Q for You: Want to have a worldwide clothing swap?

Want to have a clothing swap?

I’m planning to kick off Slow Fashion October this year on September 29th, since the 1st of October falls on the weekend — and somehow that’s this Friday! I know a lot of you have already been thinking about projects, goals or challenges for yourselves, and I look forward to hearing them as we approach the starting line next week, but I’ve also been mulling the notion of organizing some sort of worldwide clothing swap, and my Q for You today is: Do you want to swap — and/or host or help?

I’ve never hosted a clothing swap (so hey, why not attempt a worldwide one?!) but there are two basic possibilities—

ONLINE: I know lots of people use Instagram for swaps and sales in various ways — either posting on their regular feed or creating a separate one for listings. Anyone who wants to could go about it however they like, or we could try to come up with some sort of standardized system that would help people find those who are listing stuff as available. (Maybe #SlotoberSwap hashtag, at least?) Thoughts?

IN PERSON: Likewise, I could just say “Hey, why not think about hosting a clothing swap!” and hope a bunch of people will do so. Or we could try to put together some sort of best-practices guidance and a calendar of events. I’m particularly interested in hearing from people with a shop or studio space where they’d be willing to host, and any thoughts on how to make it logistically manageable for people who are interested. (Does there need to be an RSVP and max # of people in attandance? Is it a free-for-all, or 1 “token” for each garment you bring, take turns picking …?)

Please share any and all tips and thoughts in the comments, below, and I’ll post a follow-up with an action plan if one takes shape in the conversation. And if anyone would like to volunteer to take charge of this initiative, please raise your hand!

Also, again, please consider donating workplace appropriate clothing to an organization like Dress for Success, or other very targeted donation opportunities where your clothes are most likely to be adopted, and not discarded. Anyone who knows of other great organizations with specific needs — especially any relating to all of the current disaster relief efforts — please share them below.

Also, Samantha of @agatheringofstitches is planning to organize a fabric swap, so follow her and be on the lookout for news on that.


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44 thoughts on “Q for You: Want to have a worldwide clothing swap?

  1. YES YES YES. I would definitely participate online and would attend in person, if there was one in my area. I have been whittling down my handknit collection for some time now, in a variety of ways (Instagram auctions for charity, gifting to friends/family, swapping with other knitters, or outright selling on Ravelry) and I still have more items I’d like to pass on to others who will appreciate their handmade nature!

  2. I currently donate certain clothing to our community thrifts while other items, I sell on my own and give proceeds to my personal “pet charities” (HEaling the Children Inc.(So. NJ Branch), Volunteers in Medicine, Cape May County, local food bank, Brendan Borek Pediatric Childrens Fund/CHOP Phila Hospital). I am currently in need of a “tech wizard/social media maniac” — I AM LOCATED IN SOUTHERN NJ and EAST COAST OF FL — who can list items for me — already sell on Etsy (Feathered Star Vintage) but I can not list all I have! Willing to participate but need more info and if it comes down to listing my own, I already in this state! Any ideas would be appreciated ALL TO CHARITY especially with the needs from this active hurricane season.

    • That’s awesome that you do that, Diane — you get the room in your closet, someone who wants them gets the clothes, and the charities get the funds. Win/win/win

      • I used to do this with the mountains of books that publishers sent to me, unsolicited (typically via FedEX), when I had a books site. I’d sell them at a used book store in SF and send the cash anonymously to Project Open Hand. I figured something good should come of all that profligacy, and loved thinking about how mysterious it must have been to POH when envelopes would arrive with big wads of cash in them.

  3. Something for which I am eternally grateful for is that in my community there is a sort-of thrift shop where everything is free, all the time, aptly named “The Free Market”. It is open to anyone, totally anonymous, and run by volunteers. Sort of an ongoing informal clothing swap. I think it is great. Some of the people who access it are low-income, others are students, others are community members of all income brackets. I love that it takes the stigma away from thrift shopping without getting rich. I also love/hate that it is located just down the hall from my office. I can’t speak highly enough of it and encourage anyone with connections to consider starting something similar in their community. It is perfect. Check this out: https://opirgptbo.ca/free-market/ including the Free Market Manifesto Quilt…I have one of the extra squares hung up in my home, it says “Re-envision the world as you would like it to be” <3

  4. I live in Sewanee, TN where my husband is attending seminary graduate school. I am fortunate that I have a remote job full-time but a lot of the families are living on diminished income (full-time jobs aren’t easy to find and childcare is really expensive here). We do a clothing swap every year. It’s something the community really looks forward to because people struggle to make ends meet. Most people can’t shop or “treat themselves” while they or their partner is in seminary. Whatever clothes aren’t claimed by community members are organized and given to Blue Monarch (a residential recovery program that helps women and their children who are dealing with addiction, domestic violence, and economic hardship).

      • When we have our swap in November I will ask Blue Monarch about their needs and let you know what they say. In the past a seminary student has done a fellowship with them. Unfortunately it wasn’t picked up this semester after the last fellow graduated but we (the swap organizers) will be in touch with them when we have our swap.

  5. Is there an organization like Dress for Success for men? My retired husband has suits he never plans to wear again, and would love to donate them.

      • Don’t see a Suits for Success online, but there is a Career Gear (for men) that does what Dress for Success does for women. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction!

  6. Yes. I’d be interested in an online swap; I have a number of goodies stashed away that I’d be happy to see go to a good home. I imagine that recipients of swaps would pay for postage, yes? Because I live in Canada and postage is brutal; however, I am going to the States on October 6th and could, if I am organized enough, mail things from there.

    • Yeah, I would think most people would state that the “buyer” is responsible for the shipping costs. Or that they only want to ship domestically, or whatever anyone’s terms might be.

  7. My friend group is having their annual clothing swap next week, and I was just gathering clothes before I sat down and read this! They’ve been doing it for several years now, and every time there are still so many unwanted clothes at the end that a car load gets donated afterward. It’s always been free-for-all style and it works well, but it’s usually only a group of about 15-20 people. I think doing it token style would really change the mood/spirit of it, but I’m not sure how it would go with a larger/public event. At the end I usually go around again and take things that no one wanted to cut up for rag rugs and such. If it was token style I probably wouldn’t be able to do that.

    • The ones I’ve been invited to in the past were free-form like that, but unless there’s some limit on the number of people attending, it seems like it could get out of control fairly easily — in terms of mayhem and leftovers both.

  8. I’d be very interested in hosting a local in-person swap (though not sure of the logistics of tying such an event into your overarching swap–maybe just post it on Instagram and use a tag?). I’d also be interested in participating in an on-line swap because I have some clothing items that I think, anyway, are very lovely, are in good shape and I haven’t been able to give them away to friends here in Eugene and I think an on-line, international swap would widen the net. I do have a question about postage and the cost of packaging–do we all set up Paypal accounts so “buyers” can reimburse “sellers” or do we all do COD?

  9. I wonder what is wrong with your site. I could not just click on the “read more of this post” to bring it up. I finally found it on the internet. ????


  10. I love this idea! But then I am also thinking how can we do a world-wide closet swap eliminating waste in shipping/transportation/what if it does not work out scenarios…I have so many things that I either made or bought before I have a clear idea about how I want my closets to look like and having trouble to find a new home for them. So I totally support this idea! I live in a place that doing a local closet swap with the similar-minded community is basically impossible. But I also want to be more conscious if we do it internationally. Basically I have no answers to my own question… I love the idea but don’t know how we can do it in a way that the benefit from it will outweigh the potential environmental impact it may create.

  11. I would like to mention the Uplift project – upliftbras.org -an organisation that collects used bras to send to women who do not have easy access to them, mostly Pacific Islands, but other countries too. Maternity, mastectomy and larger sizes are particularly needed. Swim wear and new underwear are also accepted. The website has more details, and where to donate for countries worldwide.

  12. In Christchurch, New Zealand there is a local social enterprise called Saikuru that run a monthly clothing swap with a Slow Fashion education focus. I donate to them when I can but usually have a few friends who I offer stuff to first.
    Facebook can also be very effective if you want to keep it more local. It’s quite easy to just post items on FB for free to your immediate network. Also, Freecycle.org is fantastic too. I’m not sure if they are in the US or not, but worth investigating.

  13. Let’s do it! Perhaps a personalized Google Map with location of swaps? Folks could add City/State/Country and email address to maintain privacy if they were hosting from home. I’m on the last leg of a round the country road trip back to the Bay Area, but could host a small swap at the end of Slotober aboard my sailboat. If you like this idea, I’m happy to lend my organizational skills to admin! ashley dot gremel @ gmail dot com.

  14. I’d love to do an online swap! I recently moved from the States to the Republic of Georgia, and shipping here isn’t cheap – but if this becomes REALLY worldwide I have a few pieces that need good homes :)

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