This series looks at ways to thrive despite the widespread pessimism threatening to pull us under during these tough economic times. My nuclear family has not escaped its tugs, so to beat the crisi blues I try to focus on what I’m grateful for and find cheap creative ways to keep life fun. Luckily one of the great things about Italy is how relatively inexpensive it can be to enjoy the dolce vita.
Not all my friends agree with me, but I think Florence is a shopping paradise. At least, it was back when I had the cash for it. Now that I’m watching every penny it’s fairly tortuous to walk through the centro, especially during saldi season (which, probably because of the financial crisis, is now better and longer-lasting than ever before).
Thank goddess, then, for clothing swaps, which take the sting out of my forced frugality. About a year and a half ago my women friends and I began this ritual that is still going strong. Each cambio di stagione we refresh our wardrobes by ridding ourselves of any pieces unworn during the previous season in exchange for each other’s castoffs. This summer’s edition supplied me with so many fun new pieces for the office I really felt like I’d gone on a shopping spree, and all for free.
Clothing swaps are especially rewarding when it comes to pieces you haven’t worn in years but just can’t bear to donate to charity. How gratifying it is to imagine them enjoying a second life with a good friend rather than a random stranger. You’d be surprised how much you have to offer. I’ve often worried I had nothing left before managing to tease out several new pieces. It usually evens out over several swaps: you might bring twice as much as the others for one and then have far less for another.
Variations in body type and size are never a major issue either. Maybe one woman* likes wearing her clothes looser or tighter than others, or one has lost weight and can fit into a slimmer woman’s second-hand threads, or one woman’s maternity clothes fit a curvier friend perfectly, etc. Plus, don’t forget: accessories are usually one-size-fits-all. There always seems to be something for everyone. And it’s guaranteed for a good laugh.
Here are some tips for how to throw a clothing swap based on our experience:
- Combine it with a potluck meal that you eat before the swap begins.
- Have a minimum of five or six participants.
- Prepare a place to put the clothes once they’ve been presented and a full-length mirror for trying them on.
- Put everyone’s name in a hat and draw to see who presents her pieces first. Then present in clockwise order around the room.
- Presenters should try to come up with a story for one piece before briefly presenting the rest.
- Try to keep similar pieces together once they’ve been presented, e.g. pants, skirts, tops, dresses, accessories, coats, boots/shoes.
- After everyone has presented, draw a name for the first woman to choose a piece to take home. She can try pieces on but can only choose one. Then she draws a name for the next woman and so on.
- When two or more women want the same piece, you can “break the tie” in various ways – drawing names, going by whoever’s birthday comes next, etc.
- After each woman has chosen one favourite piece, it’s free for all!
- Set aside any remaining pieces for the next swap or donate them to charity.
*Feel free to exchange this with any gender here and throughout.