Sunday, March 11, 2007

Clothes Swapping: Quite the Hoot

Virtue was flowing today at our 3rd Annual Women's Clothing Swap. Ladies were dropping off large bags of clothes all week, so by the opening bell, there were tons of shoes, coats, dresses, pants, sweaters - even a bridal veil. Entrance was a $20 donation to Darfur advocacy. Attendees wrote over 100 letters to UN officials and George Bush to take measures to stop the Darfur genocide, and we raised over $1500 for the cause. Each letter-writer received a complimentary cfl energy efficient bulb, so the event will even help people lower their carbon emissions.
And then the shopping began! Women who found soemthing great but couldn't personally use it scanned the room to find someone who could, in wonderful collaborative feminist style. People were thrilled to have decluttered their closets, tickled that while they came with a garbage bags of clothes to donate, they left with just shopping bags full. They caught up with old friends, met new people, and generally had fun, all the while checking those tables out.
Since I was running the letter-writing table I didn't focus on the shopping, except to make sure to find good homes for the things I brought. Last year my friend G took one of my dresses. This year it was back on the rack, and another friend of ours took it. Pretty soon it will be the Sisterhood of the Traveling Indian Schmatte.
I couldn't resist the shoes, however. A very savvy shopper was all excited about the Beautifeel shoes which someone had brought, which, alas, didn't fit her. She encouraged me to try them - "they are THE most comfortable shoes! They're Israeli-made, and all El Al flight attendants wear them!" [I'm not sure I want to dress like an Israeli flight attendant, but it seemed like a reasonable claim.] Sure enough now I own a pair of ivory Beautifeel maryjanes which look to retail for around $150.00. And I scooped up a pair of glove-soft black Italian loafers. Not bad for a $20 donation to a good cause! The best part is if they're a mistake and I don't wear them, instead of feeling annoyed, I can just redonate them next year.
Clothing swaps are a great example of reusing. Globalization has made clothes cheaper, resulting in a worldwide glut of used clothing, since many of us - myself included - buy more than we can really wear. Today, even though most everyone left with a few bags of finds, we packed up about 50+ garbage bags of clothing to donate to PlanetAid which resells the used clothing, using the proceeds to fund projects in Asia and Africa. The woman who came to truck away our leftovers explained to me that they resell them to South America for $.23 a pound. This is very egalitarian: upscale brands and no-name labels all weigh in the same! And ironically, there is an inverse correlation of svelte to hefty - those size 22's are worth more than the size 2's.
Clothing swaps are easy to organize, build local social capital, help many good causes, and are lots of fun. Everyone comes away happy.


Anonymous said...

I've learned that there is a market for everything. Where I live, the Saturday tag sale reigns supreme. They camp on your doorstep two hours before the official opening and swarm in to buy everything. Encyclopedias are a hot seller for some reason. Old books and lamps are other big items. You can do a clear out and make some money. Is this phenomenon limited to New England or is it a part of where you live?

Anonymous said...

Here from a Get Rich Slowly post...Just wanted to share our similar positive experiences with clothing swaps (the ones I've been to were bring the clothes with you, and the ones that aren't picked are donated)..It's a fun time, people look out for clothes for each other ("I thought you might like to try this dress"), and I've met lots of nice folks in the process. Oh, and come home with some lovely clothes (but not as many as I brought!).

Susanna said...

This was my favorite post in this week's Festival of Frugality. I'd never thought of doing a clothing swap for charity - this is a great idea!