Absolutely ridiculous, especially when you figure that most pregnant women are going to be kept inside an office, doing administrative tasks during this time.  As a Personnelist, this is really frustrating to me, and this is why I'm holding onto my non-maternity top for as long as possible.

I've found that a positive attitude and smile goes a long way when sporting these uniforms.  No one is going to look particularly attractive, so you may as well have fun with it!  I owned that maternity jumper and it was a great conversation starter in my squadron.  If I would've dwelled on the negative, I know that would've come across during my board, and potentially affected my confidence and outward appearance to the board members.

Stay comfortable, Airman mommy, and rock those maternity uniforms!  


Bikegirl said...

You are looking fantastic! Even in the maternity uniforms! lol! I think they need a woman to redesign them so they are actually funtional to wear! Hope you have a merry christmas!

Active Duty Mommy said...

For active duty you can't get maternity clothing allowance every pregnancy...unfortunately. It's only allowed every 3 years and obviously can't apply for it unless pregnant. Good info you put together! -Active Duty Mommy of 2...1 on the way!

Erin said...

@Active Duty Mommy - Thanks for clarifying for my AD mommies! Congrats on your pregnancy!

Brooke Savage said...

I went to military clothing issue and they recommended I order my maternity uniform 2 sizes larger than my regular uniform size. Does anyone know if this information is accurate or not?