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The concept of a clothes swap party is pretty simple: You get together with your friends and trade clothes you don’t need or want for ones you do, refreshing your wardrobe for free and reducing the need to buy new outfits every season. But this idea is also a powerful way to fight fast fashion. Clothes swaps are a more environmentally sustainable solution to the constant pressure to get the latest look and can help spread the word about reducing out consumption. More than 15 million tons of used textile waste is generated each year in the United States, and the amount has doubled over the last 20 years. An average American throws away approximately 80 pounds of used clothing per person. That’s a lot. Let’s stop doing that. 

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However, in order to pull off a clothes swap party successfully, you will need proper preparation and a couple of ground rules: 

  1. Invite your friends that have great clothes; aim for five or more people in total. OK, you can invite all of your friends, but make sure to include some people who you know are drowning in last season’s capsule collections and thrift shop finds that never fit quite right. You're going to need a decent pool of items to work with. It is also helpful if your friends are in a similar size range, as well as if everyone brings clothes, shoes and accessories that can be adjusted to fit people with different body types.

  2. Get some snacks. This home-made hummus is a great option, or basically anything you can eat with one hand while rifling clothes with the other. It’s going to be a long haul, and you’ll need sustenance (and possibly wine.)

  3. Set up the swap system. The simplest way is for each person to present the item they brought and explain any relevant information about the piece, for example if they wore it to a formal occasion, or if there is a trick with the zip. If only one other person wants it, then the handover takes place, but if two or more people are interested, the item goes into a pile for the second phase of the swap. This continues until everyone has presented their unwanted clothes.

  4. Phase Two is where it gets interesting. As a group of kind, but brutally honest, friends, you need to unanimously decide who gets which in demand piece. To do this, each person tries on the couple of pieces they want most, and the everybody else determines who that pile of clothing is destined for. If there is a particularly difficult decision, you may have to resort to bargaining one piece for another. (This idea adapted from TueNight).

  5. You and all your friends go home with new clothes you love and ethical brownie points. Win win! 

 Header image from Clueless, body image from Confessions of a Shopaholic

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Molly McLaughin is a writer who likes pizza, politics and poetry. In that order. She tweets at @mollysgmcl. 

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