Consumer Culture / Fashion

Swap before you shop

This past weekend, on a rainy Saturday in December I lugged a big trash bag full of jackets, dresses and jeans over to a friend’s apartment. I was on my way to a clothing swap to meet up with six of my most stylish friends and arrived to find the kitchen table and couch covered in fashionable finds.

Showing off my swap success! New shirt dress, belt, necklace and boots.

Showing off my swap success! New shirt dress, belt, necklace and boots.

As we drank Canadian-style Clamato caesars, we rummaged through piles of goodies and fought for mirror space in the bedroom. There was so much to choose from – silk scarves and fun jewellery, office appropriate blazers and dangerously short shredded jean shorts. I’m not quite sure how but those ended up coming home with me! Maybe it was the caesars…

One of the items I brought along to swap was a handmade navy blue pinstripe blazer and pencil skirt that my Grandma had sewn. It was borne from a glorious 1980s Vogue pattern, made for my Mom as she embarked on her professional career. She then passed it on to me but it had always been way too small – my Mom should have been a model with that figure! It had been sitting in the back of my closet for years and I couldn’t bear to drop it into an anonymous donation bin. I was elated to see it fit my friend Carla perfectly and she spiced it up with a leopard-print silk scarf  also up for the grabs.

With each of us bringing our own unique style it was fun to be able to try something new that we maybe wouldn’t have considered before. It was also an important information sharing event as I learned that my friend Michelle and I have the same tiny shoe size which opens the door for even more future sharing! As one friend’s cast off became another friend’s treasure we all filled our take-away bags with amazing finds and none of the guilt that comes with a trip to the mall.

There were, of course, items that were left over that didn’t manage to find a new home with one of us. We sorted these into two piles – one for the donation bin and some of the more special items reserved for a friend’s vintage store. That special pile was the destination for my Grandma’s handmade pencil skirt so here’s hoping there’s someone out there who’s a size zero and can pull it off as well as my Mom did.

If your friends are lacking in the style department or you’d like to experience a bigger swap, check out The SWAP Team. It’s a non-profit social enterprise run entirely by volunteers that organizes giant clothing swaps for charity that are appropriately called “Take Off Your Clothes.” They have chapters in Montreal, Boston, New York City, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Halifax, Winnipeg, Northampton and Quebec City (they say new cities always being added). With a mission to provide communities with an alternative to new clothing consumption (e.g., collaborative consumption) they’ve had incredible success so far as 67, 576 garments swapped or given to charity and collectively saving swappers $605,280…and counting.

But swaps don’t have to just be about clothing. For those with kids, a toy swap is a great idea for the holiday season that could save some serious cash. So be creative with your swaps and maybe this year you can forgo the shop for the swap!


Read more Urban Bandit articles on Consumer Culture or Fashion.

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2 thoughts on “Swap before you shop

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