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Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

Swap your old clothes for something new to you

Me wearing a top I got at my swap party

I got this batwing-sleeve top at my last swap party. It was too short for it's original owner, but fits me well. I wear it with jeans and heels. 70s boho fashion is coming back in - perfect for vintage items!

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So how are you doing with your eco-friendly clothes? I’m getting a bit tired of looking at the same outfits, so I’m expanding my stash of eco-friendly items by holding a clothes swap again for my friends.

The first time I did this was last year in the winter. I picked out a few things from my own wardrobe to swap: a near-new pair of jeans that were too small for me, a too-large top, a lovely embroidered shirt that was completely the wrong colour for me, and a pair of Etiko sneakers (sweatshop-free, FSC rubber) I’d ordered in the wrong size and forgotten to return in time.

I could have sold these clothes on eBay, but I'm a bit too lazy for that. It means writing up the listing, watching it, answering questions, checking the reputation of the buyer, and sorting out postage. I guessed that my friends would like an opportunity to move old things along and get new-to-them stuff . So I invited them to my house one night, asking them to bring three items they no longer wore.

I showed each item to the group, and if someone wanted to try it on they raised their hand. If more than one person wanted to give it a go, they could both try it on to see if suited them. If they couldn’t agree on who wanted it, I was going to toss a coin, but everyone was very good at figuring out who’d get the most use out of each item. There were some clothes that no-one wanted, and they went onto the charity pile.

If you’ve got too many items to present one at a time, you can always make a big pile and have a free-for-all. Let people dive in and find their own treasure. I made canapes and bought a few bottles of wine to sustain us through the hard work of looking at all these clothes.

Here’s my tips to make your clothes swap party run smoothly:

  • Make sure there’s a place for people change in, with a little privacy and a full-length mirror.
  • Don’t make people parade unflattering clothes for the whole group.
  • If there’s competition for the same item, make sure you’ve got a way to resolve it in case discussing it doesn’t work.
  • Have snacks and drinks ready, and maybe a little background music. People are more relaxed when they’ve got something to nibble on, and it feels more like a party that way.
  • Get people to bring a friend so there’s some variety in the offerings. But try to invite people who have similar lifestyles - you don’t want someone feeling left out when all the glittery nightclub tops or exercise gear or maternity wear comes out.

If this all seems like too much work, most cities have public clothes swap events where you get a button for each item you bring and swap your button for an item to take home. You get all the fun, none of the organising! The Clothing Exchange is the most famous right now, but there are smaller, local groups out there too.