A few weekends ago, I turned up at my friend’s apartment with a plate of homemade chai biscuits, a yoga mat, and a tote bag of assorted dresses that had never quite suited me. This visual is novel on all accounts; I’m not much of a baker, I can tally the number of times I’ve practised yoga on one hand, and I’d never participated in what was to be the highlight of our Girls’ Day—a clothing swap.
Nine ladies in total made an appearance that Saturday afternoon. Some were aiming to purge their wardrobes of excess clothing, and others like myself just wanted to freshen up their closet with some new finds. Having left half my wardrobe in California a year ago, I didn’t have a lot to offer, but some of the other girls had so much to donate that it all balanced out. Zoë was on a mission to live more simply and had packed an entire suitcase full of clothing, shoes, and jewellery, as well as some boxed DVD sets (don’t worry, the complete series of Sex and the City found a new home).
The swap proved to be a total success. We were able to update our wardrobes at no cost, promote a sustainable practice, and see our belongings find new, loving owners. Knowing that someone else will get use out of an item you would have shoved in the back of a drawer feels better than I expected, and I must admit—Aimee looks cuter in my burgundy swing dress than I ever did.
If you love thrift shopping or are looking for a budget-friendly, environmentally conscious way to update your wardrobe, why not plan a clothing swap of your own? Read on to discover five ways you can make the most of your clothing swap, too!
1. Make a day of it
Instead of inviting friends over just to exchange clothing, why not incorporate some other budget-friendly activities? My friend Martha led a yoga session at the start of the afternoon, and afterwards, we all shared an incredible potluck lunch (most of which featured locally sourced herbs and produce!)
By the time we moved on to the clothing swap, we were energised, felt comfortable around those we’d just met that day, and even had leftovers to take home for dinner.
2. Connect your friend groups
Clothing swaps are a great way to introduce friends you’ve made in different contexts, which inadvertently helps create variety in the pool of items to swap. In our case, the intimate, all-girls setting paired with the social activities helped us bond faster than we would at any other party, and the mix of sizes and styles in clothing made the swap more interesting. However, don’t be discouraged to invite people of all genders! Clothes can suit anyone who wants to wear them, no matter what the label says.
3. Organise the contributions
Before the chaos ensues, make an effort to designate zones for different forms of clothing. We draped dresses over the couch, deemed an armchair the “Pants & Shorts” station, piled tops together, and so on. This made the process so much easier, as those on the market for a new jacket could head straight for the outerwear “department” instead of rummaging through skirts in hopes for a blazer.
4. Give styling advice and honest opinions
There’s no reason to trek home with more clothing you’ll never touch. To make sure everyone chose items they’d definitely wear, we set up a mirror and transformed the living room into a changing room/runway hybrid. Depending on the group and setting, you may not feel comfortable doing this, but if it’s possible, you’ll gain a lot from the advice and body positivity.
We suggested items to others that seemed to fit their taste or figure, and encouraged each other to rock pieces we may not usually select ourselves. I tried on a loose dress that I wasn’t sure flattered me, but another girl reminded me that a belt could take care of the problem. A pair of jeans I wriggled into turned out to be slightly too long on me, so I recommended them to a taller gal in the group. Helping each other can be half the fun!
5. Donate extras to a worthy cause
You’ll likely have unclaimed clothing left over at the end of the swap. After we’d sorted through everything, Jackie mentioned she’d been selling clothing on Facebook as a way to raise money for a friend who’d recently been in a terrible car accident. To help her cause, we created a pile of clothing that she might be able to sell online and bagged up the rest to donate to charity.
At the end of the night, we all agreed that the swap suppressed our temptation to go shopping and decided to organise another swap in six months time to keep our wardrobes under control. Our plan is to invite more gals and find another cause to which we can donate unclaimed clothing next time.
I left Jess’s apartment with fifteen new clothing items and the story behind many of them. My closet is now home to Andrea’s beloved blouse from her post-pregnancy days, Jess’s adorable plaid dress that hits too high above her knees, Jemima’s embroidered skirt that she styled with tights last winter, Martha’s knit frock that she wore back in Canada, and so many more beautiful pieces.
Every time I wear one of these new additions to my wardrobe, I feel good that I found use for an item that may have otherwise ended up in a landfill. Besides, nothing beats wearing something once cared for by someone you love.