How to Get An Amazing Wardrobe for Free

How to Get An Amazing Wardrobe for Free

Note: I’m going to take a departure for awhile from my transportation craze and discuss some other ways of living resourcefully (besides riding a bicycle or walking). One of the great benefits of living in a city is the proximity to so many different brains and sources of creativity and inspiration. Of course this great exchange is experienced internetly to a degree, but not with the same charm as direct human interaction.

This post will tell you how to get new (to you) clothes for free, meet friends, and influence people. Yep.

Imagine your closet. You’ve probably got some tasty pieces in there, ones that look great on you and ones that make you feel like the world is yours. But on the other side of that closet, you have some other clothes. The ones that you bought, knowing you shouldn’t. The pants you bought that were just a little too orange, maybe just a little too tight. Maybe just okay. Clothes that you don’t wear.

Now imagine your wallet, your bank account. Perhaps there is less in there than you’d like. Perhaps you don’t have the money to invest in clothes or accessories, perhaps you have other, more exciting priorities.

You Should Organize a Clothing Swap

What is a clothing swap? “A clothing swap is a type of swapmeet wherein participants donate their unwanted clothing and then are given the opportunity to go through the clothes of everyone else in attendance and can take whatever they want.” (wikipedia)

Why hold a clothing swap? Clothing swaps are considered a good way to both declutter and refill one’s wardrobe. For free.

Free wardrobe? Sounds great. Sign me up. What do I do? Tell me more.

1. Pick a date. Weekends or evenings are probably best for most people.

2.  Decide if it will be public or private. Do you want to invite just friends? If you want to keep it small and intimate, it will be easier to host at home. If you want to involve lots of people, you should consider other places to hold it.

3. Pick a location. Parks are lovely for clothing swaps although they present the logistical challenge of how to try on clothes in public and what to do if it rains (see step 6).

4. Start telling everyone, particularly people in your size or with a good sense of style (ha!).  Tell people in person, on email, facebook, twitter, and if you want to get fancy about it, make a flier and post it in coffee shops and places where people lurk. Invite ladies and dudes even though boys are usually more skeptical at first. Invite people of many sizes and shapes to increase the variety of clothes.

5. Go through your clothes. Most people find that when they start getting rid of clothes they notice even more clothes they don’t ever wear. Get rid of anything you haven’t worn in six months. Some people like to include accessories, bags, shoes, clothes, fabric, even books. It’s all up to you.

6. If you are holding your swap outside, you’ll have to decide if you want to have a rain location or rain delay. Rummaging through clothes in the rain is… less fun. If it’s outside, bring some blankets or tarps to rest the clothes on.

7. Make some signs. You don’t really need to do this step but if you are anticipating more than 20 people, there will likely bring a lot of clothes and it’s helpful to organize them by type: shirts, pants, shorts, accessories, etc. These are some of the signs I made for a clothing swap last year:

Signs for a Public Clothing Swap

8. Designate a place to donate the leftovers. There will inevitably be extra clothes at the end. Decide if you’re going to donate them to Goodwill or a shelter and make arrangements for a pick-up or drop off.

9. Go! Bonus points if you’re able to do it without a car. Last year I did everything with a bike trailer, carrying a suitcase of my own clothes and a trash bag of roommates’ clothes across DC to Malcolm X Park. And at the end I piled three massive garbage bags of leftovers onto my trailer and delivered the extras to a clothing drop-off.

10. Now it’s the clothing swap! Enjoy! Help people sort their clothes and rummage for clothes to revamp your wardrobe.

And enjoy! I’ve been organizing clothing swaps for about the last four years and I have been able to keep refreshing my wardrobe constantly, for free, and meeting new friends all the time. I’ve found designer dresses, swanky shoes, coats, scarves, t-shirts, blouses — many things that have come in handy over the years.

If I pick some things at the swap that I discover I don’t really like, I just set them in a bag off to the side for my future swap. I’ll be having one in Pittsburgh soon. Stay tuned.

Here is a weird um-filled interview from one of my clothing swaps last year.


4 thoughts on “How to Get An Amazing Wardrobe for Free

  1. What a great idea! I love clothing swaps…in fact I started an online clothing swap thru facebook…it has over 1000 items and over 300 members..In my climate (chilly Quebec) it is not always convenient to have outdoor swaps so this let’s people do it from the convenience of their own homes!

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