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The Etiquette of Maternity Hand-Me-Downs

By Amalah

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.

Don’t forget to visit Amalah’s Pregnancy Weekly.


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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I think explaining the situation to her just the way you wrote it in your question makes asking for the clothes back perfectly fine. (except for the “you’re rich! i’m not!” part). I’ve found addressing awkwardness out loud usually diffuses it. Good luck!


A nice compromise might be to ask for pieces back as she outgrows them, if that’s applicable. I wouldn’t sweat it, though. It’s the thought that counts and you honestly didn’t think you’d need the clothes back so soon.


Just ask for them back!


If she’s considerate at all, she wouldn’t think twice at keeping them!


They are YOUR clothes…just because you were nice enough to loan them out, it doesn’t mean she can possibly think you wouldn’t want them to wear while YOU are pregnant.
Plus, for all you know, she might not even be wearing them. I was loaned maternity clothes that were not my style and only pulled them out occasionally if all of my maternity clothes were dirty.
So, don’t think twice about asking.


Any real friend would just give you them back — the trick is that you aren’t really friends. What about having your husband talk to her husband, since they are really close? Did I really just suggest men talking about maternity clothes? Maybe it would work …

Jennifer L

I agree with Jess: just explain your situation and nicely ask for the maternity clothes back. Unless she’s a total heel, I bet she’ll quickly return them to you. And if not, well…are there any good consignment stores in your area?

Diaper Cakes Becca

I like the responder that said to ask for the pieces back as she outgrows them….that is a bit easier, in my mind, than saying you need all of them back now. She’ll probably wind up giving them all back to you but it won’t be as potentially weird as saying you want them all back now. Hopefully this woman has tons more clothes and doesn’t really need your anyway!
Good luck and congratulations!

Rebecca Lehman

I wish some of the people who gave me hand me down maternity clothes “had” asked for them back. My husband and I are not even 30 yet, but most of our married friends are between 35-50. I received boxes upon boxes of maternity clothing that looked (and smelled) like they were from the early eighties. I was born in 83, so needless to say I was a little wary about wearing a bright red shirt with big black buttons and shoulder pads to work while I was pregnant. I would have no hesitation in asking for my own maternity… Read more »

Valerie Gibson

I think a simple “Oops! Looks like I’ll need my maternity clothes sooner than I thought!” should prompt an offer to return them. If she’s truly clueless then a more direct “I hate to be an indian-giver, but I’m going to need my clothes back” would probably work. You’re acknowledging that it’s awkward and unexpected without being rude. Good luck and congratulations!!


This is good advice if you are telling everyone you are pregnant, but what if you aren’t? I just lent my maternity wardrobe out last week and found out I’m pregnant! How can I ask for them back without telling her I’m pregnant or offending her?


Hi! I can’t tell what year this was published so hopefully someone can respond! When I was pregnant last year, a good friend (who lives out of state) sent me a ton of maternity and baby clothes. She was very specific about wanting the baby clothes returned and even labeled what she wanted back. I’ve just received news that she is expecting again, however, she mentioned wanting the maternity clothes back as well – and I no longer have them! Ugh. I feel terrible but I donated everything to charity months ago. What would you recommend that I do? Send… Read more »

Isabel Kallman

I think at this point, come clean as soon as possible (you’ll feel better) and I think the gift card is a nice idea.