14 April 2010

anatomy of a clothing swap

i've been to a number of clothing swaps over the last year or so. before i moved here, i had never been to one, nor had i even heard of them. now, i find that i rely on them for most of my wardrobe. lucky for me, they happen pretty regularly in my community. in case you've been invited to one, are considering hosting one of your own, or you just wonder how they work, i'd like to let you in on a few of the ingredients for a successful clothing swap.

first of all, you need to invite a lot of women. this increases the chance that there will be a variety of sizes and styles of clothing. before i had been to one, i feared that i would be surrounded by tiny women, and there would be nothing in my size. that has never been the case. while you might be nervous about inviting too many women to fit in your house, don't worry. a bunch of them won't be able to make it, and it isn't like other parties. the place is going to be cluttered and chaotic anyway, so it's okay if it is also crowded with women.

you'll want to have snacks and beverages, so be sure to ask those invited to bring something yummy to share. some women will go-all-out and bake something, others will bring some sparkling water, or apple slices. there will most likely be a nice spread of delectables. the last one i went to was also labeled as a tea party, so the snacks were in fancy dishes, and they served tea and coffee. i've also been to night swaps, which featured wine and beer.

before you go to a clothing swap, you'll want to cruise through your closet and drawers and weed out all that stuff you haven't worn in the past two years, and pile it all into baskets or bags. you can also take the opportunity to gather any clothes you child has outgrown.

in some cases, the clothes that each guest brought, are dumped in a big pile, in the center of the main room, or multiple piles, un-sorted. no one looks through the pile until everyone has arrived, and then the host says the word, and everyone digs in at once.

another strategy is to attempt to sort the clothes, as they arrive, into rough catagories: pants, sweaters, skirts/dresses, jackets, tops, shoes, unmentionables, and kid's clothes.

in either case, at some point, the event descends into a free-for-all-frenzy of clothes flying off, and on, and a few women running around in bras and underwear, while others discretely retreat to the bathroom, or designated dressing room (hopefully with a full length mirror). some choose to just take the clothes they're interested in home with them, to try on in private. if it doesn't work out, just bring it back next time. i have seen a few items show up over and over again.
i often pick up wool sweaters that have either been shrunk already, or that i can use for making felted crafts.

i've noticed that i get inspiration from other women's fashion choices. someone will put together a few items in a way i would have never thought of. i get more daring in my choices, and take home things i am not completely sure i will wear (after all, everything is free!). a too short camisole might end up looking great over another shirt, or i could take-in these adorable, light-weight pants, and they'd be perfect. i usually walk away with almost as much as i brought, and in the stack, are one or two pieces that become favorites. last fall, i found a gorgeous, chestnut colored, cashmere sweater, which fits me perfectly. it became my sweater-of-choice all winter long.

occaisionally, i find i'm not really in the mood to hunt for clothes. but a house full of half-naked women, talking, laughing, enjoying food and each other's company, is something i needed even more than a new outfit.

the regularity of the clothing swap has changed my addittude towards my closet, from scarcity to abundance. i no longer cling to clothes i never wear (but might some day, if the stars align just right) or clothes-that-don't-fit-me-but-i-hope-they-will-soon. it's easier to let go, when i know i will find something better. Plus, what i bring to the next clothing swap? it just might become a friend's new favorite. last time, i brought a zip-up, charcoal-colored hoody, that i've been hanging onto for years, even though it has never felt right on me. it is in great shape, but too heavy, and a bit too small for me. i finally decided to let it go. early on in the clothing swap, i noticed someone wearing it, and i heard her say "i'm never taking this off!" i ended up finding a roomy, extra-soft, navy blue, pull-over hoody, that i can honestly say is the hoody of my dreams! perfect exchanges like that happen all the time at clothing swaps.

so, don't hesitate! organize a clothing swap today! it's a great opportunity to clean out your closet, recycle, get quality clothes for free, and bring all your lady friends (and their lady friends) together, for fun-with-a-purpose.

this message paid for by clothes swappers of america.


Alli said...

I LOVE clothing SWAPS!!! They are great, I just wish they happened more often! Maybe I will have to host another one soon! Thanks for the inspiration! Next time I will let go of my jacket and skirt combo that I haven't worn in years but always hesitate to get rid of... :)

julie said...

I lost the plain black awesome hoodie of my dreams at Ballantine one night--I left it in my classroom after I was done teaching, and an hour later when I realized, panicked, and sent Matt running back, it was GONE!!! I also lost my awesome charcoal denim jacket that way, the ONLY denim jacket that didn't look lame on me. As beautiful items enter one's life, so, too, they pass away...

Anonymous said...

I'd thought about doing one once, after reading about it in a magazine, but 1) I'm too lazy to organize anything, 2) like you, I worry that I'd not find anything in my size. I like your account of it though!

When I have excess clothes, I just bring them to Opportunity House.

The Empress said...

Nice idea. I'm kinda interested, but what do you do if everyone is a different size? SEriously, this isn't a trick question.

What do you do about different sized people?

cake said...

you just have to invite a lot of women! i am sure it happens that some women come, and don't find much in their size. but the ones i have been to, there has always been a great variety of sizes.