It's a curious phenomenon most people have experienced at least once: a closet stocked with clothes that are perfectly acceptable and yet totally uninspiring. The knee-jerk response to the wardrobe doldrums is a quick jaunt to the mall. But cumulatively, these impulse shopping trips add up, eating into an individual's budget as well as the planet's finite supply of resources. To that end, many women have begun organizing swaps where they trade unwanted clothes.
"I call (swapping) socially conscious consumption at its most stylish," says Rachael LaRoche, who hosted her first clothing swap last August. "Swapping is a great way to eliminate waste, declutter your closet, freshen your wardrobe, try something new with your wardrobe and just have fun with other women."
LaRoche's Ruffian Swap is a public event that has drawn as many as 60 women to one swap. Participants pay a cover charge ranging from $15 to $20 and take home as much clothing as they desire. "Some women have left with three bags (of clothing) and some have left with five things," says LaRoche, who estimates 15 percent of her wardrobe came from swaps.
Armoire Boutique owner Erin Hebert has hosted more intimate swaps with her friends. "We'd get garbage bags of our stuff and take it to The Kingpin (bar)," she says. "It was win-win for everyone. You get clothes, a beer, and you hang out and chat with the girls." Any unclaimed items were donated to thrift stores after the swap.
Organizing a swap between friends is easy, Hebert says. All you really need is a space, which could be somebody's living room, and clothes. Shower curtain rods and chin-up bars can double as garment racks; coffee tables and dining room sets can hold folded clothes and accessories. Music, snacks and wine help create a party atmosphere. "(Swaps) expose you to different things you might not see when you go shopping for yourself," Hebert says. "And if you get your friends involved, everyone wants to help you find something cute."