Free Trade

by Jennifer Wortman

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Clothing Swaps

Bartering Your Way to Savings

My Story: Extending a Clothing Swap

Whether discount and thrift stores, clearance racks or garage sales, we're all familiar with where to go to save money on clothes. But what about your own home? Call some friends and throw a clothes-swapping party. Not only will you save big bucks, but also you'll clean out your closets and enjoy an economical excuse to socialize with your pals in the bargain.

My first clothes-swapping experience began when my co-workers and I all realized we were nearly the same size and all had unwanted clothes to purge from our wardrobes. I ended up with three pairs of shorts, which was a welcome gain since I was in sore need of summer clothes but in greater need of money to buy some. Other finds I brought home included a wool sweater and a dressy raincoat. I was able to rid myself, among other things, of a trendy lace overskirt that no longer suited me, and some jeans that had become tight enough to leave ugly red lines at my waist every time I squeezed into them. Best of all, since my co-workers and I all had slightly different styles, we were able try out new looks at no risk, and could bestow items that no longer appealed to us to someone who would appreciate them.

I was so pleased by my clothes-swapping experience that I began throwing annual clothes-swapping get-togethers. Every party has reaped benefits. Through the years, I've picked up hints on how to make these trade-offs as fun and efficient as possible.

One of the benefits of swapping clothes among friends is that, unlike garage sales, you don't have to lure people in from the street. The set-up can be more informal and you can get by without extra tables or clothes racks. Nonetheless, a little organization goes a long way, especially if several participants are involved. Advise your guests to come with their clothes divided by type such as dresses, shirts, gender (if necessary), size, etc. When they arrive, the clothes can be spread over blankets and sheets on the floor. Make signs ahead of time indicating which goes where. This will get your party going early, and make the proceedings run more smoothly while giving everyone more time to enjoy each other's company.

It's also important to anticipate how to handle size discrepancies among guests ahead of time. One solution is only to invite people in the same size range. However, this might exclude some people that you'd like to have around. Another option is to make sure people bring accessories (purses, jewelry, etc.) so there will be items where size doesn't come into play. Though size discrepancies should be considered, remember that not all clothes (sweaters, for instance) require a precise fit. Furthermore, guests will often use clothes-swapping parties to get rid of clothes that no longer fit, thus expanding the range of sizes available.

If you own a mansion, supplying dressing rooms for guests should be easy. If, however, you have a more humble abode, you will have to be a bit strategic in finding places for people to try on their garb. If the gender is mixed, you could reserve one room for men and another for women. Some people that I know rig impromptu dressing rooms in their living room by hanging sheets from the ceiling. Another option is to have your guests wear a modest underlayer (leotards, bathing suits, etc.) that would not be mortifying to expose in public or get in the way of assessing fit. The relationships among the guests will often determine the degree of shyness involved. Those who have been best friends for years will likely have less compunction about doffing their clothes in front of each other than will strangers.

Clothes-swapping parties are great ways to save money and have fun with your friends. Whether you come out with a beautiful sweater or a whole new wardrobe, you will have spent a few enjoyable and economical hours with people you like. What's a better bargain than that?

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