I do things with words, mainly English and Arabic
Once upon a time, swapping used clothes was the preserve of the skint, the sensibly frugal or the eco-hippy. Now, even Louise Redknapp is doing it (or at least getting other people to do it; wonder if she’ll be popping any of her designer gear into the mix?). A friend who mentioned clothes swaps on her twitter feed yesterday was swooped upon and invited to a glossy looking affair at Dukes 92 in Castlefield, to be presided over by the aforementioned pop starlet/WAG.
Of course, anything which gets fashion-conscious women swapping used clothes instead of building up credit card debts buying up the fruits of sweated labour, made from the earth’s dwindling natural resources, is a good thing. ‘Swishing‘ (weird word, don’t like it) has become increasingly fashionable ever since green became the new black – with the backing of eco-PR company Futerra it even landed coverage in various broadsheets and women’s glossies. The event at Dukes joins a number of other public clothes swap events which have taken place in Manchester over the years, at venues ranging from earnest health food cafe On the 8th Day (organised by sustainable living network AFSL), to one a good four or five years ago which, if memory serves me, took place at the glam city centre Circle Club and was hosted by Northern Quarter vintage boutique Rags To Bitches.
I’ve been holding clothes swap parties with a group of friends for the best part of a decade now. A gang of us – personnel changes slightly as friends come and go or depending on whose house we’re at this time – invite our mates round and pitch in. It has a lovely feeling of familiarity; some items of clothing get taken home by a chain of different people until someone finally falls in love with them. I’ve been to umpteen different parties where I’ve recognised an item of clothing on a friend, or vice versa. And, as a mate who was along last night noted, there’s a really supportive atmosphere – telling people with low confidence how great they look in something they wouldn’t normally pick, or gently letting people know when a garment really doesn’t suit them. And while it might sound like the selection of clothes could get very dull, changes in body shapes and sizes brought about by time and babies, or changes in career and taste which necessitate new styles and smartness, mean that there’s a good turnover.
Public clothes swap parties are a great idea – recycling, ethical ‘shopping’ and fun all in one. As with any example of the commodification of personal ideas by corporate entities, I can’t imagine that an event sponsored by a drinks company is going to mean anything like as much to its participants as our ten years’ of get-togethers do to us. But I hope that maybe it inspires some of the women heading to it to re-appropriate the form for themselves, and take the idea of swaps parties home with them along with some new clothes.