Even those of us with the most fully-stocked closets and dressers have mornings where we look through our outfits and just have to sigh, "I have nothing to wear." And if, on that morning, you're in a position to just swing by Saks on your way to work and grab the newest Alexander McQueen right off the rack?well, good for you. But since, especially these days, chances are better-than-good that you?re not in that position, you?ll need another plan. That's where a clothing swap comes in. Gather your closest (or, for maximum success, your most styish) friends for an afternoon of clothes-trading (or swishing, as they say in London) and fashion shows. In the end, you?ll be rid of those pieces you were never edgy, preppy, or trendy enough to wear, and you?ll have a stack of duds to replace them?all free of charge. Even better? You?ll have saved perfectly good frocks from becoming useless waste. Read on for tips on how to get started on a new sartorial path.
What You Need to Know for Successful Clothing Swaps
You're putting together a party: make it feel like one. Give people plenty of notice, and send out actual invitations (even they're electronic) instead of doing word-of-mouth. Make sure you have food and drinks available—we all know shopping is exhausting!?and put some thought into your guest list: if all your friends have the same style, you might just end up with eight nearly-identical black blazers that no one is willing to pick up; on the other hand, if none of your invitees have even remotely similar tastes, then it might make it hard for everyone to find new pieces they love.
A huge pile of clothes on the bed, stacks of shoes in the corner, and a jumble of necklaces on the dresses isn't doing anyone any favors. Set up different shopping areas—use a bar or rack for hanging dresses, a table for folded t-shirts and sweaters, a peg board to hang jewelry, and a long space (like a hallway) to keep those shoes in line, with plenty of mirrors throughout. Then develop a system: whether you want to organize by occasion—work wear, formal, casual—color, size, or designer, just pick a format that makes sense to your friends and go with it.
3.Set some ground rules
You don't have to be bossy about it, but specific guidelines about what people should bring will save you all a lot of hassle on the day of the swap. Some are just common courtesy: Items should be cleaned—dry cleaned, if necessary—and in good condition, without holes, rips, or stains. But others are more your call: what if a giver changes her mind after one of her items has been chosen? What will you do if your friend thinks it's unfair that she brought Burberry while everyone else brought Isaac Mizrahi for Target? What if two guests go for the same item? Better have a tiebreaker at the ready. And it doesn't hurt to have the name and number of a good tailor on hand, either, especially if it means your size 2 friend can go home with that size 6 dress and not think twice. After the party, plan to donate anything that wasn?t chosen to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army.
Now that you're a pro at swapping your own clothes, think bigger: what about setting up a swap for baby and kids clothes? Hand-me-downs are a right of passage for them, and you'll be glad you saved money on a dress she wore once before outgrowing it. You could also take the process one step further and swap books, movies, board games, home decor (like throw pillows or framed prints)—and, of course, set up a time to swap back if you'd prefer these only be temporary lends. Bringing in something that's new to you gives you the same thrill as a daylong shopping spree, but without the same damage to your budget.
5.Let someone else do the work
If you can't gather enough friends for a swap, or if you just don't have the time or space to set one up, join one within your community—like New York City's Swap-O-Rama. If you can't find one locally, try an online swap like Swango. You'll have to pay shipping—so it won't be as wallet-friendly as hosting at home?but you?ll still wind up with a much greener wardrobe.