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what’s old is new

October 27, 2010

This past weekend I attended my first clothing swap. In case you haven’t heard of this concept, a clothing swap is an event at which people come together and – as the name so aptly suggests – exchange clothes. Clothing swaps can be anything from a small gathering of ten friends to big community events open to anyone interested. The swap I attended was run by a group of women at our local university and hosted on the university’s grounds. It was open to the public and it worked like this: you drop off you unwanted items (see Fiona’s basket all loaded up on the left above) and you receive a ticket for each item you donate that you can then cash in for a ‘new’ item at the swap. Items that end up unclaimed all go to a local Goodwill store.

My roommate and I eagerly lined up as the doors opened and spent a fun hour rifling through all the clothes, shoes, and accessories at hand. We found things for each other and plenty of things for ourselves. The volunteers who ran the swap were extremely friendly and encouraging and all the people attending were respectful and courteous and no one pushed or shoved anyone out of the way for a pair of free skinny jeans. Nice.

If you previously followed my style on academichic, then you know that I am a sucker for bargain shopping and thrifting. The majority of my wardrobe comes from thrift stores and consignment shops and I regularly donate my discarded things to Goodwill to keep the recycling and reusing going. I do it for the love of the hunt, the love of the vintage and the unique, and because it’s one more way that I implement sustainable living choices into my everyday. I also do it because there is so much that I would rather spend my money on then clothes – travel, concerts, going to the opera, bike stuff (could have guessed that one, right?), and experiences in general – that I needed to find ways to support my fashion habit without breaking the bank. As you can see, the weekend swap worked pretty well in that regard…

If you’re interested in hosting an informal swap with your friends, you can find some useful how-to tips here. We also featured a fabulously curated community swap on academichic, so check here for tips on how to organize a larger scale event. Have you participated in any clothing swaps or do you have any experience putting one together? If so, do share!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. October 27, 2010 14:14

    A work friend and I put together a clothing swap about six years ago. We had decided beforehand that anything that didn’t find a new home would be donated to the local animal shelter thrift store. It was a little strange because there weren’t as many people, but the two of us alone had so many things to bring that I don’t think anyone left dissatisfied.

    I think the most challenging thing is when people are such different sizes and you have a smaller group of people’s clothes to work with. While some things have more give in the sizing (such as some sweaters, skirts with waistbands, etc), others do not have so much room for accommodating different sizes (like most jeans, fitted jackets, and so on). Some are a little more handy with altering items, so it works out, and there were some who were even trading services. “Oh, I can easily take that in for you” and “I know a tailor who will charge $5 to hem those for you,” were common things heard around the swap.

    We had a blast though and were all able to clean out closets that were in desperate need. I would love to do one again on a larger scale because I do think it’s a great opportunity to get some new-to-you items, and not just throw out clothing that we no longer want/need.

  2. October 27, 2010 16:19

    Every year in a little town near my place they celebrate a swap market. People take there all kinds of things and swap directly to other people. Last year, for example, I swapped a crochet scarf for a wine decanter plus a puzzle. Some people swap cakes or massages.
    There are no tickets; the exchange is by agreement of the two parts.
    I love that things have the value people give them, no money is involved. For example I wanted a vintage lamp but it was a family memory of the boy swapping it so he asked something very special in exchange and I had nothing he wanted.

    This market is very fun because there are lots of interesting things and people are very nice.

    • October 28, 2010 13:55

      Wow, this sounds like such a wonderful concept! do you mind me asking, in what country is this? It doesn’t strike me as something that would take place in the US. I love this idea though, you just couldn’t be shy I guess :)

      • October 28, 2010 14:25

        Yes indeed, it’s wonderful.
        It’s in Catalunya (Catalonia, in Spain). I think there are four or five other Catalan towns where markets like this take place.
        In the beginning I felt shy and I thought the things I was offering were ordinary but when I started talking to people I noticed that they were searching various sorts of things so it was fine. I swapped all the things I was taking there (five).

  3. October 27, 2010 19:24

    I love clothes swaps! The first one I went to was a little over four years ago now, and the same group of us (more or less) have carried on getting together for a swap every year – in fact the next one is a week on Saturday. That one tends to be a bit of a free-for-all; we meet at someone’s house, arrange all the clothes in piles by garment type, then after a bit of eating and socialising and worshipping the hostess’s cats we all dive in and start trying things on and picking out things for other people and convincing them to try them on too. I’ve ended up trying out lots of styles I wouldn’t normally have gone near just by putting something on for a laugh at a clothes swap, and some of them have worked!

    I’ve also been to swaps organised by another friend which are a bit more sedate; everyone takes turns to show-and-tell the garments they’ve bought and then anyone who’s interested gets to try them on and if more than one person wants a thing the others decide which of them looks best in it.

    One of the things I like best about swapping is when I see friends and they’re wearing things that used to be mine and looking fabulous in them!

  4. October 27, 2010 22:36

    Yes, totally! I first started with the Swap-o-Rama swaps {} in about 2005?

    Most of the swaps I’ve gone to have been the large types where you bring a bag of clothes, pay an entry fee and take what you like. This has worked better or worse in specific situations and honestly, I’ve always hoped for a ticketing system for each clothing item the swap would accept. I’ve heard of ticketing systems where you could also give your ticket to others if you didn’t find anything you wanted (or didn’t want to “shop”). I do wonder what people would do if poor-condition things were brought in then? Refuse them? Now if there’s no ticket it doesn’t matter and the people get to pick anyway…and the stuff just goes to textile recycling instead of the swap tables.

    When I volunteered at that last Score swap, I was horrified to see people bringing in 5 brown-pit-stained white t-shirts as their stuff to contribute…and to walk by the bags table to see one woman with a granny cart scooping up every bag as it was put down. At the first Swap-o-Rama I also saw people bring giant suitcases and just start jamming in one of a pair of shoes, and whatever else they could get their hands on without even looking at it, leaving unmatched shoes and taking just a huge mass of items. If I hadn’t volunteered to sort at that swap, I don’t know if I would have gotten anything.

    These are the swap reviews I posted, most recent first:
    – a friend’s swap:
    – the Jezebel swap:
    – the Bklyn Yard Score swap:
    – the 3rd Ward Score swap:

    The funny thing is that the smallest swap I went to, I got almost as much as I got when I was sorting for the larger swap. Because people were less likely to bring total garbage maybe?

  5. October 28, 2010 03:18

    I love that idea. I do like giving away a lot of clothes, but just can’t seem to find much at used clothing stores here. I know it’s time consuming and you have to be creative, which is tough for me, but would love to get more used clothes as I don’t need things to be brand spankin’ new.


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