the Power of the Clothing Swap

On my way to the clothing swap that sometimes takes place among friends at Vela Massage retreat, I was noticing how excited I was at the prospect of throwing bags of stuff I no longer wore, liked, fit into, onto the floor.  To watch a bunch of ladies paw through the piles exclaiming, MJ bumping out of the sound system, everyone a glass of wine in hand.

My friend Dave Doane once said to me: “I wish I could come back a girl.”

“really?” I laughed, Dave being one of the more guyguys I know.

“yeah,” said very matter-of-factly, “girls are so nice to each other, they get to hug, and they always tell each other how great they look.  I totally wish I was a girl.”

Dave is right.

At a clothing swap everyone brings something yummy to eat and the things in their wardrobe that they no longer need. I always feel a great opportunity to let go, to invite in the new.   For a while i would show up with 2 bags and leave with two bags of stuff.  But now I make sure I bring 4 bags and leave with 2.  Cut my stuff in half.  It really is such a great feeling to get a new wardrobe for free.

I got two chocolate brown tee shirts, a charcoal blue hoodie, an acid green sweater, a soft leather handbag, a pair of tsubo tennies, 3 pairs of jeans,  a pair of orange yoga pants, two tank tops, a pair of white pinstripe slacks and some shit hot black pinstripe slacks that make my ass look like J-Lo’s.

My friend Denay and I are are so similar ( firey leo, artsy, free thinking, mommies) that often I would see something and say : “Ooh, Denay this looks like it would be great on you,” and she’d say “I brought that.”  We often put something on to discover that the other was the original owner.

So you get there, distribute your stuff according to the signs posted for “skirts”, “shoes, dig in for a while and try things on then you hang back, drink and eat and watch.  Because everyone is in the looking mode, there is a shared running commentary, “wow, that fits you great, I love that color, what is this made of, are you taking that?”

Dave is right, men don’t have any equivalent to this awesome experience.  There is no sharing in this way, they sure as hell wouldn’t delight in getting down to their underwear to do it.  Women, on the other hand, get to chat and bond and dance around wearing a fake fur or a bad 80’s prom dress.

I have many times watched several women try on an article of clothing and for one reason or another reject it but when it finally meets its new owner everyone in the room turns around and nods in approval exclaiming, “oh, so that’s who is supposed to wear it.”

Denay put on a pair of high waisted purple corduroys saying, “See, it’s really important that you know how to dress yourself sexy. Otherwise, this is what happens.”

I started laughing.  “Right?” she said, “I mean these fit.  Technically.”  They made Denay’s hot mama body look like a 60 year old cafeteria worker.  Baggy and square through the legs, rounded through the hips with the waist coming almost all the way to her bra strap, we all had a good laugh at the pants’ expense.  Many tried on the purple cords through the night just to keep the laugh going.

Truth be told, there are some downsides. While the ideals of the clothing swap are kindness, letting go, sharing, having fun, we do live in a capitalist system and sometimes the importance we place on stuff creates friction.  I was at one swap where a woman hustled a gorgeous gambian dress out of me and more than once I have seen people get testy because someone accidently went through their pile.

Still, I love the principle of a clothing swap.  It’s like going shopping with 30 other women at a store where there is music and snacks and everything is free.   Thanks, Vela, for hosting an awesome experience.  Thanks Ladies, for your sense of fun and sharing and for your kickass style.


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