The Etiquette of Maternity Hand-Me-Downs
Here’s my dilemma, which made me think of you instantly.
It took me over a year and some Clomid to get pregnant with my son. We started working on #2 this fall, thinking it would happen when it happened and we were in no hurry. So I lent out my maternity clothes to a not-very-close friend (our husbands are good friends, we never really clicked). But I’m tiny, she’s tiny, these were sitting in the closet not doing anyone any good, etc. Plus it was going to take us months and months and probably more Clomid, right?
You see where this is going.
Now I’m pregnant, just barely, and she’s due in late May. I’m due late September and at first I thought, “this will be fine, since I won’t be showing before 20 weeks, like last time, and she’ll be having her baby around that time.”
Again, you see where this is going.
Here I am, barely two months in, and I’m reminded of your Angelina Jolie black dress shot at 8 weeks. I work in a hospital and have to look professional (i.e. I can’t wear my husband’s giant sweatshirt until the good stuff comes back). I can’t afford another set of maternity clothes and this shouldn’t matter, but our friends are kinda Richie Riches.
It would be so tacky of me to ask for the clothes back, right? What do I do?
You know, this is a situation that I have honestly never seen addressed in any etiquette book. In fact, the whole “etiquette of hand-me-downs” topic is generally overlooked, both on the giving and receiving end. (Like what to do about people who offer their kids’ hand-me-downs, only to empty their entire garage on you, including stuff that’s stained and worn out and SERIOUSLY, DUDE, can’t you handle your own donations to the Goodwill?)
ANYWAY. We’re in slightly undocumented, uncharted etiquette territory here. I’d actually say that the onus of politeness is on her — she SHOULD offer to give you the clothes back, without making you ask. (I assume you made it clear you were expecting the clothes back.) She definitely SHOULD. Will she? Well. Ha.
If she doesn’t immediately offer the clothes back (i.e. maybe she also thinks you’re a few months away from needing them), I personally don’t think it would be tacky to ask for them back. Tell her about the second pregnancy phenomenon that is the OMG I’m Five Minutes Pregnant And Showing Already. (Although take heart — the bloating of the first trimester does settle down. I was smaller at 14 weeks than I was at 8, weirdly enough.) Maybe just (initially) request a few specific pieces that you know are best suited for the early weeks and months — she might not even be wearing them anymore. Nobody likes reneging on a favor, but…you did HER a favor.
I received a fair number of hand-me-downs during my first pregnancy, and if the lender had come to me and confessed to a surprise pregnancy, I would have had those clothes (as great and invaluable as they were) bagged and boxed up and back in her hands the next day. Because they weren’t mine, you know?
But, I know. While I can’t imagine someone not immediately and spontaneously offering maternity clothing back when hearing of your pregnancy, I do know that people can be all sorts of clueless. So for what it’s worth, I give you my etiquette blessing to ask for your clothes back. Maybe give her a little gift card to a local maternity shop to make up for the sudden loss of a wardrobe, if that feels appropriate. (Or, since your husbands are better friends, pass the buck to him and ask HIM to ask THE OTHER HIM for the clothes back. Men, for whatever reason, tend to not get quite as bogged down in this sort of stuff or worry so much about offense being taken at every turn.)
Oh, and I totally forgot to say congratulations on your pregnancy! God, I’m rude.
Published January 28, 2009. Last updated March 27, 2018.