In my last post, I suggested that hosting a clothing swap is a great way to update your winter wardrobe on the cheap, but I didn’t explain what a clothing swap is, or how to make sure it’s a success. So today, dear reader, let me take you on a journey to learn about how to have an ace time with friends and score some sweet new duds.
Clothing swaps come in many guises, from the most professional (usually high end items which you swap for tokens, based on the value of the garments. You can then “spend” those tokens on other items) through to the most casual (a bunch of ladies at someone’s house). It’s the latter that I’m most familiar with, and that is the easiest to arrange, so that’s what we’re talking about today.
First things first – sound out a few lady pals to see if they’re interested in coming along to a swap, and whether they have anything to swap. Once you have a few on board, it’s useful to send a written invite – I usually just use a Facebook event – so that you can be clear about the rules of the clothing swap. These always boil down to: the clothes must be clean, and in good condition (nothing ripped, stained or overly worn). Ask for volunteers for a potluck afternoon tea, and indicate whether your friends can bring a guest.
The size of your clothing swap will be dictated to a degree by the size of your venue, but you want it to be of a reasonable size (at least 8 people) and, importantly, if you’ve got into a routine of clothing swaps like my friends and I have, you want to be bringing in some new blood. It not only ensures that you are introducing new clothes and a new sensibility about style, but also that you meet some interesting new people! You might find out some super rad stuff you didn’t know, which means your brain gets a new shiny thing as well as your wardrobe.
Right, now that you’re committed, it’s time to turn into the Best Host Ever, thus setting a high bar for future swaps. This is the approach we took in our book club years ago, and shiz got out of control vis a vis catering. It was a glorious time in my life where I ate like a queen once a month. I strongly recommend inadvertently pitting your friends against each other if you want to eat some high quality cakes. The key things are: make sure your venue (usually your house) is clean and tidy, ensure there is a dedicated space for food and drinks to be set up, and make a few signs so that people know where to dump things when they arrive.
A clothing swap is fundamentally about good manners and being kind. It really takes you back to primary school notions of sharing, “if you’ve nothing nice to say, say nothing” and wearing totally mental outfits because it happens to be what you’ve put on for right now. Here’s what I know from my intense personal history of clothing swaps…
- There will be one item that is a stand out, and if it fits several girls, there will have to be a negotiation. Don’t be a dick and assume that because you saw it first, it’s yours – let others try it on and agree who looks best in it.
- When you take your outfit off to get changed into your swap items, put it somewhere safe. Nobody will steal your clothes intentionally, but it’s hilarious to turn around and see someone trying on the skirt you wore into the swap.
- Sort things by type, not size. I often swap with my friends who have totally different body shapes to me, and as we know, labels lie. Just make a massive pile of “tops” and go to town.
- I’ve said it before – judge the clothes, not the person. You can say “the cut of that skirt isn’t right” but you can’t say “you’re not the right build for that”. Be very assiduous about this, particularly if you have strangers at your swap. You don’t know whose feelings you might hurt. And – be generous with praise and compliments!
- Do a second sweep! I always think I’ve found all the things I’m interested in trying on, then I do a second sweep and find the awesome jumper I missed on the first go ‘round.
- Try on things you wouldn’t buy. There’s no money at stake, so you can try out new things and take a few risks on items that might not make it into actual rotation – but then again, they might.
- And the counterpoint to the last point – don’t take things just for the sake of taking them. It’s easy to get swept along, but you need to apply a bit of discretion so you don’t end up with a bag stuffed with things “just because”.
If you’re hosting, you might consider having some accessories on stand by, not for swapping but for demonstration purposes. That way, if a friend tries on a dress and says “I wonder if this would look good with a belt”, you’re ready to roll with a demonstration.
At the end of every clothing swap, there are clothes that haven’t found a home. Get everyone to help you bag these up and then despatch them to a charity option of your liking (it’s a host responsibility) – a great option for any workwear items is Dress for Success, so if you have one in your area, get in touch pre-swap and see what they’re after.