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Organize a Clothes Swap!

By Marcia Passos Duffy

I bumped into a friend at the supermarket the other day. She eyed my sweater a bit too enviously. "Love that color," she said. "Do you want to get rid of it?" We both laughed, and I politely told her to take her paws off. It wasn't ready to be swapped -- not yet.

We, along with about a half-dozen other friends, are clothes-swappers. We meet every so often with our bags of unwanted clothing after a spring (or fall) cleaning frenzy to … well … swap clothing. I'm not sure when this ritual started. I was invited to a clothes swap two years ago after a friend (who probably realized we were about the same dress size) invited me to a clothes swap she organized at her house.

Dump the goods and dig in
At first, I was skeptical on what kind of clothing I could get and frankly a bit embarrassed over the hopeless clothes I lugged along that nobody in their right mind would want. But what ensued was a cross between a slumber party and an open fitting room at Filene's Basement. There were about eight of us at my first clothes swap. Veteran clothes-swappers immediately told us to dump our goods on the bed and dig in. It was finders keepers -- but you had to try it on first!

One hand pulled out my awful maroon wool dress (which previously belonged to my mother-in-law and fit too snug and short on me). I had to admit it was mine. It was gingerly picked up by a petite woman I only knew in passing. Was she just trying to humor me by trying it on? When she emerged from the bathroom it was like was tailor-designed just for her. It was snug in all the right places; the hem hit just above the knee, where it should have. "I'll take it," she said and quietly folded it up into a growing pile she was gathering at her feet.

Wow. Hey, maybe this wasn't so bad after all! One woman threw a very loud flowered dress at me. "This is you," she said. Huh? Me, who wears muted greens, grays and black? It was not a dress I would ever try on, never mind wear. But with prodding from the group, I did try it on and sheepishly modeled it. Claps, cheers. "Take it!" "Oh, it is you!" I laughed and kept it -- I mean, what did I have to lose? (I've since worn it several times. A special notice to all my friend swappers: I'm now tired of it and it will emerge again at our next clothes swap).

Nothing to lose
Which brings me to the point of a clothes swap. There is nothing to lose! I have come home with the most amazing clothing that I could not believe women would want to part with: a genuine pea coat, an Alpaca sweater, T-shirts and turtlenecks in every color, an elegant purple dress.

The clothing also carries a special significance. While casually flinging a silk scarf around my neck, the owner of the article said it used to belong to her mother. I think of the history of that scarf whenever I wear it. In turn, I often see my clothing on friends. "Hey, that's mine!" I'll say jokingly. "But it looks better on you," I add, sincerely. It's nice to know where my clothes are. And it's nice to know where they came from.

After the end of two or three hours, the group of clothes-swappers reaches the end of the pile on the bed. There is an unbelievably deep sense of satisfaction knowing that your clothing has found a new -- and appreciative -- owner. And you leave with a pile of clothes that you want to wear -- and it's free!

Organize a great swap
So before you dump your clothes in the Goodwill box, think of your friends. Here’s how to organize a successful clothes swap:

Invite your friends and ask your friends to invite their friends.

About 10 to 15 people is the goal. Aim for all shapes and sizes.

If you are hosting the swap at your house, make sure you have at least two full-length mirrors available.

For those of us who are modest, make sure there are other rooms available to dress and undress. If this isn't possible, remind people they can wear a body suit or bathing suit underneath their clothing if they wish.

Clothes swaps can be seasonal, but they don't have to be. The best clothes swaps have all seasons’ clothing.

If two people want the same item, you can have fun with this by either a coin toss or having each person model the item of clothing and have a vote (do this only if you're sure there won't be hard feelings).

If you have second thoughts about an item you have up for grabs, speak up quickly. A simple "Hmm, I'm not so sure I'm ready to give that up yet," should suffice, before someone else gets too attached to the item.

Be prepared for a good time! You'll be surprised how much fun you'll have with a group of women trying on clothing.

© Marcia Passos Duffy

Marcia Passos Duffy is a freelance writer and the publisher/editor of The Heart of New England online magazine and weekly e-newsletter, a publication that celebrates the unique character of the northern New England states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

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