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How to NOT shop in January: The Clothes Swap.


The clothes swap. I'm not denying the name carries a whiff of the 1970's. Or that it feels a little bit like car keys in a dish might be part of the equation. I took part in a clothes swap in the mid nineties at my sister Lisa's house. My memory serves me a huge pile of un-ironed clothes in the middle of the floor that was soon forgotten in favour of group bingeing of white wine and cigarettes, with possibly a finale of my sleeping on the sofa cushions under a selection of tea towels. (Those who are aware of Lisa Dawson these days may be surprised at this lack of overnight guest attention but in 1995 this was how she rolled). I am sure it was excellent fun, but a valid way to source new wardrobe additions it was not.

Enter the clothes swap 2023 . Same name, totally different animal. I recently took part in one and I am now fully converted- and losing in my own instagram poll this week to a 60% majority favouring wanting new things to buy hasn't deterred me from spreading the word (sorry 60% of you, i will be back with select shopping tips next week) So where to begin. The clothes swap circa 2023 is an insta friendly uplevelled affair: that promises multiple new wardrobe items, for the cost of a bottle of wine (some things dont change) a bagful of sartorial regrets and a free evening. It offers a night of bonding (in my case with excellent women but I feel the gender neutral swap absolutely needs to become a thing) with the adrenalin fix of a shopping spree, but none of the self loathing/depleted bank balance afterwards. That's even before we get onto the main point: that it's basically essential to start replacing our need for a fast fashion fix with alternatives that won't lead to destruction of the planet. ( A little heavy for a Sunday morning , but hey ho) And if none of that convinces, it's surely a good way to get out of your tracksuit/house on a freezing January evening. Here are ten clothes swapping related tips:


1. Consider your team. Think you need to gather a group the same dress size and with the same taste? Think again. The fun of a swap is that you try things you wouldn't usually, and a surprising number of things fit across sizes.


Only swapping with clones of yourself is not necessary


2. What to swap . Hanging in the wardrobe with tags? Love but your style has changed? Just never felt 'right'? These are all pieces your friends may fall over themselves for. There is no place for items at the end of their life or the sad recipient of a spilled glass of red wine.


3. Agree on the number of pieces. I'm talking roughly here. If everyone aims for a bag full/or a dozen pieces you enter on a level playing field and feel able to grab what you love without risk of being labelled a 'swapping hogger'.


Agree on what size your 'bags' are. I took this 'Everything' Alphabet bag that admittedly fits an entire wardrobe


4. Style it up Everything needs to be washed , ironed, on hangers and on rails, clothing in sections - These days the clothes swap should be an insta friendly eclectic boutique. If you're hosting get your gathered crew to hang up pieces when they arrive and start the swap once everyone is there. Make sure there are places to try on, and mirrors. ( Both essential)


5. Fill Wardrobe gaps - Think sensibly- will pieces go with what you already own? As you don't want as many things hanging unworn in your wardrobe as you had before.


Band tees are always a good decision. This Bowie one has been worn multiple times already


6. Step outside your comfort zone- On the other hand DO also try on pieces you wouldn't normally think to- the novelty of 'free' means you can experiment with styles you might not be ready to spend on.


7. Check out the brands New to you independent brands that people bring, even if nothing works for you on the night, could give you new ideas for future purchases.


8. Donate unswapped pieces This is the perfect opportunity to box up everything that isn't swapped and drop to a local women refuge, or have collected, already clean, ironed and ready to be of use.


Perfectly prepared donations to help someone who needs it


9. Take part in an organised swap If you dont want to organise yourself there are now tonnes of uplevelled swapping events happening across the country- look at event brite for ones near you.


10. Swap Online And finally If you'd rather keep things less personal, Vinted and Depop both offer the option to swap seller to seller.


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