In my last column, when I gave five tips for staying chic for cheap during this economic crunch (and beyond), I promised to tell you everything you need to know for throwing a kick-ass clothing swap. Not only is a clothing swap a great excuse to organize your closets, get rid of stuff you no longer want, and gather a group of girlfriends for an afternoon or evening of cocktails and clothes, it’s also an opportunity to score some totally free new-to-you outfits and accessories. I mentioned in my last column that I found one of my favorite dresses — a vintage summer maxi dress — at a clothing swap a couple years ago, but I’ve also scored some cool jewelry, a couple silk vintage slips, a few purses, and once I even nabbed a pair of barely-worn Seven jeans that fit like a glove (for once, I was grateful for my curvy hips). Hey, one woman’s trash is another woman’s favorite pants, so after the jump, my top six tips for throwing a successful clothing swap…1. Invite Strategically: More than just inviting the friends you know have great style and taste, it’s important to include friends of varying shapes and sizes. How awkward would it be if you had 10 size-2 broads and, well, me? It’d be really awkward! Not only would all my cute old skirts and tops go unclaimed, I wouldn’t have a Democrat’s chance in Mississippi of fitting into any of your sundress castoffs. So avoid potential disasters and make sure your invite list has more than 1 person representing each size of lovely.
2. Prepare Your Apartment: This means procuring a few full-length mirrors if you don’t already have them. Borrow your friends’ or hit up a thrift store. Push your furniture out of the way so there’s plenty of runway space, and make sure you’ve got lots of extra bags. Set up space in the kitchen for food and drinks, which brings me to my next tip:
3. Food and Drinks: Have both on hand. Ask your guests to bring stuff — fruit, cheese, a bag of chips. Try a great appetizer recipe and make sure you’ve got plenty of booze to go around. There’s potential for awkwardness and embarrassment when you’re getting half-naked in front of a bunch of people, so ease anxiety with good, old-fashioned alcohol. Mimosas and Bloody Marys are perfect for early afternoon swaps; wine, beer and cocktails work for evening hours. And no one is going to judge if your idea of “evening” starts at 2 PM. Well, I won’t judge, anyway, and if you “invite strategically,” your guests won’t either.
4. Create Piles: When your guests start arriving, have them separate their stuff into piles: one for skirts, one for pants, another for dresses, and so on. Don’t bother separating sizes — they’re so arbitrary these days, anyway, that it’s really just a fruitless endeavor.
5. Be Honest: The last thing anyone wants after a clothing swap is a bunch of more ill-fitting, not-quite-right stuff to clog her closets and drawers at home, so be honest. Be honest with your friends and be honest with yourself. Tell each other when something doesn’t look good and doesn’t suit or flatter one another. Ask yourself if you’re really going to wear that beaded purple sweater vest or tiny leather pants. Just because something’s free doesn’t mean you should take it home (unless he promises breakfast in the morning).
6. Goodwill the Leftovers: Rather than just take back home what you prefer getting rid of, enlist a couple people to help bag up the leftover stuff at the end of the swap and take it to Goodwill. Better yet, call around and see if there’s a women’s shelter in your neighborhood that’s accepting donations. Whether your old items are going to a friend or a stranger, cleaning out your closet feels even better when you know your stuff is going to someone who wants it.
Not everything can be swapped or bartered, of course, so in my next column I’ll lay out a few great ideas for making some easy extra money without taking a second job. After all, a recessionista needs to work it more, not work more.