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Clothing Swaps

All the fun of shopping without the guilt

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Clothing Swaps

Is your closet full of clothes you never wear? Host a clothing swap. It's a great way to clean out your closets and get new clothes for free!

They lurk at the back of the closet or the bottom dresser drawer. You glimpse them occasionally; they haunt you with memories of money wasted. They’re the clothes you just had to have, now languishing unworn and unloved.  

Swap till you drop

We’re buying more clothes than ever, but not everything we bring home is right for us, leading to those “What was I thinking?” moments. You don’t have to hang on to those clothes—and the post-purchase guilt—any longer.

Spring is the perfect time to weed out those items, pass them along to someone who’ll love them, and maybe get a few new pieces in return. Welcome to the latest trend in eco-conscious fashion: the clothing swap!

What’s a clothing swap?

Simply put, a clothing swap is a get-together where guests bring clothes they no longer want in the hopes of trading them. It’s a party as well as a wallet-friendly way to shop for “new” clothes, and a great motivator to clean out your closet.

Your swap could just be a bunch of people rooting through a heap of clothes in the middle of the room, but there’s a lot to be said for some pre-swap organizing. Whether you’re the host or a guest, here are some guidelines to help make the experience efficient and fun.

Tips for hosting a swap

  • Give guests about three or four weeks’ notice to save the date and sort their clothing.
  • You’ll be donating unclaimed items, so pick an organization and confirm they’re accepting donations. You may want to put this information in your invitation as well.
  • Determine a comfortable maximum for your party—don’t invite 30 people if you can only handle 10.
  • Consider partnering up with one or two friends. This will expand your guest list and divide the hosting duties.
  • Consider the size range of your invitees. A variety of ages and styles makes for a good swap, but make sure that there’ll be something to fit everyone.
  • Be specific about what guests can bring: just clothing, or also accessories and footwear? Current season only? You can also set a limit on the number of items if you’re concerned about someone pulling up with a truck.
  • Keep food simple and avoid messy appetizers—no one wants fingerprints on that silk scarf!
  • Set an arrival time and a swap time in the invitation, so everyone’s got time to socialize.
  • As guests arrive, help them organize their items by type. Keeping all the jeans or shirts in one spot will make it easier to shop.
  • Use whatever space you have: a few tables or a clothing rack can keep things tidy and off the floor. A large box or basket works well for accessories.
  • Designate a separate changing area, even if it’s just the bathroom or a sheet hung in a corner.
  • Don’t forget the mirrors! Any spare mirror will help speed things along.
  • Have a few spare bags on hand in case anyone runs short.

Be a great guest

  • RSVP early, and don’t wait until the last second to begin gathering swappables. You may find more items if you start sooner.
  • Bring clean, pressed items in good to excellent condition that don’t need major repairs.
  • Pack clothes neatly into boxes or tote bags for transport to and from the swap. Consider bringing hangers to display delicate or larger items.
  • Ask your host whether you can bring anything: maybe an extra mirror or portable clothes rack.
  • Wear clothing that will be easy to change out of. Leggings and a tank top make a great base layer that you can easily slip things over.

The swapping system

There are as many ways to approach swap protocol as there are styles of clothing. A quick web search will bring up results for ticket and/or token systems, auctions, guest voting, and more. The simplest method is probably to put each guest in front of a pile, and have them move in a circuit around the room, selecting one item from each pile (so everyone gets a shot at what’s available). After a round of try-ons, unwanted items go back into circulation and another circuit can be made until everyone’s happy.

All that’s left to do is donate any remaining items, and enjoy your new clothes!


4 ways to shrink your fashionable footprint

alive chatted with Myriam Laroche, founder of Vancouver’s Eco Fashion Week, for her advice on how consumers can reduce their environmental impact.

Laroche’s work in the fashion industry means she’s witnessed many of the environmental and human rights costs of fashion. And the popularity of “fast fashion” retail (the latest trends churned out at rock bottom prices) has accelerated the problem. While some companies are making changes, here’s how to be a smarter shopper.

1. Pause and reflect every time you “need” new clothes.

“It’s easy to become hypnotized by the sales at the mall, but sometimes we call things a need when we just want,” says Laroche.

2. Ask retailers about their practices.

Laroche suggests consumers “ask where it’s made, what it’s made of, what the impact is … these are questions that companies need to be able to answer.”

3. Shop at thrift or consignment stores.

“Start with an accessory, such as a bag or belt,” says Laroche. Chances are, after one or two purchases, you’ll be hooked. And of course, you can also host a clothing swap of your own.

4. When buying new, invest only in the items you really need.

High quality, classic garments may cost more initially, but will look great, last longer, and be a better overall value. They’re also worth having tailored: no amount of fast fashion can compete with a perfect fit.

Whatever you do, know that you’re making a difference and that there’s no perfect answer, Laroche advises. “Do what your heart is telling you. If buying local is important to you, then support those local businesses. If fairly traded items inspire you, then help those global economies. Ultimately, it’s not just about style or being eco, but the way that it makes you feel.”

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