Clothing Swaps – Encouraging Sustainable Fashion Choices and Building Community

You want to know something that is the definition of absurdity?

Opening up my closet, which is brimming with clothes, and exclaiming,

“I have nothing to wear!”

It’s something than many of my friends laugh and cry about!

A few statistics

Women only wear 20% of the clothes their closets.
At any given time, most people only wear the same 20 items of clothing.

This is partially because we get comfortable with the same outfit and reach for the same clothes (why we wear the same thing).

And the reason we don’t wear the other stuff? It’s because we probably buy things we should have never bought in the first place!

Or we have a hard time letting go of items that once looked good but have seen their time.

Or “worse”, we don’t want to be seen in the same outfit twice!

Winning solution

Many times, we know we have too many clothes but don’t know what to do with it all. It’s not always convenient to donate clothes and also, we still have a personal attachment to our items.

Here’s where donating clothes via a clothing swap is such an elegant solution!

In the past, I had invited girlfriends over and simply said, “take my clothes!”.

Invited girlfriends over to my apartment to take whatever they wanted!
I laid out jewelry, books and exercise equipment as well – it was a major purge that I appreciated help with!

A clothing swap event is much more organized!

It’s an event, which at its core, is organized around letting go.

But is also about finding new items that will be the answer to “What am I going to wear today?!”

Clothing swap format #1

I’ll share 2 models I’ve experienced below:

My first clothing swap was actually at work, where there were about 15 other women on the floor who had the same grievances (no surprise!) and were excited to bring in their personal collection of previously loved clothes to share.

We booked out a boardroom and laid all the clothes around the room.
Then, we each picked out a number from a hat and this would be the order we selected new clothes.

We spent a fair amount of time eyeing clothes beforehand and then once it was our turn, we had a good sense of what we wanted. Everyone went in order picking one item at a time. It was a really organized and fair way to score new clothes, while also relieving ourselves the burden of overstuffed closets!

Once we went through a few rounds, we left the rest as a free-for-all and donated the rest.

Clothing swap format #2 – Roxanne’s Method

Roxanne explaining the ground rules as the host!

My friend Roxanne is a superstar when it comes to organizing clothing swaps and has the method down to perfection! I’ve always had a fun and rewarding experience, while also making new friends! Here is her structure:

  1. Invite approximately 30 women. (She has been open to my bringing new friends and I’ve invited several friends to join!).
  2. State that clothes must be in style and in good condition.
  3. Lay out clothes according to tops, dresses, pants, accessories etc.
  4. Round of introductions by everyone. She has updated the theme several times from “Share how you met Roxanne!” to “Name a skill you’re good at!” to “What do you need help with?”. At one point, when I shared with her my desire to grow my new Dress Lending Business, LookLab, I asked her if I could promote it to her network. As someone I considered a Fashion Enthusiast, Roxanne was one of the first friends I asked for advice and input! Luckily, she was supportive of my sharing it in her Facebook group afterwards. She also suggested I invite my Cofounder Monica! More on that later 🙂
  5. RULE 1: No cattiness! Thankfully, I have never experienced this, but Roxanne sometimes would allude to incidences where she had witnessed bad behaviour of women fighting over clothes! Naturally, those women were banned from future swaps! The women always gasp when they hear that others would be catty!
  6. RULE 2: Try on anything and everything! But, keep in mind: nothing is yours until the very end. If someone wants to try on an item you tried, you let them.
  7. RULE 3: At the end, everyone gathers in a circle to share their finds! At this point, if someone else wants to have a turn at an item, they are welcome too. If both people want the same item, the group as a whole decides who gets it. This decision can be made on several factors like, who looks better in it? Or, who has more stuff already? (*note, in all of my clothing swaps organized by Roxanne over the past 2 years, there has never been a need for this!! Everyone leaves with so much stuff that they are happy with)
  8. RULE 4: If you have to leave early, you must share your items with the group first.
  9. This accomplishes another purpose: People who donated clothes get to see who took their items and share in the JOY that their item will be loved by someone else!
  10. At the end of the event, Roxanne gathers all the clothe and donates them to Dress for Success or the Women’s Shelter. What a rockstar!!
Sharing our finds with the group.

Building community and new friends

I’ve been so grateful to receive a standing invitation every season for Roxanne’s clothing swaps!

In the beginning, I would have a lot of clothes to donate (some embarrassingly with tags still on them) and I delighted in getting “new” items in return! I think my very first swap had me donate two full garbage bags, and then I left with one bag in hand. It was great for scoring new items, but not so great for clearing my closet!

By the time I attended my last few clothing swaps, I was still donating large bags of clothes (well, until Roxanne limited the number we could bring!) and promising myself that I would only to take 1 or 2 items.

Through Roxanne, I have made some new lifelong friends. It’s so fun to see other women wearing your clothes and build a bond over how much you appreciate their fashion and style!

There has also been a fun element of clothing “recycling” where someone has brought back a previous clothing swap item so that the next person can wear and love it!

Introducing my friend Nancy to Roxanne’s events.

Getting feedback for Fashion Venture: LookLab

Announcing LookLab details on my instagram: @poymeetsworld

This clothing swap concept, perfectly complemented the venture I was working on: LookLab – an online platform to lend and borrow special-occasion dresses.

The problems we were trying to address and solve were:

1) Allowing women to monetize their closet, by lending/renting their unworn items! Ultimately, this would extend the life-cycle of clothes (remember that number up there on how 80% of our closet is never even used!)

2) Giving women (buyers/renters) an opportunity to shop in a sustainable way! They could have access to higher-end, more ethically made designer items for a fraction of the price.

My business partner and I were happy to solicit feedback from a room of socially conscious fashion enthusiasts and Roxanne graciously suggested I share follow up details in her private Facebook community afterwards!

My post to the Facebook Group following the February Clothing Swap!
June post – as LookLab was on a mission to get 150 new dresses and build inventory!

Create your own community!

In closing, these clothing swaps are a fantastic way to do your part in making positive, environmental impact!

Buy less! Recycle your clothes. Make friends and have fun while you’re at it!

Roxanne and some other friends and I previously had a mini Mastermind group to encourage one another on our Side Hustles. These women gave me valuable support when I launched my Personal Development events and Roxanne encouraged helpful conversation to support each of us at her clothing swaps.

I’m very grateful to have been a part of this community. If you haven’t already attended a Clothing Swap – why not organize your own?

Let me know if you have other formats and ground rules that have worked well, or even those that haven’t! We can always learn from experience!

Connect with me on instagram @poymeetsworld where I will continue to share new life lessons related to health and wellness, how to keep learning new things and ultimately making a positive social impact!

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