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Style Swap

Trade, Barter Or Donate Your Way To A New Wardrobe

By Bethany Kandel for Woman's Day

What could be better than clearing the unwanted clutter from your closets, refreshing your wardrobe and saving big bucks, all at the same time? Enter the clothing swap — the perfect antidote for those recession-savvy shoppers who still have the urge, but not the budget, to buy, buy, buy. Start by filling a bag with clean, hardly-worn tops, skirts, pants, sweaters and jackets that you no longer want (or fit into); then read on to find out what you need for a successful swap, where everyone finds something that's new to them … without it costing a penny.

1. Give Advance Notice

Send electronic invites to potential swappers at least a month in advance, so people have time to clean out their closets. A perfect size group for swapping is 10 to 15 people, although some believe the bigger, the better.

2. One Size Doesn't Fit All

Be sure to invite women in a wide range of shapes and sizes. It's no fun to swap clothes, if you're the one size 10 in a roomful of petite 2s and 4s.

3. Make Sure You Have Enough Space

All you really need is a large room or backyard. If you don't have enough room at home, see if your local community center, school, church or synagogue will host the event, if you open it up to the wider community. Make it more social by asking everyone to bring a potluck dish or a bottle of wine to make it a fun ladies' day or night out.

4. Set Some Rules

“Our motto is: Don't bring anything you wouldn't give to a good, picky friend,” says Loren Silber, who runs the Five Boroughs Clothing Swap, a Meetup Group that holds swaps every other month in New York City. In other words, no stained, ripped or outdated clothing. She also suggests, “No swapping until everyone puts their stuff out, so it's not a mad free-for-all.”

5. Organize the Offerings

Have a system planned, so everyone doesn't just dump their stuff on the floor, says Lauren Weber, a regular swapper and author of In Cheap We Trust: The Story of a Misunderstood American Virtue. Have guests pre-sort their own items, either by size or category. Supply boxes, tables, hangers and clothing racks labeled Tops, Pants, Dresses, etc. Weber has also been to swaps where the women “present” their offerings to a more intimate group, telling the story behind each item and then putting it up for grabs.

6. Don't Forget the Mirrors

The key to a successful swap is good lighting and a few full-length mirrors, so people can try on what they're thinking of taking. Create a semi-private dressing area, with a screen or by hanging a sheet to ensure a little bit of privacy. And, just in case, Weber suggests you wear your best undies. “It's inevitable that you'll be stripping down in front of total strangers to try things on.”

7. Swap All Sorts of Stuff

Don't limit your swaps to clothing, accessories and shoes. Broaden the offerings, by having everyone bring household knickknacks, unopened cosmetics, books and unwanted holiday gifts to trade. Or hold a themed swap that features only dressy or vintage attire, or even kids' clothing and toys.

8. Try Something New

If you're usually a preppy dresser, don't come home with a bagful of crewneck sweaters and khakis. It's a great opportunity to let loose and try a whole new look. Hey, it's all free, so what do you have to lose? asks Silber. If you're unsure about whether something looks good on you, just hold an impromptu fashion show, where everyone tries on their “iffy” finds. The group's reaction will let you know if something is a keeper. And there's no need to worry. If you don't wear that sexy hot-pink camisole you took home, you can always donate it next time.

9. Avoid Fights

So what do you do if two women each have hold of one sleeve of a designer sweater, and no one is letting go? Or each claims ownership of a single shoe from the same pair? Keep the peace by having them take turns modeling the item and “let the group decide who wears it best,” says Weber.

10. Make a Charitable Donation

Arrange in advance to have a charity pick up any unclaimed items afterward. Or contact a homeless shelter, thrift shop or similar non-profit organization to make sure they accept drop-off donations. You can also plan for your next swap or charitable donation by making it a habit to keep a shopping bag right next to your closet, for any clothes you try on that don't make the cut, says Weber. “That way, you're always ready for a last-minute swap.”

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Style Swap
Trade, Barter Or Donate Your Way To A New Wardrobe
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