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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Clothing Swap

Tired of wearing the same old things every day, but not willing or able to spend the money for new outfits? Looking to spice up your wardrobe, but knowing that your budget won't support a shopping spree? If your answer is yes, then it's time for a clothing swap. I organized one a few weeks ago, and am excited about the additions to my closet. Here's how I did it:
first I selected a time and date (mid-week, 7 pm); then I secured the office conference room (the managers are very generous - someone's home might be more typical). By email, I invited all the women in my office (about 15), and asked each of them to bring a minimum of 5 and maximum of 10 current, clean, wearable items. I also solicited food, drink, hangers and portable clothing racks. Because I had no expertise with clothing swaps, I kind of made up the rules on the fly, drawing on my experiences organizing lots of other events. In the end, 9 of the ladies participated. Everyone searched through their closets and drawers for items they thought the others might be able to use - though most of us ignored the 10 item maximum. We had delicious hors d'oeuvres, wine and hot cider. We displayed most of the clothing on 2 portable racks, with things like sweaters, T-shirts, handbags, scarves, jewelry and even pajamas folded on the long conference table. Shoes were lined up at the base of the racks.
Then we shopped. At first, I tried having an orderly process, with each person randomly assigned a number. But that proved to be boring and cumbersome. Within minutes, the party became a cheerful free-for-all with each of us selecting things for ourselves and for our colleagues - as in "this jacket has 'Fern' written all over it!" Everyone, even the one or two who came to the party more out of a sense of community than any real desire to find something new, left with a few additions to their wardrobes.It didn't matter that we range in body type from a tiny size 4 to a tall size 12. I scored some really great stuff - an Hermes scarf (seriously! it retails for several hundred dollars!), a bright red parka that I've been wearing almost every day since, 3 sweaters, a pair of black trousers that I will need to shorten, a leopard patterned belt (not something I would ever buy, but it's fun and I've already worn it once), and a suit that I will probably pass along. Someone took home a shearling jacket, Paula got those pajamas (we're talking barely used and really comfy), Anne selected a great necklace, Linda claimed a raffish hat and a green leather skirt, Laura went home with a new, tags-still-on beaded top and some Ralph Lauren T-shirts, and Fern loves the jacket - it's cashmere, by the way. The leftovers, and there were lots, are in the trunk of my car waiting for me to drop them off at the NOVA thrift shop. The frugal quotient for this event was very high...hundreds of dollars worth of clothing for the price of a little food and wine. We did pretty well on the green side as well - since the invitations were electronic, there was no paper or postal service carbon used. I brought in wine glasses and plates so we didn't have to use disposables. We recycled the bottles and leftover hangers (even some of the plastic hangers are recyclable; the metal ones went to the dry cleaner). And we extended the life of lots of clothes. I would like to hear from others who have organized or participated in a clothing swap - share your tips so I can make our next event even better.

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