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Green Goal Solution: Clothing Exchange

Written by contributor Nicole Bennett of Gidget Goes Home.

Back when Simple Organic was just getting started, Katie gave us some great ideas on how we could each start setting goals to go green in various areas of our life. One of Katie’s helpful suggestions was to buy used clothing as much as possible. Since then, we’ve also talked about refashioning, as a way to green our wardrobe.

Today, I want to introduce you to one more way to go green with your clothes: a clothing exchange. In my opinion, it might be the best option yet; it’s a way to reuse and save money, and it includes a fun time with your girlfriends, too.

I’ll be going to my next clothing exchange in a couple of weeks, and I can’t wait. I’ve updated my wardrobe for free, while having some fun girl time, twice this year already. Sound too good to be true? Read on!

What is a clothing exchange?

A clothing exchange is a get-together among friends, where each participant brings a selection of clothes to add to what we’ll call the stash, and  then comes home with a “new” selection of clothes, chosen from the stash.

Why hold a clothing exchange?

Eventually, many of us outgrow our clothes. Whether it’s physically, emotionally, seasonally, or just due to boredom or a change of what’s en vogue, the time will someday come to say goodbye to a piece of clothing. At that time, we can repurpose them or donate them to a friend, family member, or charity, especially if they’re still in good condition.

Getting together with friends to exchange clothes you no longer need is the most efficient way to empty your closet of the old and also bring home something “new to you.”
Sometimes all we need is one new piece to really bring our wardrobe back to life. A new belt, jacket, skirt or a pair of shoes can do just the trick. Not to mention, you’ll have a few friends present to give you their opinion on a potential new outfit, too.

With a little planning, it’s easy to organize a much-anticipated event for your friends.

Photo byabbyladybug

How to organize a clothing exchange

  • Plan a time, pick a place and send out an evite.
  • Set a specific time; a one-hour window is enough time to “shop” and won’t be overwhelming for the hostess.
  • Invite many, but limit the guest list. You don’t want the event to be overwhelming. Our parties are limited to ten participants, give or take. It’s first come, first RSVP, although guests are always encouraged to forward the evite on to more friends to get the word out.
  • Organize child care. My friend has a willing husband who watches the kiddos as they run around and play in the backyard, giving us time to hang out and “shop” the stash.
  • Make it a pot luck. Snacks are fun to have on hand, and guests can be asked to help bring some. Maybe even share a bottle of wine while you exchange if it’s an evening event.
  • Give and take. My hostess has a general rule that you can take home the same amount of items you bring. This gets more and more flexible though if the group meets regularly. Our exchanges are every few months, and our hostess stores the extras until next time, to keep the stash full enough that we can each take home a few extras. If the hostess is short on space though, she can offer to make a quick drop at Goodwill after the event, starting each time with a clean slate.
  • Get organized. In an open, cleared-out space, you’ll want to lay out a sheet or blanket and have like items together, maybe even with labels. Pants, skirts, shorts/capris, tanks, blouses, t-shirts, jackets, dresses, accessories, maternity, and sleepwear is how our stash is usually divided.
  • Have “fitting rooms.” Designate areas where guests can try clothes on, such as bathrooms and bedrooms with mirrors.
  • Optional: kids items. At our next exchange, we’re also going to have a section for tubs of kids clothes. These will require some digging, but offer another chance to exchange the old/outgrown with the “new.”
  • Turn on some tunes, start “shopping” and have fun with the girls!

I’m always amazed at how many cute items I find that have been “cast off” by a friend. And I love seeing something I had grown tired of being brought to life again on someone else. My husband always laughs at me the week after an exchange when we arrive at church and he sees me pointing out my all old clothes on all my friends.

Have you ever been to or organized a clothing exchange? Any tips to share?

Reading Time:

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  1. Aimee @ Simple Bites

    My friends and I used to rock the clothing exchange back in the day, but I admit it’s been a while. I fully support this idea; it makes total sense, right?

    Fir those of us moms, we could take it to the next level: pregnancy clothes! They are so expensive–and don’t get worn that much, just a few months out of the year, depending on the season.

    I know I have a pile sitting in a drawer that won’t be used for a while..

    Great post!

    • Nicole aka Gidget

      Yup, we definitely include maternity clothes in ours!
      Thanks, Aimee!

  2. Jessica

    All my sisters and friends are very close in size so each Christmas we do a clothing exchange instead of exchanging gifts. It fun and doesn’t cost anything….we love it! Our exchange is very informal…we just dump all the clothes in the middle of the floor and sift through it to find what we want. This techinique probably wouldn’t work for everyone but it was worked for us so far. 😛

  3. Kara

    My sister and I don’t exchange really, but we always barrow dresses for dressy occasions (like weddings, etc.). I don’t know what I’d do if we weren’t the same size.

  4. Kara Fleck

    You know, I have some friends and family members that I do this with for kids clothes – I love the idea of taking it to the next level and including clothes for grown-ups, too 🙂

    And, making it a potluck and having someone there to watch the kiddos elevates it to an “event” too – What fun!

  5. Emily @ Live Renewed

    Thanks for this post! I have been thinking about doing a clothing exchange with friends or with ladies from church, but wasn’t exactly sure how to go about it. Now I have a much better idea of how to organize and run it. I think I will try to plan one of these soon to exchange clothes for the upcoming fall/winter months.
    I do have a question though, how do you handle different sizes/heights of people? If you only have 10 women it seems like you could easily end up with someone whose clothing is too big or too short (for example), for others to take, and also they wouldn’t have any clothes in their size to choose from. Does everyone have to be about the same size?

    • Nicole aka Gidget

      We tend to have a range of sizes piled up, but yes, that is something to consider. I’d say as long as there are a couple people coming in each size you’d be good. Plus, there’s always accessories, and some things will fit more than one sized person, like jackets.
      In our group we are pretty similar sized I guess, some are bigger than others on the top or the bottom. A couple of people even brought other people’s clothes (like a sister who had some giveaway clothes who wore a bigger size).
      Maybe if you know you have some size variety you could allow for a bigger group.

  6. Jaimie

    I’ve been to several clothing swaps, and I actually blogged about them here:

    My advice is this: bring even the things you THINK no one else is going to want. The first time I went, I was a little shy about my giant garbage bag full of clothes. I only knew one participant at the time, and I thought most of my bag was junk. Not so–people jumped all over it! Several women brought home like eight things each from my bag alone. One woman’s trash (or clothing that she’s just bored of) really is another’s treasure :).

    • Nicole aka Gidget

      thanks for your link Jamie, and *great* tip!! It’s so true. A couple of the things I go I can’t believe someone didn’t want anymore!!

  7. Jaimie

    Oh, I also have another tip. We donate the remainders at the end of each swap to a women’s shelter. It makes it a service event too (there’s always a big pile), and then no one needs to use space to store things until the next swap.

    • Nicole aka Gidget

      again, great tip. I think that’s what we’ll end up doing when the stash gets too big.

  8. Sandra Lee

    This is a terrific idea and sounds like a lot of fun. Alas, it won’t work so well for people with sensitivity to perfumes and fragrance because they are usually well embedded in clothes! Glad others can have fun with this.

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