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Maternity clothes

What to wear in pregnancy isa perennial problem. How do you know what size you're going to be atthe end of nine months? Where can you get a one-off outfit for awedding, party or special night out without spending a fortune? And canyou get what you need without trailing around the shops?

What you need to buy depends very much on your lifestyle, yourworking environment and how much you can borrow. A good idea is to askfriends and family if they have any shopping tips or items of clothingthey can lend.

You might want to consider the following before you start spending:

• You may find you can adapt things you have. Drawstring trousers,shirts worn undone with T-shirts underneath, or even your partner'sjumpers, can all come into their own.

• Specially designed maternity clothes are cut to accommodate yourbump with stretch panels, expandable waistlines, tie-backs that let outas you get bigger, or clever flared styles. The designs take intoaccount that it's not just your bump, but also your expanding back andbosom that needs to be accommodated. Simply buying clothes in a biggersize doesn't tend to work as what fits around the middle will be too bigon the shoulders.

• See if you can pick up some outfits second-hand - NCT Nearly NewSales usually have a selection of maternity clothes. For details ofsales in your area, contact your local branch by clicking above. Forspecial events, consider hiring an outfit from a dress agency.

• If you work in a formal environment, buying tailored pregnancyclothes can cost a fortune. "Never has the phrase 'capsule wardrobe'been more appropriate," says Sarah, who worked in a solicitors' officebefore having Max. "I bought a washable polyester-mix maternity trousersuit with a co-ordinating skirt and rotated it with a couple of whiteT-shirts. It was permanently a case of 'one on, one in the wash' -that's an outfit I never want to see again!"

• It's essential to wear the right bra. Your bra size will changethrough pregnancy, and underwires are out. Measure yourself every coupleof months to make sure you're wearing the right size. NCT MaternitySales can put you in touch with a trained fitter so you can buy yourbras at home. It even sells bra extenders to help your underwear lastthe course. Click above to get in touch.

• Mail order is an easy way to cut back on the foot slogging. Thereare a range of catalogues and websites available at all price points:from budget (Dorothy Perkins, Jojo Maman Bebe), through to NextDirectory, Marks & Spencer Direct and Blooming Marvellous, to Formesat the upper end of the market. NCT Maternity Sales can also supplyswimwear that will see you through the next nine months.

• The extra blood coursing through your system in pregnancy meansthat you'll feel warmer than usual. So if you're expecting a winter babyyou may not need a coat. Instead, layers and a wrap could see youthrough. Natural fibres next to the skin will keep you cool. And don'tforget that your feet will probably swell towards the end; low-heeledmules, laces and Velcro fasteners, or fabric shoes with a bit of givewill be a must.