Update your fall wardrobe with a clothing swap

Secondhand News

Caption: At a Hyattsville clothing swap, Krissi Humbard “shops” for items her neighbors are trading. Photo courtesy Juliette Fradin Photography.
- LAUREN FLYNN KELLY -

– LAUREN FLYNN KELLY –

Twice a year, my neighborhood friends and I get together for a clothing swap. At the start of every spring and fall, we give our closets a second look. Before hauling stuff we no longer want to Value Village, we pull some of the items we think would work better on another friend and save them to trade with each other.

My friend Christine is kind enough to host each time, and she has it down to a science. She separates the dresses, tank tops, sweaters and pants all into neat piles and places them around the room. She saves the coffee table for smaller items like purses, jewelry, and even perfume. Then, she sets up a beautiful spread of breakfast goodies and coffee.  I look forward to it every few months.

So as fall approaches and you think about updating your wardrobe, why not consider hosting a clothing swap? Here are a few do’s and don’ts to ensure a fun, successful affair:

DO keep it to a manageable size of attendees. We usually stick to 6 to 8. Any more could result in a catfight, and no one wants to referee that.

DON’T bring/invite kids. Put Dad in charge and give yourself a break! The little ones can always play dress-up afterward with the leftovers. If you can’t get a sitter, make sure you to set your child up with a favorite game and snack in the next room.

DO schedule a charity donation ahead of time. You don’t want bags of unwanted clothes lying around your house all week. Contact Military Order of the Purple Heart (www.purpleheartpickup.org) or another local charity and arrange to have the clothes picked up from your porch the next business day.

DON’T put out gifts from someone in the group. It might hurt someone’s feelings to see those earrings your friend gave you last Christmas on display. When in doubt, consult with your friend first. Maybe she really wanted them for herself!

DO set some ground rules. I’ve been to swaps where people were asked to each pick one item from a pile in the center of the room, try it on, either accept or reject it, and then offer it to someone else. That took too much time, but there are other ways to set limits. You could ask each shopper to try on three things at a time to keep things fair. Or, just take a tote bag and go to town like we do!

DON’T let guests go hungry. I’m not talking about serving a whole meal, but providing a fruit plate or finger sandwiches will keep people energized. We usually do a brunch potluck with coffee and mimosas.

DO have a sense of humor. Some of the stuff people give away is just plain bad. At the end of the swap, lighten the mood by suggesting everyone pick one piece that looks terrible on her and take a group pic. We are still laughing about the last one (it involved a bikini, and that’s all I’ll say).

DON’T bring bugs. After this summer’s humidity, your clothes might be harboring a few moths or other critters. Give them a zap in the drier to stamp out any uninvited guests. (Oprah.com recommends at least 10 minutes on high heat.)

DO set out a full-length mirror in a nearby room. If people want to try on clothes, then they can do so with a little privacy.

I’ve walked away from clothing swaps with items that I’ve ended up keeping for years, and there are usually a few high-end pieces in the mix, like the striped Boden sweater and the silk Anthropologie top that I scored at the last one.   Moreover, it’s equally satisfying to see a nice pair of jeans that just didn’t work for me fit someone else like a glove or a favorite maternity dress make another expectant mama feel good.

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