A Catered and Styled Clothes Swap
For those of you who have attended (or heard about) clothes swaps, you know that it is quite a zoo-logical scene. It borders the law of the strongest, a kind of state of nature where clothes are piled up throughout a space (usually a warehouse, an open dance studio or gym), and people have to stir and dig into the piles to pick out something that might be good for them, while elbowing others away as civilized and as ethically as possible (in the best of cases), trying clothes on and hopefully making it to a mirror to see how they look. That being the situation, the chances of getting good fitting pieces depends on the ability of the strongest.
What is a clothes swap "anyways" (as my son would put it) and what is its purpose? A clothes swap is an event where usually women (but there is no ontological reason for this being the case) bring clothes they no longer wear, and all clothes become available to anyone who wants to claim them. The purpose is weeding out your closet from pieces that you do not wear (and give them a second life) and refreshing your wardrobe with new pieces that you will wear, without stressing your budget. And in so doing you give another life to your clothes, which works for the environment. Sounds great, right?
The problem with most clothes swaps (remember they are state of nature situations!!) is that you may end up taking a lot of clothes home whose colors and cut you later realize are not flattering or comfortable. (No mental space to be focused when you are thinking about getting something before anyone else). And they end up cluttering your closet, in the same way the ones you took to the swap did. Doesn't sound great, right? Without any style advice and guidance, you are tempted to take home pieces that are great in theory, but they do not look great on you (so who cares about great in theory --- the former political theorist dixit). And this is definitely not good. And it defeats the swap purpose.
We need a Styled Clothes Swap! On May 7th, a special Catered and Styled Clothes Swap took place, a collaboration with Elizabeth Gillis from LullaBelle's, who hosted the event and prepared delicious food! Our swap was classy and orderly, efficient and effective. And yummie and fun!
What made this styled clothes swap different from others?
First, clothes were curated. Swappers dropped off their clothes before the day of the swap so I could organize them by size and kind of attire and display them elegantly in racks. I also parsed them to double check that no gym wear or worn out/damaged/stained piece made it to the bags (it happens to all of us!). In so doing, I also wanted to become familiar with the pieces - colors, cuts, fabrics, patterns - so I could point swappers to the most figure flattering pieces for them.
It was also a way of getting to know the swappers in advance, a sense of what no longer was their style, size, an clothing items, which brought color and texture to the style questionnaire I had asked them to respond. Some left little notes (that I should have kept and photographed!) as a general point, or even about every item! "Love this but never wear it (?)" "My favorite piece for a while now too tight" "It fits, maybe reclaim if you tell me how?" And my favorite: "WHAT WAS I THINKING???"
Second, the event was by invitation only and capped. The group of women set the kind of clothes brought to the swap. Swappers were thankful for the opportunity to purge their closets and were happy to bring high quality items to another's life, in hopes of sharing sparkle and style with the other participants (I mean sparkle both literally and symbolically!)
Capping the event allowed room for everyone to wander comfortably among the racks, try on different pieces, go have a plate of food, chat with the other wonderful women --- and network as well! No one had to elbow anyone, no one had to waste time digging into a pile of wrinkled and uncertain pieces, no one had to kneel to discover there was only back pain after the endeavor.
There were really "good grabs" (brands included Theory, Ann Taylor, Jill, Nicole Miller, Ittierre, Diane Von Furstenberg, Ronen Chen, Custo, Anthropologie, and pieces in cashmere and leather) and more than enough for everyone given the generous amount of items brought to the event!!!
Third, the purpose of the styled clothes swap was also to give real advice on what clothes to choose according to one's own style, body shape and skin undertone, and guidelines to avoid the temptation to grab items that will end up alone and bored in the back of the closet. Because if you know that pastel colors do not look good on you, and try to convince yourself that you can wear that Tory Burch dress with a bright scarf and a stylish jacket, the truth is you are not going to wear it. And I would add: WHY WOULD YOU CARE if in any case it would be all covered up.
Everyone got real style advice on pieces they were trying on, and I offered suggestions of clothes they would have never "encountered."
I am sure you want to see pictures of looks. Bad news is that I was so involved and busy giving style advice that I didn't think so much about taking pictures!!!! (The ones on this blog were sent to me by swappers... Thank you swappers!).
But the good news is that everyone left with a refreshed wardrobe they will wear, and they were so happy with the experience. And in this respect, the event was a total success... I am very proud of the swappers for having embraced the message and the tips for getting the styles, colors and sizes that look good on them now.
And all the unclaimed pieces were donated (10 bags of clothes!). Such a great feeling all around!
I am glad to say that swappers are very happy wearing their newly acquired clothes. So they reported after the event...
They also told me how wonderful it was to meet other great women, connect, exchange, potentially collaborate or socialize. They want to host another one soon! Such a great way for women to celebrate women in a fun, practical and socially-conscious way!
So looking forward to the next clothes swap. Wanna host?
I would love to hear your comments about clothes swaps!