I was still a svelte and spry 11-weeks pregnant woman when I decided to do an eight-city book tour at 30-weeks pregnant. I hit 5 continents doing research for my new memoir How to Be Married… How hard could a short book tour during pregnancy really be?
I had no idea what I was getting into when I committed to doing this way back in the halcyon days of the first trimester. Like many first-time moms, I didn't entirely understand what being 30 weeks pregnant would look and feel like. I didn’t think my toes would swell like tiny Vienna sausages rendering many of my favorite heels unwearable. I didn’t think that stairs would wind me like I’d just run a 5k or that a baby pushing into my diaphragm would lead me to frequently burp during podcast interviews.
But the biggest challenge? How to dress a 30-week bump for three weeks of launch parties, bookstore appearances, television spots, and dozens of interviews with humans who would not be wearing their yoga pants.
Now, usually, I’m relatively comfortable dressing myself -- I generally know my best assets and have figured out a style to call my own. But pregnancy can really throw a woman for a loop. Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly (literally) of my book tour so far.
BOOK TOUR PREP
I knew I needed to bring in the big guns, so I enlisted help from the prego body fairies over at Tilden, the San Francisco-based personal shoppers who are experts at finding non-maternity clothes for maternity bodies. We spent days (yes, days!) trying to figure out what was going to be flattering in a variety of different situations.
For example, flowy bohemian dresses were out of the question for television appearances, which I discovered by placing a stool in the middle of the Tilden showroom and taping me going “blah blah blah into an iPhone video. The dresses were stunning when I was upright, but made me look like a pretty patterned tent when I sat in a chair or on a stool. I was worried a television audience might mistake me for a couch.
Instead, the Tilden team sent me home with a collection of fitted soft cotton dresses from the likes of Rachel Pally, Yumi Kim and Enza Costa that would work well on a very curvy third-trimester body. They all hugged and complimented my bump from most angles.
The rest of my book tour wardrobe (which all had to fit in a carry-on since we had a few tight connections) consisted of Storq basics, which I essentially live in most of the time these days, paired with pre-pregnancy blazers and pre-pregnancy Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses. I valiantly attempted my favorite pregnancy onesie, but quickly ruled it out due to the frequency with which I was visiting the bathroom.
STOP 1: SERIOUS NEWS
I hit my first wardrobe malfunction on set at ABC News while taping a segment for World News Now. That bright blue DVF wrap dress fit perfectly just two weeks earlier, but suddenly it appeared to be about two inches too short as the material was commandeered to accommodate my ever growing belly. No one told me my belly would be popping about a centimeter (sometimes an inch) a week, come the third trimester. Why don’t more people tell you these things?
But thanks to the smoke and mirrors of television, my outfit became the fashion equivalent of a mullet, business on the top, party on the bottom and in the back. From the waist up, I looked professional in my wrap dress, safety pinned twice to contain my swollen boobs. Beneath the table, which cut me off at my midsection, I wore my Storq leggings and sneakers.
STOP 2: CELEBRITY INTERVIEW
For a Facebook Live with US Weekly magazine, I was perched in an armchair, unable to embrace the smoke and mirrors of high tables and multiple cameras. I chose an Enza Costa shirt dress in a soft silk blend jersey that still looked cute lounging in an armchair. Lesson learned: a good blowout, some lengthening mascara and soft lighting is all you really need to look like a celebrity.
STOP 3: LOCAL MORNING SHOW
For the local news show Good Day New York, we chased down New Yorkers on the street to ask them if they agreed with my book’s hypothesis that the first year of marriage is hard. I needed to be quick and nimble—as quick and nimble as a lady with a watermelon-sized bump can be.
I opted for a black Storq dress, jean jacket (to give me some street style) and gram sneakers, which I’d bought while interviewing Swedish stay-at-home dads in Stockholm for my book. The Swedish stay-at home dads all agreed grams were the most stylish and versatile sneaker on the planet, and because they all look like knowledgeable and hip Vikings, I took their word for it.
STOP 4: BOOK PARTY
After spending the day on the street, I barely had any time to change for my book launch party that night in the very fancy Rizzoli book shop. As a former entertainment journalist always changing for a red carpet, I’d long ago perfected the art of switching outfits in the back of taxis without the driver batting an eye.
Things. Were. Different. Now.
I lacked flexibility, dexterity and the ability to maintain witty banter while unhooking the many hooks of my new pregnancy bra. My Uber driver became alarmed as my Yumi Kim black shift caught just above my mid-section.
“Are you going to give birth in the back of my car?” he asked with fear, uncertainty and a touch of awe.
“Not today,” I shouted and pushed the fabric down over my belly. “Eyes on the road.”
Once on, the dress floated effortlessly over my bump, but let me breathe while reading a chapter of the book dedicated to that time my husband and I entered a wife-carrying race in Sunday River Maine.
STOP 5: MY LIVING ROOM
You know that time you were so pregnant you couldn't fly and you needed to film your final book interview for The Today Show in your living room with a howling dog locked in the bedroom and Braxton Hicks contractions? That was me. At least I got to wear this great (super stretchy) Tees By Tina Samantha Scoop dress from Mom's the Word here in San Francisco.
So, will I be writing a How to Be Married sequel called How to Dress for a Book Tour at 30 Weeks Pregnant? Probably not. But, would I do a pregnant book tour again? Absolutely. It may have been harder than any book tour I’ve ever done. It may have literally taken my breath away. And I may have worn two different shoes at one point because I couldn’t see my feet. But someday, I’ll get to tell my little boy that he was the star of my book tour.
Jo Piazza is an award-winning American journalist, editor, and author of six books. She has written and reported for The Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News, The New York Times, and Slate.