Frock swaps: A new take on old clothing
From designer wear to accessories, people are exchanging goods in a bid to reduce and reuse
By Karen Gram, Vancouver Sun July 6, 2010
Gillian Maxwell rifles through her closet, listing all the items she has scored at the clothing swaps she attends with her friends. There's a suit with lace at the cuffs and hem, two skirts, a jacket, a shirt, another shirt, a white dress, a shirtwaist dress. "Oh, and I really like this dress; it's got a slightly dropped waist."
Her drawers are also filled with items that came from the annual swap.
"It is wonderful," she said. "We have an incredible time, and it is a great way to get rid of all our old stuff and pick up new stuff."
A new culture is gathering steam in the region as a weakened economy merges with people's growing desires to reduce, reuse and recycle. It's a culture of mostly women who willingly strip down to their underwear en masse and try on each other's clothes. What they like, they keep. The rest goes to charities.
Maxwell's group -- which started 15 years ago with three friends now in their 40s and 50s who each invited seven others -- is one of the early pioneers of friend-based swaps. They have found a formula that works perfectly for them, said Landon Mackenzie, one of the original three.
They limit the group to a maximum of 20 women, they ask them all to show up at the start of the swap, to participate fully and to bring as many items of clothing, bed linens, books, jewelry and accessories as they want to be rid of. Everything must be clean and in good shape. It should be stuff they have loved but don't wear or use.
"You are inviting people to part with the shoes they wore once and paid far too much for, knowing someone else will have size 8 feet and just love them," said Mackenzie, a renowned Canadian artist. They rotate homes and everyone brings finger food.
"You get so much good stuff. My sister and I say we pretty much live off the clothing swap as a great place to get new clothes and get rid of clothes," said Mackenzie, adding that the women in her group all encourage each other to try on clothes they wouldn't have thought to try.
Marjolyn Ustaris and Danielle Ow have struck on another type of swap. They have limits, but rather than limit the number of women involved, they limit the number of items up for trading. Both fashion-industry types in their 20s, they are forever buying new clothes, wearing them once and then rejecting them. Instead of sending them to closet purgatory, they decided to try swapping.
"I think everyone is on the boat of sustainable living and making sure things don't go to waste and reusing and recycling," said Ow. "That is where we want to go as well."
They posted their frock swap online ( http://www.oncelovedthreads.com/the-frock-swap.html
and asked interested women to register and drop off their items the day before the swap. Their most recent swap, last May, drew 170 registrations and about 100 participated. Swappers can bring no more than 15 items, and Ow and Ustaris inspect each piece. If you bring 10 items, you can take away 10 new pieces. In August, they plan to host a jock swap for men.
"We have people dropping off name-brand items like Betsey Johnson or Cheap Monday jeans," she said, adding they also get great vintage and current stuff bought at stores such as H&M.
"Good vintage pieces are swapped pretty fast because people notice them right away."
Lisa Bastien of Coquitlam started out swapping individually with women she connected with online.
"Then I started thinking, if I was in this position, I am sure others are, too," she said, explaining why she set up a Tri-Cities clothing swap group within Meetup. com. "I created the initial group, and people can add themselves to it. From there, we can do these little meet-up swaps or you can trade clothes or auction things off or purchase them if you want."
While Bastien's group is just months old, she already has plenty of reasons to swap with her group: Jeans worth $200, Burberry sunglasses, Coach bags.
"I have a baby, and it means that the money I would have been spending on frivolous stuff, I can keep for her and still gain the things I am looking for."
Maxwell also loves the trading the event is what is most special.
"It's like a high that goes on for hours afterward, and it's not about the new pants or whatever I got. It's just the experience; it has a really nice energy to it."
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/Frock+swaps ... z0uSDYWWuT