INSPIRE: 5 Tips for Your First Clothing Swap

Ever since I started learning about ethical fashion, I wanted to participate in a clothing swap. A clothing swap works like this: everyone brings clothes from their closet that they no longer want, and swaps. You get to shop the closets of your friends!
Clothing swaps vary in structure from getting a ticket for each item you bring, which you can then use on items you want to take home, to going section by section and giving each person a turn to pick first, going for as many rounds as possible, until there’s not much left. The one I went to Friday was more of a free for all, no one kept track of how many items you brought, and many people, like me, brought much more than they intended to bring home. 
Some clothing swaps are small and intimate at around four or five people, others are upwards of twenty. The quality of items can vary, depending on what the rules of the swap are.
One of the benefits of a swap is getting to see your clothes go to good homes. For instance, I had a jacket that I’d bought from an online designer outlet that at retail, cost around $300. Since the measurements were in Italian, I didn’t get the right size, so I never wore it. Even though I didn’t pay that much for it and it didn’t fit me, I just couldn’t seem to donate it to Goodwill. Swapping it just felt much better!
And unlike just donating to Goodwill, you get something back for the things you donate. I find it frustrating when I have piles of clothes to donate each season, because I know I’ll never get that money back. It’s motivating to be more careful of what I buy in the future!
So why would you need some tips? Well, it can be overwhelming. I consider myself a pretty experienced thrift shopper, but even I felt overwhelmed at times. So, if you’re considering attending one or hosting one, here’s a few things to keep in mind. 

1. Bring Good Stuff

If it has holes, stains, buttons missing, or broken zippers, don’t take it to a swap – put it in the trash. If it’s from two decades ago and is clearly NOT coming back in style, don’t take it. Older clothes in good condition are fine if you have a mix of generations at your swap, but those MC Hammer pants are probably not a good idea. Just take those kinds of things to Goodwill. A good rule to follow: don’t bring something you wouldn’t want to take home yourself.

2. Know What You Want

It defeats the purpose if you take a bunch of clothes you don’t like, and bring home a new bunch of clothes that don’t fit well, aren’t a good color, or don’t match anything you have. This tip applies to thrift shopping too – know what shapes, colors, and even fabrics flatter you and make you feel good, and what doesn’t. 
I hoped to find some business casual clothes, specifically a pencil skirt, blazer, and button up. I did find a blazer, I didn’t find any button ups that I really loved, but I did find a great pair of black pants. To keep from getting overwhelmed by all the options, know what you need or want, and feel free to skip sections. 

3. Keep An Open Mind

Even though I was looking for business casual clothes, I didn’t ignore the rest. As a result, I found a fantastic ring and a great pair of jeans. You never know what you might find, so when in doubt, try it on! Sizing varies so much from brand to brand, you really never know until you try. 

4. Ask For Help

When you try something on and you’re just not sure, go ask for your friend’s opinions. They might be more objective, and have some tips to make it work, like adding a belt. If you really want a specific item to go with something, ask around. Maybe someone saw the perfect top for those pants, and they can take you right to it.

5. Plan To Stay Awhile

I thought I’d be in and swapped in an hour. I actually stayed three hours. It took longer than I expected to sort through piles of clothes and find my size, or, since sizing varies so much, something that looked close, and then to try things on, and make a decision, and going back for the next round. Plus, there’s lots of talking and eating going on too. Plan for plenty of time so that you don’t feel rushed. 
And have fun! That’s it! If you’ve been to a clothing swap, what tips would you add?

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