Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Don't Shop, Swap!

Mindful Echo gets swapping.

Green Bean recently provided a fantastic list of alternatives to traditional shopping ie. how to avoid the mall! Her fourth point, and my personal favourite, is the suggestion to swap with friends. I've been to a handful of clothing swaps and I have to say, while some swaps are more successful than others, they're always a good time.

There are a number of strategies for guaranteeing a successful clothing swap. Here are three swapping styles that I've experienced first hand.

1. The Community Swap

The Community Swap is a great way to increase the chances that there will be something for everyone and should be open to a broad community. The more people who attend, the more likely there will be a diverse range of sizes, shapes, and styles. Consider having a $2 entrance fee for those who want to attend, but don't have clothes to contribute.

Since the size of the Community Swap has the potential to become overwhelming, it's important to stay organized. Have participants sort their clothes by type (pants, skirts, dresses, sweaters, etc.) and consider sub-sections by colour or size (though remember that sizes are not universal by designer, and swaps should be inclusive of all body types and sizes).

A Community Swap should have a clear start and end time. Participants can be welcome to peruse the piles prior to the start of the swap but no one should take anything until the bell has chimed so that everyone has a chance to get some of the more desirable items - anything good quality or with a fancy label.

3. The Auction

The Auction swap is great for medium-sized groups, and works especially well if you have multiple people with the same sense of style.

It works by having one person (or rotating people) operating as the "auctioneer." The auctioneer holds up the clothing, piece by piece, and participants call out if they'd like to try it on. Breaks are taken periodically for fitting sessions. Depending on the comfort level, and how close of friends everyone is, it can be fun to strip and try everything on in front of one another - have an impromptu fashion show!

If things don't fit the first trier-on-er, it goes to the next interested participant, and so on.

The Auction works best for people who are patient. Sometimes going through items one-by-one can be tiresome, though it's often worthwhile if there's a great find just for you waiting within one of the piles.

2. The Friendly Free-for-All

The Friendly Free-for-All works best amongst smaller groups of friends. It pretty much works exactly as you would expect it to. Everyone dumps their clothing in piles on a table or the floor and when everyone has thrown in what they brought, people begin to dig.

Sometimes you can pull out something with a particular pal in mind, or you can snag something that catches your eye. It sounds like chaos, but it's rare that you'll have multiple people fighting over the same item (though it's been known to happen!).

The main problem with the Free-for-All is that items can be overlooked or get lost in the shuffle. Be sure to sift carefully and watch to see what kind of goodies people are tossing back into the pile after their initial grabs.

Benefits to swapping:
  • It's a great way to clean out your closet.
  • A swap is a fun way to spend time with friends, or make new ones.
  • Free clothes!
  • A chance to expand your clothing horizons. Since the stakes are so low, you can try things that you would normally skip over in the stores. Sometimes you'll even surprise yourself by finding that sizes and styles that you would usually avoid, might actually fit better than you had expected.
  • If no one wants a particular item for wearing purposes, others can sometimes see the value in the fabric itself; a dress pattern for a new pillowcase, or wool sweaters for felting.
  • All unclaimed, discarded clothing gets donated to charity so it's really a win-win for all who participate. 
Happy swapping!


Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

Love this!

Green Bean said...

I think swapping is absolutely the way to go. Frankly, I even look at our local thrift store as a library of stuff. Things are so cheap and the stakes are so low, as you say, that we buy things there and if they don't work out, just donate them back. Why EVER buy new and pay full price again?


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