A Beautiful Exchange

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tips for dressing a growing baby bump

maternity, maternity fashion, maternity clothes, pregnancy, pregnancy clothes, motherhood, how to maternity fashion, how to dress baby bump, fall fashion, winter fashion, spring fashion, pregnant

Since I am over halfway through my second pregnancy, I can definitely understand the frustrations of trying to dress a growing baby bump. Maternity fashion is something that needs to be a priority to keep women confident and feeling like themselves all throughout pregnancy, but that can feel limited if you don't know how to work things to your advantage! Throughout both pregnancies now, I have found ways to really feel like myself, while also shopping for maternity clothes on a budget and want to share a few tips with you fellow pregnant gals out there!!

Before I get to sharing some tips, though, I want to take a moment to encourage you and remind you of a few things:

+ Your body is going to change and for most of us, those changes are drastic. While it can be really frustrating trying to dress a completely new body, try to remember that your body is changing to accommodate the sweet little child growing in there. It's doing some amazing things to prepare you for this journey and despite the frustrations, remember to pause and be thankful for the blessing that you are carrying with you throughout each day! You are beautiful and your body is doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing--be thankful for those signs of health!

+ Mastering how to dress a growing belly will be a process of trial and error! I have learned all of the things I am sharing below and still have to try on an outfit a few different ways to get it to the place where it makes me feel confident! It's totally fine if you get a little overwhelmed trying to dress your bump, but just remember that your frustration is being fed by a mean monster called "hormones."

Now that we've covered that, let's get started, shall we:

BELTS
As your belly continues to grow, you will (and should) want to show it off! With a simple belt, you can turn a tunic, oversized sweater, dress, or regular shirt into a belly-hugging, fashionable look! There are so many possibilities when it comes to belting things and they can allow you to wear "shift" pieces without you looking frumpy! Try tying your belts in new ways, explore new colors, and use them whenever your outfit needs a bit of definition!

Don't be afraid to wear a heel.
Heels are a great way to lengthen out your body, even as you put on weight throughout your pregnancy. Don't go crazy and try to wear anything over three inches or so, but also don't completely avoid them! Pair a wedge with your maternity skinnies or a cute skirt to make your legs look long and put focus on something other than your torso!

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Layer
Layering is one of the BEST things you can do when dressing your baby bump! No matter what time of year you are going through the dog days of pregnancy, you want to be able to add or remove clothing with ease. Another great thing about layering is that it gives you yet another way to wear different pieces of your pre-pregnancy wardrobe! You can mix things up by adding a cardigan, cute jacket, or chambray top and take one of your basic maternity outfits and make it super cute!!

maternity, maternity fashion, maternity clothes, pregnancy, pregnancy clothes, motherhood, how to maternity fashion, how to dress baby bump, fall fashion, winter fashion, spring fashion, pregnant

Experiment with new ways to wear your hair
Even if you're like me and have a hard time trying all of those super creative "10 minute hairstyles" we all see on Pinterest, go ahead and experiment with a few that you think you can do with ease. Don't stress yourself out about it, but just try straying from your everyday, go-to look every now and then. I like to rotate how I style my bangs, wear my hair in a high pony, or braid it to the side! Your outfits will look completely different depending on how you style the rest of your look and you may even be more comfortable with your hair pulled back or let down!

Use what you can of your pre-pregnancy wardrobe.
This can tend to get really frustrating, so stay focused and don't let yourself get stressed out. Focus on wearing what you can when you can and when the day comes that you can't squeeze into that certain dress or top anymore, just move on. There will be a day when you can wear it again.

With that being said, you want to utilize as much of your current wardrobe as you can. Go ahead and pull out all cardigans, sweaters, and even some dresses. You can always use your cardigans (don't forget to layer and add that belt!), you can wear oversized sweaters with no problem, and you can make short dresses into long shirts and pair them with leggings and a cute wedge or boots!!


maternity, maternity fashion, maternity clothes, pregnancy, pregnancy clothes, motherhood, how to maternity fashion, how to dress baby bump, fall fashion, winter fashion, spring fashion, pregnant

Accessorize
Another thing that you can buy plenty of during your pregnancy and still use the heck out of them after your baby is born and after you are back down to pre-pregnancy sizes is accessories! We all love accessories (GIVE ME ALL THE THINGS) and they can add such depth to an outfit and always be used! Go ahead and stock up on some bold necklaces, a watch, some bangles, and a group of cute studs that can be worn with a lot of things! You can also use scarves since they can add a really great "punch" to a simple tee and cardigan! [My favorite place to stock up on accessories are Jane.com and Groopdealz]

Buy at least 2 "confidence" pieces
I am really big on stocking up on the staples and making those work through layering and accessorizing, but I think it's so important to remain confident in your changing body and sometimes a piece of clothing can really make you feel fabulous! Go ahead and "splurge" on one or two things that make you feel AH-MAZING! For me, this is usually a tight dress or cute pair of skinny jeans, but just go with what makes you feel beautiful and treat yourself!

maternity, maternity fashion, maternity clothes, pregnancy, pregnancy clothes, motherhood, how to maternity fashion, how to dress baby bump, fall fashion, winter fashion, spring fashion, pregnant

Always go for ease and comfort
Don't let yourself get hung up on feeling drab as your body changes and as you go through the not-so-fun things of pregnancy, but also don't be too focused on dressing cute and forget that you need to be comfortable! When you go to buy clothes, try on everything (yes even tanks and tees), to make sure that they fit you well, you like the fabric, and that there aren't any annoying parts on them that you can't remove. For example, I stocked up on some maternity tanks to wear under clothes and outerwear and didn't try them on because I just didn't think I needed to. The first time I wore one of those tank tops with a pair of my partial-panel jeans was terrible. The rouching that allowed the shirt to grow with my belly was terribly itchy and now I have three tank tops I can't wear! Stick to soft fabrics and when you try things on be sure to bend down, sit down, and move around before pulling the trigger!!

Stay neutral with pops of color
For those things that you have to buy from the maternity section at some point (tank tops, tees, pants, etc.) keep things neutral. Utilize the other tips on this list to make your outfits fashionable and leave the pops of color up to your accessories or those things that you can wear even when you're not pregnant (like sweaters, etc.)! This will save you money and allow you to buy things that you love and can use for years to come--even when you aren't preggers!


Look past the seasons
On the tail end of that last tip, do not let yourself throw out summer pieces that could possibly work just because you are going to pregnant in a different season! This particularly works well for those of us that are pregnant during the winter months, but try to envision different ways that a piece of clothing could work to your advantage. There are a lot of things that won't work between seasons, but just keep an open mind and keep anything out that has even a little possibility--give yourself room to be creative with your looks!

For example, there are a few dresses and sleeveless shirts that are for summer, but are in darker colors. I have kept them out for my winter pregnancy because they have potential to work beneath a cardigan or thick sweater!

Use leggings to your advantage
While I don't think that leggings are necessarily the best alternative to pants, they are extremely comfortable and will help you transition some of those pre-pregnancy items into your maternity wardrobe! Get a few oversized sweaters or large tunics, accessorize, and you've got a super comfortable outfit that looks great AND shows off your growing baby bump!!

Stock up on dresses
Girls, dresses will be your best friend throughout your pregnancy! They are so easy all the time, but when you're uncomfortable, a little swollen, and not feeling like yourself, dresses make your life so much easier! Be careful not to choose any that are too low cut or short since your body will be changing a lot and you want to be able to use them throughout your entire pregnancy. Go for tight dresses that have quality, thick fabric so that you can't see any lines (you know the ones--where your bra and underwear rest on your skin) and so that your bump shows in a flattering way. For those dresses that are more flowy, use the other tips and add a belt, some accessories, and/or a cardigan or jacket!!

Maxi, maxi, maxi
Maxi dresses and skirts are basically yoga pants without a crotch, so they are naturally one of the best wardrobe pieces for pregnancy! They are so comfortable, versatile, and can be dressed up or dressed down. Grab a few skirts and dresses and use them as staple pieces or to mix things up every once in a while! Get whatever color or pattern you love (and fits the season(s) you will be pregnant) and wear those babies out!! If dresses are your best friend during pregnancy, maxis are your BEST FRIEND FOREVER during pregnancy!

maternity, maternity fashion, maternity clothes, pregnancy, pregnancy clothes, motherhood, how to maternity fashion, how to dress baby bump, fall fashion, winter fashion, spring fashion, pregnant

Show off the bump
Right now, it may seem like nine months is a really long time. It kind of is, but it will fly by in the blink of an eye and before you know it you will be calming down an unruly two year old!! SO, show off that growing bump and the amazing life growing inside of you! Wear things that flatter your pre-pregnancy body, but also don't be afraid to try new styles that will showcase that belly! Be sure to take plenty of pictures!!

AVOID 
+ Tight waistlines
+ "Under the breast" cuts (the definition will disappear as you get closer to the end of your pregnancy and you don't want to highlight the fact that your boobs are literally sitting on top of your belly.)
+ "Tent" shirts/dresses, and sleeveless (stick with the theme of showing off your bump and avoid the cuts that will make you look like one big blob. Definition is key.)

Do you have a tip you would add to this list? Leave it in the comments below!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Inappropriate Advertisements | How far is too far?


I love watching sports with my husband. No, I'm not one of those wives that says they like sports, but then ask why the basketball players aren't using bats anymore, but I'm also not one of those wives that owns a bunch of jerseys and has memorized the rule book to all sports on all levels.

Regardless, sitting down with some chips and salsa, a glass of sweet tea, and a warm blanket to share over a good game with my man is something I thoroughly enjoy. I guess my husband has my dad to thank for that. I grew up feeling such a strong bond building as I sat down to watch college basketball and football, or cheering on our Panthers (yes, even through their rough patch). So, in short, I am thankful for the fun that I can have with my husband as we cheer on our teams.

The other night as I cuddled up with some warm cookies, a blanket, and my laptop to watch a game, I literally had to pick my jaw up off the floor right as I got settled. As the game took a little break for the first time-out, the normal commercials about cars, food, and department stores were replaced by a borderline pornographic shot of a woman wearing hardly anything, showing her seductively what little clothing she was wearing over the next 30 seconds.

I'm not going to sit here and attack this random woman or even the sponsoring company (because let's face it, they aren't the only ones), but I was absolutely shocked that something like that would be accepted as "normal" during TV, especially during early hours! Is that really something that needs to be shown on TV, at prime time, during a sporting events that countless families are watching throughout the country (let alone at all)?

The half naked girl eating a fish sandwich would be considered a "PG-13" image in most movies today (which theaters are required by law to warn you about prior to the film beginning), yet is somehow acceptable for a commercial break during a game coming on at 7pm--a time that most children are still awake at. I mean, obviously it has been well proven that "sex sells," but when will consumers start telling companies that they are crossing way too many lines? How far is too far?

The most confusing part of the entire thirty seconds of this strip tease is that it was in some way, shape, or form, it was advertising a fish sandwich.

A fish sandwich.

They weren't trying to sell lingerie, bikinis, or beach towels--things that you could at least try to rationalize the use of "sex" in order to raise sales. Since it seems that most people wouldn't think "oh, I'm hungry, let's go see if that half-dressed woman is hanging out at at that burger joint down the street," I think it's safe to say that the company is just looking for a little talk. Kind of like those TV shows that are perfectly clean, entertaining shows--until their ratings start dropping. Then the next few episodes drip with sexual references (or actual scenes), as a hail mary attempt to boost ratings. Somehow we have conveyed to these marketing "professionals" that it's perfectly fine to expose us to such images without our consent or even a warning of any kind. We, as parents, women, men, singles, married people, teenagers, and Christians need to start pointing out that this is not OK. 

It's not OK for these women. It's not OK for our kids. It's not OK for our society.

What about those little humans that can't even enjoy a little bonding time with their daddies every once in a while without subjecting themselves to an awkward moment or two? What about those little humans that are naturally interested in sexual things and how bodies work, whose minds are sparked with extra interest at the site of a grown woman undressing on TV?

What about them?

The roll out of commercials like this one and those from many other companies, are a clear manifestation of the respect that our culture has lost for each other, parents in particular--parents that would choose to protect their children and discourage them from viewing such mature images at any age, much less at some point throughout early childhood.

While I was sitting there stunned after the commercial had ended, I couldn't help but think back to an article that Matt Walsh (from the Matt Walsh Blog) wrote not too long ago about how tough kids today really have it. They have so many things thrown at them throughout the day and are often faced with decisions that even I, as a 20 year old woman, didn't experience until recently, if I've experienced it at all! Anything and everything is readily available to them, pulling their thoughts in a million different directions. I love the way Walsh describes it:
So our kids are shielded from the good but hard lessons [working fields, lack of access to higher education, etc.] of life, while being exposed to a constant stream of sex, deviance and insanity. They have their innocence and purity ripped out of their souls, but it isn’t replaced with maturity and wisdom. Instead, toxic waste fills the void; all of these weird images — and the confusing feelings they bring to the surface — have nowhere to go, so they just bounce around in your son’s skull all day. He doesn’t know what to do with it or how to process it. ("Easy? No. Kids Today Don't Have it Easy, Matt Walsh)
So where does it end?

Will there come a day where my husband and I have to decide to sacrifice the enjoyment of shows, sports, and movies aired on TV just so that we are able to shield ourselves and our children from the companies that are willing to dispose of all positive, encouraging, or clean advertising methods in the hopes to "trend" on Twitter?

I wish that I could confidently say that that day would never come, but I honestly think that it will. While we would certainly miss the excitement of watching our favorite teams, screaming at the screen as a family, we would happily sacrifice that enjoyment in order to protect the minds of our children, not letting something as seemingly simple as a commercial take away their purity, stealing their innocent thoughts and replacing them with derogatory, inappropriate, and quite frankly dangerous images. We can't continue to allow companies to push the envelope without any kind of fight from consumers. We can't continue to allow TV networks to make these decisions for us.

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Want to keep reading?

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YOU are a difference maker
Your life doesn't end when you have kids


Monday, October 27, 2014

Why this Android user switched to the iPhone 6 | + a GIVEAWAY!



Since smartphones first entered the market, I have had some sort of Android phone. Every time my upgrade came along, I would almost pull the trigger on the iPhone, but then there would be some lacking feature or reason that I wanted to stay with the interface the Android products. As I joined everyone in the anticipation of the iPhone 6, I was pretty sure that I would go with that with my upgrade, but even once the announcement came, I was still having second thoughts.

I have a very "techy" husband that actually understands all the gibber gabber that shows up under "specifications" on a phone listing, so he has always helped me choose my phones and really understand what I was getting. Because of that knowledge, I have always fallen into the category that things Apple is always about a half step behind the others with their phones. They were last to have big screens and I honestly feel like they are still a little bit behind everyone else, even with the iPhone6--there are just a lot of features that they have yet to take the reins on!


Despite my feelings that Apple may drag their feet a little when it comes to the iPhone (it's not like it matters, everyone obviously still buys them), I obviously ended up making the switch. I wanted to write a little post about it that explained in lamen's terms why I did end up purchasing the new iPhone6. Before we get to that, though, let me just touch on what kept me from switching (and almost kept me from switching this time):

+ Screen size: I wanted a larger screen and so instead of going with the iPhone last time, I went with a 4.8" Samsung Galaxy S3

+ Customization: Apple has helped users out a little bit with this over the last year or so, but they still call the shots on what your home screen will look like. There are far too many apps that you can't remove permanently and there are a lot of options on Android (like running simulation OS programs) that just aren't available on Apple. Some call it branding, but for the longest time I just called it annoying.

+ Popularity: There's just something about getting something that almost every person you know doesn't have already.

Here's why I finally did switch:


The Ecosystem
Since the summer before college when I saved up all the little pennies from my barely-above-minimum-wage job at Chick Fil A and bought my first Macbook, I have been a loyal Apple customer. With all of my devices except my phone, that is. I am now on my second Macbook model, have had a regular iPad (that I didn't really like and sold), and have an iPad Mini that I use all the time. Because I use my computer, iPad, and phone so regularly, it only made sense to have them on the same OS and have a place where I can back everything up to the same place (iCloud). Since switching, I have loved the ability to sync my apps, music, and anything else via AirDrop or iCloud!

Touch ID
Let's be honest, Apple actually managed to jump ahead in the cell phone game with this technology. It's a pretty amazing and perfectly convenient way to unlock your device and I absolutely love it. I love that I can add multiple fingers and I find that it works really well!

Option to add favorites on the "app switch" screen
One thing that I used all the time on my Android device was my "favorites" widget. It allowed me to place the pictures of up to nine people in a square block on one of my home screens, then quickly call them with a swipe and two taps. I knew that I would really struggle with having to go into my "recents" or contacts page to call or text people, but the new option to add a few favorites (and recents if you so choose) into your app switch screen fixes that problem with ease!

Ability to answer text messages without leaving an app
This is one of my absolute favorite features on iOS8. The convenience of being able to write full replies to people without having to completely leave what you are doing is genius! It's great when I am in the middle of typing an email from my phone or if I am "busy" scrolling through Instagram and don't want to have my feed restart! This was definitely a really cool feature that I'm sure many Android devices will have over the coming months!

Accessories
Call me what you will, but it's a little frustrating never being able to find a cute case for your phone. Any iPhone user knows that they can get pretty much any kind of case, on all places of the price spectrum. With my Android phone, that just wasn't the case, and I actually look forward to choosing a few cases that I really like as companies continue rolling out product for the new iPhone!

In the end, I felt that the things I may miss on my Android device were outweighed by the perks that I would enjoy as an iPhone user! So far I have really loved my new phone and am really glad that I made the switch!!

Are you team Android or iPhone?!

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No matter which OS you choose for your phones, everyone is "team organization." Because beautiful organizational tools are simply amazing, some friends and I are giving one lucky winner their very own Whitney English Day Designer AND a $10 Starbucks gift card! I love my planner and can't wait to see who wins!! :) 

Host: Hayley from A Beautiful Exchange
Co-hosts: Martha Kate from Seasons with the Strattons, Rachel from Oh Simple Thoughts
Amanda from Life With Grace, Rachel from The Rachael Way
Anne from Love the Here and Now,  Samantha from Godly Womanhood