What if you could do your spring cleaning, score some new duds, give to charity and meet some new friends, all for less than the price of an Old Navy tee-shirt? You can, at a clothing swap. West Coast transplants may remember clothing swaps, called Naked Lady Parties in some circles, as free-for-alls where you rifle through a huge pile of thrift store castoffs and go home with a polyester shirt your friend used to love. Leave it to New Yorkers to up the humble clothing swap’s profile.
There are a number of organizations that hold regular swaps around Brooklyn and Manhattan. The set-up is simple: You show up with clean, non-damaged clothing (and often accessories), hand them over to the event organizer, and then take as many items as you wish. Leftover clothing is given to local charities. Some groups have a tighter focus, a cover charge or cocktails, but they’re all very low cost ways to give your wardrobe a boost.
It takes a certain amount of trust to run a successful group, so free memberships and an RSVP system are the norm for most swaps that meet regularly. New members are always welcome, it’s just essential to make sure that participants bring clean items in good repair to donate. The Thrift Collective, a group that meets about once a month, manages to be fancy without being intimidating or pretentious. Organizer Fabienne Viola find a space and provides clothing racks, snacks and a wine or cocktail deal. It’s like shopping at a really great vintage store without racking up a bill. Thrift Collective meets next in May, and the best way to stay on top of their co-ed and ladies only events is to follow their Facebook page. Viola’s best score at a swap? “The first one I ever held I found a Versace dress. I was like, “What?'” She doesn’t promise the same results for every first-timer, but chances are good you’ll find at least one new item you love.
Five Boroughs Clothing Swap is a Meetup group that convenes once a month to freshen each others’ wardrobes without stressing their wallets, or the environment. Organizer Loren Silber says that the members of her group, “Believe in recycling, not wasting, and they’re definitely not into disposable fashion.” There are more women than men in the group, but she emphasizes that they have a wide range of ages and sizes, so no one should worry that there won’t be anything for them to bring home. You have to sign up to join, and they don’t reveal the location of their swaps to non-members, although she did tell us that next month’s event will be held in Brooklyn.
Silber’s best find? “I got this black and white wool dress this year that is very Mad Men and I’ve worn it a lot.” She’s also started a smaller group that meets once a season to swap higher end items.
There are two swaps in Brooklyn this week. On Thursday, March 25, Brooklyn Events is holding a spring cleaning swap, in Park Slope from 7 to 10 p.m., for $5. This swap is more dude-friendly than most, as it includes not just clothes but also books, records, and electronics–anything you want to get out of your apartment and into someone else’s. Leftovers will be donated to the Salvation Army. On Saturday, March 27 from 10 to 5, the Prospect Heights children’s store Nairobi’s Backpack is hosting a clothing exchange for ages 0 to 7. It’s free if you bring clean, unstained items to swap and there will be refreshments. Anything left behind will be donated to a Haitian relief effort and to a local non-profit for children and families.