January Goal: Clothing Swap - How Green is It?

I wrote my January wardrobe sustainability goal as:

January:  Attend a swap (bring clothes but be moderate and selective with takes)
My thoughts about the sustainability of swaps are at the end of this post.  But to start off - here's how I did at the swap. 

I brought:  2 pairs of Vivienne Westwood for Melissa shoes, 4-5 skirts, a faux fur jacket, some sparkly makeup from the Vegan Cuts Beauty Box subscription, a gingham dress, 2 striped shirts that weren't the right fit for me and 3 scarves I never wear.

TOTAL:  I brought 9 articles of clothing, 3 accessories, 2 pair of shoes and 4 pieces of makeup.

I ended up with:

TOTAL:  6 articles of clothing, 1 accessory and 3 pieces of makeup.  Details below.  The swap was all vegan ladies and 99% of the swap stuff was vegan.

this black & white print cardigan in the outfit below:

cardigan collage
cardigan/friends' clothing swap
shirt/American Apparel
snake necklace/sweatshop, years old
pants/Dusty Rose Vintage buy the bag
tote/organic cotton Baggu, "ethically" made in china
boots/org cotton boots with re-tread tire soles
glasses/LA Eyeworks, made in Italy

this snake ring:

photo 2.JPG 

this dress and black leggings:


these 2 henleys:


a knit cap: 


...and a black cotton tank top, and 2 blushes along with 1 bronzer.  And, okay, a long black Ann Taylor duster-length one-button jacket that I originally liked for its '90s minimalist appeal but I've already decided to re-home it.

How did I do with being mindful of my participation in a clothing swap?

1)  I brought more than I took.  I came home with 3 articles of clothing, 2 accessories, 2 pair of shoes and 1 piece of makeup LESS than I showed up with. 

2) I brought things I thought would match the group, not just things I wanted to unload. I did this so there wouldn't be a ton left over for the host to bring to a thrift store.  

I like to try to match unwanted goods with where they will more likely be sought and purchased so there is less chance it has of being shipped overseas.  For instance, I know Beacon's Closet is likely to buy and sell certain pieces (costume-y vintage or Urban Outfitters-like pieces).  I know Two Lovers is likely to take more professional pieces.  Some of the things I'm not sure about can go to Goodwill.  And some things really should just go directly to textile recycling - Do Not Pass Go.  

Getting things to their appropriate places is an important part of ethical wardrobes (I'll post more about that for my February Ethical Wardrobe goal).  Since I don't like to have a "one size fits all" recipient for clothing donations, I try to not bring an overwhelming amount of clothes at swaps where I know that's the outcome for unwanted clothing.  Granted, I could just take back the things I think might belong elsewhere if they are unwanted and sometimes I do.  (Knowing whether your stuff is finding a home depends on the type of swap you're attending.)  But I think bringing the "right" amount is best.

3) I took only things I felt I'd really wear and that matched some of my style types. Except that coat.  (That coat!  None of my friends liked it but I insisted on taking it.  Why I couldn't let that be the sign I needed, I'll never know.)  

The things I love most are:  the snake ring, dress and knit cap.  The basics I'm happy to have are:  the black leggings and black tank top.  The two henleys are neutral/stripes and will work well as winter layers under things - I ended up with them after someone else tried them on and they didn't fit.  So, in all honesty, I could have left with just the ring, dress and cap and been happy.  3 things!  But I felt like I'd use the other things - and they might just end up at Goodwill anyway if I didn't take them.  (And then who knows from there.)  My bleeding heart greenie brain doesn't let me leave things behind I think there's a chance I'll use them.

What I think about clothing swaps and how they intersect with ethical wardrobes and sustainable fashion:  

I still think re-using clothing that currently exists is an important part of an ethical wardrobe (and it is so much less stigmatized today than it was 10 years ago) but how we deal with our discarded clothing still has some pitfalls.  

What do you think about swaps as a method for dealing with unwanted clothes and acquiring new clothes?


  1. Wow, you're inspiring and I wish I'd been there to scoop up your glittery makeup. I still feel like I'm struggling to build my wardrobe, so I don't have the same feelings about bringing clothes home, but I definitely love the feeling of bringing clothes to a swap to unload them. Usually my stuff is sorta worn out so usually goes in the donation pile, but it still feels good to get rid of stuff I know i'll never wear or use.

  2. Oh my gosh! I love that dress! We do swaps a couple times a year and most of the time these days I leave with less than I came with. My favorite piece from the last swap was a grey sweatshirt ;) I was shocked as well. Our swaps often have women of all ages, which I love, because you get really unexpected things. We have a lot of ways to get rid of clothes, the thriftstore, take-it-or-leave-it at our county dump, but I love the personal aspect of swaps.

  3. I call your clothes swap a success, that ring is especially gorgeous but all the items are nice. I like clothes swaps I have decided, part of it is down to the fact that like you I want my clothes to go to appropriate places (looking forward to your February blog on this, I am planning mine for later in the year) and I also liked the "feel" of clothes swaps, it was a nice atmosphere to be in and I agree with Milla above about the personal aspects.
    I have to be careful to not do the whole 'oh, I don't mind that' school of thought that I sometimes slip back into but as I sit here typing this in my swished cardigan I have to say on the whole I like clothes swaps!

  4. (First of all, I'm envious that you know enough vegans to have a whole clothing swap...I only have 2 vegan friends and one lives across the country, in Brooklyn of course ;) Anyway, I've been to a few clothing swaps. One was in a warehouse-type space, and was totally unproductive because everyone fell upon the clothes like a pack of hyenas and it was impossible to get a good look at anything. I've also done a few swaps with a small group of friends, and found it was a GREAT place for me to get basics. I've gotten some jeans, some black dresses, and a black sweater that I wear often. (I rarely buy basics for myself because they don't "jump out at me" from the shelf.)

    As a former sorta-hoarder and now aspiring minimalist, I have a lot of stuff I want to rehome, but experience a lot of confusion about the most appropriate place for it. (So, I can relate to that.) I've done Freecycle, but it's extremely time-consuming. I organize a Really Really Free Market in the town where I live, and last time we did it, I filled an entire pickup truck with things people had left behind, mostly clothes. People aren't supposed to "dump" stuff, but I think because we were in an indoor location instead of a park, they thought it was more okay. Anyway, the fact that I had to take so much stuff (maybe half of it crap) to the thrift store was pretty discouraging. It's amazing to me the kind of random doodads that people will take at the market and be excited about. So, it's good that those things are finding homes, when they'd probably otherwise be thrown away. But I don't know how to get people to see it as an "alternative economy experiment" rather than just a way to get rid of stuff, which makes me wonder if the thing is worth my time. I guess that's another story...

  5. Hi Jesse! Great post! Love that cute little dress! I would love to host or go to one of these clothing swaps (like Jean does) but at 115 lbs, all my friends are "bigger" than me. *sigh*

    I've given you a shout out on my blog (listing you as one of my favorite blogs!)


    Hope to come to NYC again someday!

    ♥ carmen

  6. The only swap I've gone to was the big Swap aholics one - I volunteered to organize on a tip that you'd get to see all the goods first. I brought LOTS of things and when we started to unload what other people brought, I was surprised at how much garbage others had brought!! Dirty clothes, inappropriate shit that no one would want for free. I was so sad. I'd brought nice stuff hoping others would too,and just didn't work out that way. I was also saddened at how grabby people became. This was two years ago though...not sure if it's like that anymore or in other cities. I brought home like 9 or 10 things, 2 of which were unwearable upon inspection (bad stains and broken zippers womp womp). I think doing the small thing is the way to go! Gotta figure out one with some friends soon.


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