Save Money with a Women's Clothing Exchange Party

Recession Chic

At the Women's Clothing Exchange last September
At the Women's Clothing Exchange last September

New Clothes for Nothing

Several women I know have money troubles, and the first thing they give up on if they are clothes-conscious is buying clothes and accessories at retail. Yet in this depressed economy thrift shops are so picked-over they offer only shoddy or eccentric merchandise. At a consignment shop you can end up spending $35 on a designer blouse or $75 on a used Lilly Pulitzer dress, and for some that might be okay, but consignment-shop merchandise skews mainly toward prom dresses, cocktail dresses, or size-0 jumpsuits that most women can't wear.

So my friend called and asked if I could commit to coming to a women's clothing exchange on a Saturday in September. Everyone invited was asked to dig in her closets for clothes that no longer fit or that they never wore, and bring them to her house, and we could all sort through each other's castoffs and maybe find something we liked and could use.

So the date was set. My friend invited women of all ages and sizes for the maximum amount of selection. Be sure you invite statuesque women along with the Skinny Minnies. Encourage participants to also bring specialty clothing such as workout clothing or sleepwear, and accessories: shoes, slippers, scarves, belts, hats, purses, costume jewelry.

My friend found some clothing racks and tried to organize all the dresses on one of them, sweaters on another -- but when 20 women got there with shopping bags full of unwanted clothes and hung up what they brought, the racks got packed and clothes overflowed onto beds in the bedrooms and hung on hangers from every doorknob.

What my friend required and did that made the Women's Clothing Exchange a success:

  • Participants had to bring clothes in order to take clothes.
  • All clothes had to be in wearable condition.
  • Adult women's clothes only. Only adult female participants were allowed,
  • Everything was free.
  • She put full-length mirrors in each room.
  • She urged us all to wear leotards or full-cut undies so we wouldn't feel self-conscious while trying things on.
  • She temporarily sent her husband out to do something else,
  • She gathered all the women and told them the rules and only then rang the bell that began the exchange.
  • She had refreshments (oreos and margaritas) downstairs.

We pawed through everything. When we tried things on, we could instantly ask for and get others' opinions as to looks and fit. I picked up a fur scarf that belonged to a good friend who no longer wore fur, and a brand-new t-shirt decorated with hummingbirds that somebody probably thought too corny for them. I got two red leather belts, some brown silk lounge pants everybody loves, silk scarves, a cobalt-blue stretch velvet cocktail dress, yoga pants and tops from a lady who gave up yoga,and a pair of jeans that seemed made for my body. A woman thinner than I got my prized pink cashmere sweater that I had outgrown. A woman who had cut her long hair got rid of her collection of scrunchies and classy hair ornaments.

We had fun and all went home to fill our now-spacious closets with fresh and interesting clothes, feeling good about not having spent a penny.

Although we each left with bags and bags of "new" items, hundreds of pounds of clothes were left over. The hostess gave the very nice leftover coats and designer dresses to a consignment shop so she could make some money, and carted the rest of the leftover items to the local Goodwill.

Try this if you are short on cash and need to correct your wardrobe for size or style or if you want to change your usual style! You can also make some good friends.

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