Way back when, we called them "Naked Lady Parties". We were in our twenties. Hanging out in our panties and trying on clothes that probably had three cycles through a thrift store before ending up at a swap didn’t cause hesitation. Can’t speak for you, but for myself, the days of running around in my underwear in a group of people I hang with professionally is way past my comfort zone, and my taste is a bit more spoiled. I still love a thrift store find, but I also need to show up at a meeting Tuesday at 10am and need an outfit, so the over-worn style isn't in my rotation.
But I LOVE a Clothes Swap Party!
Looking through my over-stuffed closet, I bet at least a third has come from clothes swaps, and definitely some of the most beloved pieces…One dress comes to mind. I got engaged in it. I took my first real pro profile picture in it because it was the fanciest thing I had ever owned. I've hand-washed it only a couple of times. It is old, timeless; made in India, circa 1940. I remember the exact Clothes Swap Party.... Vanessa’s (one of Skin and Sky’s models!), over 12 years ago. It originally belonged to Tina, who was the former girlfriend of the man I was dating at the time. We bonded over the appreciation of that dress. No one else noticed it. I saw it and every cell of my being knew I needed to be part of that dress’ story.
It stillI lives in the special nook of my closet, reserved for the VIP (Very Important Pieces), which come out once or less a year, and each time is because I know, no matter what, I feel beautiful in it.
Skin and Sky is hosting our first Seasonal Clothes Swap Party Thursday evening!
I've been lucky enough to be part of yearly invitations by the ladies who host the best ever Clothes Swap Parties. One of my favorites, a local Whitefish, MT writer and Pilates instructor, levels it way up. She follows a REAL SIMPLE MAGAZINE style with garment racks, organized selection, curated directions. Check out this article by Yolanda Wikiel to see the snazzy way to do it.
I’m choosing something a little less structured (mostly because I don’t have the skills/dedication she does!). Somewhere between a sophisticated Clothes Swap Party and a chaotic Naked Ladies Party.
Here are a few very loose definitions, directions and ideas for bringing your ladies together in pursuit of getting time together and a great outfit!
FULL FUN CHAOS: Think Black Friday for clothes lovers. No Rules. No Constraints. No one knows who brought what. Attendees dump their bags/boxes/truck-loads into a mixed pile. At the determined time, it’s a “Each woman for herself” dig. You try stuff on right there, if it doesn’t fit, you throw it back in the pile. You will walk away with a few treasures, a few WTF, and a bunch of items you never thought you’d try on which end up back in next season’s swap rotation.
HIGH-CLASS LADY: The other side of the spectrum: Invite a handful or so of the ladies who have your same sensibility/taste/budget and play a “I’ll trade you this Chloe bag for that Alexander McQueen jacket” For this style, each person sets their loot out separately and you literally shop then negotiate. This style is dependent on having similar styles/budgets. (I have been to a few of these, and love them as well because I am an Ebay master! I'll save those tricks for another post.)
REAL-SIMPLE STYLE CLOTHES SWAP: Real Simple, a magazine I love, has a really great article for an organized, structured clothes swap party in which garment racks and organizational skills are required. See link above. The lady I mentioned hosts one of these. It is fantastic. I covet her steez.
NAKED-LADY meets CLASSY-SASS: This version encompasses a little of each. There is a pile, not a garment rack. There are changing rooms set up with privacy. There is a special pile for “I will consider trading this” items. I love the fun chaos and anonymity of this style. The dig/hunt and find vibe is there, the prep-work for the hostess isn’t intimidating, but there is more shrapnel to deal with the next day. It's definitely messier.
10 tips for a Clothes Swap Party
Host when seasons are about to change. This is when we are most likely to spend the time cleaning out our closet and are over half of it.
Set the time. Attendees come 30 minutes prior to official Clothes Swap and give the hostess their bags/boxes. It is important, I think, that the pile is tossed before other people get to see it. No "pre-claiming!" The person that has 5 bags and the person who has 5 items should never have to questions whether their stuff is “good enough”
A few rules are set forth ahead of time: Ripped/stained/Old Navy circa 1999? Not Clothes Swap Material. Ideal items are things you know are still good, but you’re over. They are clean. If there is something that needs mending, but it is worthy, bring it on. You can still bring the stuff that you don't want to deal with. The hostess knows she is taking on the duty of dealing.
Pile up. Hostess takes the items and combines clothes in a big pile (usually over a sheet rather than plain ground). Jewelry/Shoes/Bags go in a different corner. Miscellaneous items in another. Mix it all up.
Herd the kittens. When it is time, attendees get called in, and start digging! My favorite is finding a piece I know won’t work on me, but would look amazing on you! “Hey D, check this out! You’d look great in this!” and throw it over to someone else.
Treasure Hunt! As attendees, once you have a pile ready to try on, go find your corner. If you are a “Naked-in-the-mud-girl”, do your thang right there. If you need full privacy, the hostess will have set up a few spots. Keep the items you love. The ones you don’t, throw back in the pile.
Be Prepared. Once the pile has been throughly picked through, the cucumber water and champagne thoroughly enjoyed, and the bliss of a treasure fully absorbed, the hostess will be responsible for dealing with the shrapnel. This can go to local thrift stores.
Share your loot! Thank you hostess. If you happen to be lucky enough to know who gave up a piece that becomes a part of your existential being, thank them!
Try on things you normally wouldn’t! This type of trading/sharing is as ancient as human kind itself. This is tribal. ( I struggle with the word Tribe because it implies “US/THEM”. But, tribal resonates with the soul in me that craves as much time as possible with real people doing real things for the good of as many as possible and sharing so Tribal I still like. It feels ancient. Tribe feels like "cool-girl/not cool-girl" club which I am way over.)
THE MOST CRUCIAL: F' the different size/body types! My favorite clothes swap partner has several inches less than me height wise, she has bootie that JLo would give a head-nod of approval to, and cleavage where I have flat space. We style each other’s pieces differently based on body types, but our clothes end up in each other’s closets on the regular! Try that sh*t on! Check out this screenshot of a Youtube Video by W Magazine of different Body Types wearing the same piece:
One thing I know from getting to rummage through at least a couple clothes swap parties each year: the conversations are the most real. The vibe is most honest. Vulnerability is genuine. And, our ladies rock some cool stuff which we now get a chance to rock so the strut lives on!
HOSTESS WITH THE MOSTESS TIPS
Be prepared to deal with a haul. You are responsible for getting non-claimed items to local shelters/thrift stores.
Send your constraints in the invite. I always ask for items which need very little mending, have no stains, etc. But I also invite people to bring extra garments which do not fall into these constraints, which I donate to local quilt makers.
Provide multiple “Try-On” Spots, and have snacks/bevvies in a separate room. Realize we are all dealing with our own body-issues. Borrow full length mirrors and place them in nooks and crannies around your home.
Enjoy! Technically you get last shuffle. 9 out of ten times this is the unclaimed for a reason. Every now and then though, there is that one special piece…..
Skin and Sky is hosting our first seasonal clothes swap party tomorrow! We are combining it with a viewing of Beyonce's Lemonade because I can't believe hoe many of my ladies haven't gotten down to it. If you're nearby, join us! It's also a celebration of patience and perseverance after a 12 week set-back created by Trade Wars, and we are due for a dance party! Plus, season's are changing. CELEBRATE FALL!