During our lean economic times people are looking for economic ways to get new or new to them items at a cheaper price. Shopping at thrift and resale stores has become popular. For years friends and sisters have been swapping clothes. Swapping clothes between sisters isn’t always voluntary. Growing up, my friends constantly complained about their younger sisters raiding their closets. Thanks to local organizers and now national groups, swapping events are becoming commonplace and the donations are completely voluntary. There is no sister closet raiding involved. You can get great clothes at little to no cost, plus the donation of a few items you no longer want to keep in your wardrobe.
Swap events exist in every area of the country in all incarnations. Depending on the organizer, the event can be free or have a small entry fee. All events require that you bring a small number of clothing items to donate to the swap. Items are usually oranized by size and category (clothes, shoes, accessories, coats, etc.). Most events usually have standards regarding the clothing donated to the swap. Items must be in good condition, clean, and current. Undergarments and bathing suits are not be accepted at swap events.
The DC area has lots of clothing swaps. Just by doing a quick search on MeetUp.com, the word swap returned four upcoming swap events in the next two months. There are even area swaps for kids clothes. I’ve attended the Frugal Fashionista Clothing Swap in the Alexandria area and left with some great goodies. In July there was a very popular swap hosted by the national group The Swapaholics, Jen Mason of Sew Frugal & Fashionable, and the DC Goodwill Fashionista, in Arlington. In an upcoming installment, I will tell you more about many of the local DC area swaps.
After attending a few swaps, I have developed a few strategies to get the most of out my swapping time and get the best items for me.
Start a Swap Bag - As you decide to discard items that you no longer want, you can add them to the swap bag. Then, the next time you attend a swap, you can grab your bag and go. There will be no scrambling at the last minute to find items to donate to the event.
Bring Good Items - Make sure your items are clean and in good condition. You no longer want the items but a swap should not be a place to dump your worn, torn and crummy cast offs.
Do Your Homework – Because swaps are run by different people and groups, structures vary. Some swaps charge an admission fee, some don’t. Some swaps ask you to drop off your clothes in advance and then return later to swap. Others just ask you to bring your clothes by the start time and place them in the correctly marked areas. Check the information details on the facebook page, website, meet up posting, or email the organizers if you aren’t sure of the parameters.
Abide by the Rules – Each swap has different guidelines. Check out the rules for that swap ahead of time. Some swaps require you donate a minimum number of items to the swap. Others limit the number of items you can take when you leave. Many swaps prefer items that are in season or the upcoming season. A swap may not accept certain items. Be prepared.
Bring Ideas – I maintain a list of “want” fashion items. I keep that list in mind when swapping. You never know what you’ll find but you also don’t want to end up with clothes you’ll just bring back to the next swap. If you like an item you’ll know immediately. If you are having an internal debate, leave it behind. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you should take it home.
Be Quick – If you like an item, pick it up. I grab everything that is a good possiblity and then evaluate after I have a few items. You can always put them back if you change your mind but if you leave them, they may not be there when you return.
Plan your Swap Outfit – Some swaps do not have dressing areas to try on clothes. You may need to try on something over your clothes. Wearing a tank and leggings or bike shorts can make try ons easier. Bring a bag with a long strap to collect your new items and keep your hands free.
Be Courteous – It’s easy to get carried away with free items in abundance. Grabbing and elbowing makes the swap less fun for everyone. If you change your mind about an item, put it back in the correct place (size area and category). All swappers should have an equal chance.
Plan for Cleaning – Swappers are supposed to bring clean items to the swap. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean they will. My rule is to always wash or dry clean items before wearing. Items like scarves and ties go into the freezer (in a zip lock bag) for a few days to kill any unwanted germs. Shoes are wiped down inside and on the soles with disinfectant. A few dollars for dry cleaning a “like new” wool skirt is still a steal.
Nothing is better than getting great things, free. Swapping is bargain shopping at its best. You’ll go home with “new to you” items and great outfit possiblities. In my next installment, I’ll profile one of the DC area clothing swaps and my adventures there.