Seven and a half months into my pregnancy, I showed up at my OB's office for what seemed like my 67th check-up of the month. My doctor looked me up and down and raised an eyebrow. "You're taking the day off work?"

"I have work today," I said. "I'm just . . . pregnant."

I can tell you exactly what I was wearing -- not because it was special, but because it was the only outfit I ever wore by that point: the blowsy tank top, stretchy cotton skirt and cork wedge sandals combo that had become my de facto uniform. "They sell some really cute maternity clothes," she said. Her tone was sweet and she was trying to be helpful so I still smiled, but internally rolled my eyes. "I should get on that," I said.

Truth was, I had already spent hundreds of dollars at that midtown maternity store everyone goes to on stretchy, overpriced versions of winter clothing I never would have worn had I not been with child. The unattractiveness of it all was downright tyrannical. So when summer rolled around, and my ankles were as wide as fire hydrants, I kind of gave up. There was no way I was going to spend a week's salary on another load of stuff that made me wince. But my doctor's words stung, and in the (few) weeks that followed that embarrassing visit, I made a point of searching for clothing that my doctor would approve of. And reader, I found it. I just had to look beyond the places that were marketing to me.

Here are a few spots to go to for clothing that you fit into and actually feel pretty in. Hopefully you'll get around to it a little earlier than I did.

CENTURY 21 in Bay Ridge

This location is usually better stocked than its downtown (and tourist-ridden) sibling. Go to the women's designer section and look for fancy tent-shaped dresses that are meant to be high-fashion, yet could fit two of you. I found a Japanese designer Aoyama Itchome dress in dark leopard print, reduced from $250 to $30. I still wear it.

c21stores.com, 472 86th St, Brooklyn (R train to 86th St.)

ABC CARPET AND HOME

My goodness, this place is heaven for the big-tummied set! The first floor is lined with women's clothing boutiques that all share a groovy, fancy lady who does yoga in India vibe -- tons of tunics and baggy dresses that will still look good down the line. I especially like the Matta section.

abchome.com, 888 Broadway at W. 19th St.

JOHN ROBSHAW

The textile designer is known for his Indian-print bedding, but he also makes beautiful apparel. I bought two lightweight robes online, both of which saw me through the late-pregnancy elephanting around the apartment, as well as my hospital stay, and the housebound months that followed. One note: the M/L tends to run on the larger side.

johnrobshaw.com

BIRD BROOKLYN

Recently voted Best Women’s Boutique in New York City by New York Magazine, the three outposts of Brooklyn's Bird empire are stocked with clothes by visionary labels like Tsumori Chisato, A Détacher and 3.1 Philip Lim. And since "cutting-edge" rarely means "skinny cut," you're sure to find bump-friendly threads galore. Another bonus: the shop often carries Woerishofer cork-soled sandals, the criminally comfortable footwear that got my giant ankles through months six through nine-point-nine.

shopbird.com, 226 Smith St. (Cobble Hill), 316 5th Ave. (Park Slope), and 203 Grand St. (Williamsburg)

Read more of Lauren Mechling on her blog or her bi-monthly column.

All images via Pinterest

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