I am fortunate enough to work in an office of well-dressed women with very diverse styles. So when a member of the 9Lives team suggested a clothing exchange, I jumped at the opportunity. My fascination with all things second-hand had, at this point, been kept under wraps, due to the aforementioned stigma around thrifting, and so an office clothing exchange seemed like the ideal time to introduce my co-workers to the wondrous world of pre-loved clothing.
A clothing exchange is as simple as it sounds – every member participating brings a few (lightly or unworn) pieces of clothing which the rest of the team can sift through. It is recommended that there is a system in place where you can only take from someone’s pile if they’ve taken from yours, however we went in with the approach of an actual shopping trip.
As Tasha and Leandra explains, there was immense value in the experience:
As much as I love a bargain, our at-work clothes-swap was the first time that I had “thrifted” before. This was even more of an oddity for me since we were swapping clothes, and although my sister and I have traded clothes over the years, this was a little different since my colleagues were involved.
What I loved about this experience was that I had the chance to clear out my cupboard a little and get rid of the things that I’ve either never worn or stopped wearing some time ago. Things that I felt a little guilty about every time they caught my eye.
At the same time I was able to pick up a couple “new” things that I would never have looked at twice had it been a different situation. It felt as though I had been shopping without actually having to spend money. And before you ask, yes, I have already worn some of the pieces.
Budget friendly alternatives for the win. Would totally recommend it.
As a very sentimental person, it is difficult for me to let go of the denim I wore to a fun concert, or the scarf that my uncle brought back from Thailand. Even at a second-hand store, I know that the pieces are too small to wear anymore, but how can I just drop off precious memories at a thrift shop?
Our office clothing exchange was a bit easier because firstly, I gave some of my favourite clothing away, but also received a few new favourites. Secondly, there is a part of me that is happy to know that the legacy of that favourite (now too tight) denim can live on with someone I know, rather than just a random stranger.
A clothing exchange is a fantastic way to dip your foot into the “thrifting” pool without feeling overwhelmed by options or spending any money whatsoever. The clothing swap also got me thinking about the new trend which celebrities like Joaquin Phoenix and Deborah Meaden adopted, where rewearing the same clothes as opposed to buying new is seen as a revolutionary step in the direction of sustainable fashion practises (because let’s face it, we are a far ways off). As Annie Lord highlights in her article, “How ‘not buying new clothes’ became the new buying clothes”, it’s easy to adopt this type of mindset as a type of moral signifier if your cupboards are lined with expensive, high-quality pieces that were meant to last months, if not years. Unfortunately, we are not yet at a place where our local, affordable shops (sustainably) design and manufacture high-quality items which are generic enough to be worn multiple times over.
The clothing exchange is therefore a way to “rewear” something which has been worn by someone you know, and who wouldn’t necessarily want to bring the most-worn item in their closet to a clothing exchange. It’s more like a system of trust – every member must bring something of the same quality which he/she would like to receive in return.
And if even if you walk away with nothing, at least you know your clothes have found a lovely new home (especially if you donate the items that weren’t picked up).
Have you taken part in a clothing exchange before? Let us know in the comments!