Clothing swaps are a fun way to freshen up your wardrobe without paying a dime. I’ve been to—and hosted—several over the years and I’ve always scored great clothes. Last week, my friend Andrea invited me to her friend’s clothing exchange. Here’s what happened:
I arrived at Jen’s house and was one of the first on the scene. Jen was welcoming and warm. I gave her a couple of bags of my gently used clothing and introduced myself to the other women. I sipped on a glass of champagne while I chatted and nibbled on snacks.
One by one women arrived and set their clothes into organized piles in the living room. Shirts were on the credenza, pants on the sofa, and skirts and dresses on the dining table.
Finally, about ten of us were there and we were ready to dig in. Unlike the mad rush at a blowout sale, we were all friendly and polite. No one got hurt! If someone was reaching for an item, the others let her have it. It was a fun and supportive event.
We were a roomful of women so we tried on items together. Jen had thoughtfully placed a couple of full-length mirrors around the room so we could make good decisions. We got feedback from the other swappers and if an item didn’t work out, there was someone else willing to try it on.
We brought clothes to give away because we’d lost a bit of weight (or gained some), grown tired of an item, or had buyer’s remorse and never worn an item. We ranged from size 4 to 12, from 5′ 2″ to 5′ 11″ yet somehow we all found wonderful clothes that fit.
Here’s an example: This gorgeous, winter white, Calvin Klein topper was a bit too long for Cynthia and she didn’t like the way it fit across the shoulders. She hadn’t worn it as often as she’d hoped. Well, Andrea took one look at it and knew it was meant to be.
Wouldn’t you agree? The jacket looks like it was custom-made for her. Cynthia was happy to see her beloved coat go to a good home, and Andrea scored a classic, three-season jacket.
I ended up with two bags of clothing. I didn’t downsize, but I have a new winter wardrobe, thanks to Andrea’s invitation, Jen’s hospitality, and the generosity of the guests. A lot of the clothes went home with new owners; the rest is on its way to Goodwill.
Some places hold large swap meets, but I’ve never been to that kind. I’ve been to a lot of intimate clothing exchanges, and here are my tips for a successful event:
- Guests, don’t forget to RSVP (that means reply with a yes or a no) so your host can prepare accordingly.
- Bring as little or as much as you want to get rid of, but don’t worry if you’re taking more than you bring. Others will probably bring more than they take. It all evens out.
- Swap gently worn items only and leave items with holes or stains at home.
- Shoes, purses, belts, hats, and costume jewelry are also great to swap (plus, with the exception of shoes, accessories will fit almost anyone).
- Don’t fight over the goods! Remember that you wouldn’t have had any of the items if you hadn’t been invited. And you won’t get invited back it you don’t play fair.
- Gather up and try on a few pieces at a time. Keep what you like, and return the rest promptly so others can discover them.
- Wear something that’s easy to slip in and out of and make sure you have on decent underwear. I wear boy shorts and a full-coverage bra so I don’t feel quite so undressed.
- Hosts, set aside a bathroom or bedroom for shy guests. Not everyone is comfortable changing in a group environment.
- If you host a co-ed clothing exchange (I’ve been to one), it’s best to set men’s stuff up in one room and women’s in another. Most people don’t want to sort through clothes they won’t wear. Plus, I’m not aware of too many people who want to try on clothes in mixed company.
- Thank your host by bringing a bottle of wine or offering to drop off the leftover clothes at a donation center for her.
Have you been to or hosted a clothing exchange? What’s your favorite find? What’s your best tip?