Sisterhood of the Traveling (Maternity) Pants: How We Saved on Clothes by Sharing

A pregnant woman pushes a bike down a city block.
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I thought I was going to have one of those adorable pregnancies with the little basketball belly. I was sadly mistaken. Fortunately for me, I did have my friend Francine’s maternity clothes to get me through.

Francine lived down the street from me. She and I were neighbors with Bobbie, but the three of us were much more than that — we were also friends. Francine’s son was the first baby in the group. We all oohed and aahed over him — and we were amazed at how much laundry a newborn with reflux could create. But when I got pregnant, I decided it was time to leave the city and move home, leaving Francine and Bobbie behind.

When I needed new maternity clothes seemingly every other week, Francine came to the rescue by sending me her old ones and asking that I hold on to what I could. That wasn’t a problem, since I was racing through sizes like a newborn myself. Adding to the box she’d sent was almost like having her with me in this new, unfamiliar place where I was starting over in so many ways.

As I neared the end of my pregnancy, Bobbie announced hers. Round went the clothes again; it was like part of our old friendship was connecting us as we passed the clothes along. A year later, Francine asked if the box could make its way back to her, then back to Bobbie, then it came back to me again. We each added or subtracted, depending on seasons and sizes, but it was a welcome connection and reminder of our bond during a time when so much had changed.

Over the course of our clothing exchange, we discovered that certain guidelines made it easier for us. You may also find that sharing maternity wear works best with established conditions and expectations.

Start with Similar Sizes

A swap always works best when you’re operating from the same general range. Francine, Bobbie and I were all about the same measurements to start. I think I gained the most weight, but larger is not usually a problem with maternity clothes — that’s what all that elastic is for, right?

Include all Seasons

We ended up including a variety of seasonal clothing that could be changed around to work at different times of year. This helped stretch the wardrobe even further, as short sleeve shirts could go under cardigans, and skirts and dresses could be worn over tights or leggings.

Share Specialty Items

It is so helpful to have a pooled resource for seldom-used items. For example, if you need a dress for a wedding and score one from your friend who needed it for a work event, you can avoid buying a maternity cocktail dress that you’ll never wear again.

Similarly, if you find a maternity swimsuit that you love, your friend will definitely appreciate having one available when she needs it for vacationing-while-pregnant.

State the Standards

The most important rule of thumb was maintaining high standards: if something became stained or damaged beyond repair, we tossed it. This was essential because no one likes getting handed a box of clothes that need help — especially while pregnant.

And who has time to do more laundry? We usually notified the original owner (if we could remember who it was) before disposing of a damaged item just to make sure that there was no sentimental attachment.

Send as Available

We also found it helpful to ship clothes as they became available rather than waiting for them all to accumulate. Depending on how far along the other members of the group are in their pregnancies, you may find that there’s an immediate need for that next size.

Shipping can be expensive, and sometimes sending a smaller box or even a large envelope means that the sting at the post office is easier to take.

Whether you’re sizing up weekly the way it felt like I was or just so sick of your own maternity wear that you hate the sight of it, getting new clothes passed along can feel like a reminder of your friendship and a much-needed style boost. After all, you can’t go wrong with a little help from your friends.

Madeleine Deliee loves thrift stores, used books and clothing swaps. She lives and writes in the Washington, D.C. area.