Too Many Clothes in Your Closet? Organize a Clothes Swap!
by Marcia Passos Duffy, Copyright 2004

I bumped into a friend at the supermarket the other day. She eyed my sweater a bit too enviously. "Love that color," she said. "Do you want to get rid of it?" We both laughed and I politely told her to take her paws off. It wasn't ready to be swapped - not yet.

We, along with about a half-dozen other friends, are clothes swappers. We meet every so often with our bags of unwanted clothing after a spring (or fall) cleaning frenzy to, well, swap clothing. I'm not sure when this ritual started - I was invited to a clothes swap two years ago after a friend (who probably realized we were about the same dress size) invited me to a clothes swap she organized at her house. 

At first, I was skeptical on what kind of clothing I could get, and, frankly, a bit embarrassed over the hopeless clothes I lugged along that nobody in their right mind would want.

But, what ensued was a cross between a slumber party and an open fitting room at Filene's Basement. There were about 8 of us at my first clothes swap. Veteran clothes- swappers immediately told us to dump our goods on the bed, and dig in. It was finder's keepers - but you had to try it on first! One hand pulled out my awful maroon wool dress (that previously belonged to my mother-in-law and fit too snug and short on me). I had to admit it was mine. It was gingerly picked up by a petite woman who I only knew in passing. Was she just trying to humor me by trying it on? When she emerged from the bathroom it was like was tailor-designed just for her. It was snug in all the right places; the hem hit just above the knee, where it should have. "I'll take it," she said and quietly folded it up into a growing pile she was gathering at her feet.

Wow. Hey, maybe this wasn't so bad after all! One woman threw a very loud flowered dress at me. "This is YOU," she said. Huh? Me, who wears muted greens, grays and black? It was not a dress I would ever try on, never mind wear. But, with prodding from the group, I did try it on and sheepishly modeled it. Claps, cheers. "Take it!" "Oh, it IS you!" I laughed and kept it, I mean, what did I have to lose? (I've since worn it several times. A special notice to all my friend swappers: I'm now tired of it and it will emerge again at our next clothes swap).

Which brings me to the point of a clothes swap. There is nothing to lose! I have come home with the most amazing clothing that I could not believe women would want to part with: a genuine pea coat, an Alpaca sweater, t-shirts & turtlenecks in every color, an elegant purple dress. The clothing also carries a special significance. While casually flinging a silk scarf around my neck, the owner of the article said it used to belong to her mother. I think of the history of that scarf whenever I wear it. In turn, I often see my clothing on friends. "Hey, that's mine!" I'll say jokingly. "But it looks better on you," I add, sincerely. It's nice to know where my clothes are. And it's nice to know where they came from.

After the end of 2 or 3 hours, the group of clothes swappers reaches the end of the pile on the bed. There is an unbelievably deep sense of satisfaction knowing that your clothing has found a new - and appreciative - owner. And, you leave with a pile of clothes that you want to wear! And it's free!

So before you dump your clothes in the Goodwill box, think of your friends! 

How to organize a successful clothes swap:

  • Invite your friends & ask your friends to invite their friends
  • About 10-15 people is the goal - aim for all shapes & sizes
  • If you are hosting the swap at your house, make sure you have at least two full-length mirrors available
  • For those of us who are modest, make sure there are other rooms available to dress and undress. If this isn't possible, remind people they can wear a body suit or bathing suit underneath their clothing if they wish.
  • Clothes swaps can be seasonal, but they don't have to be: The best clothes swaps have all seasons clothing.
  • If two people want the same item, you can have fun with this by either a coin toss, or having each person model the item of clothing and have a vote (do this only if you're sure there won't be hard feelings).
  • If you have second thoughts about an item you have up for grabs - speak up quickly. A simple "Hmm, I'm not so sure I'm ready to give that up yet," should suffice, before someone else gets too attached to the item.
  • Be prepared - for a good time! You'll be surprised how much fun you'll have with a group of women trying on clothing! 

Marcia Passos Duffy is a freelance writer and the publisher/editor of The Heart of New England online magazine and weekly e-newsletter (, a publication that celebrates the unique character of the northern New England states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. To subscribe to her free weekly e-newsletter on bed & breakfast deals, New England thrifty tips, contests, and gardening reminders, simply send a blank email to 

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