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Confessions of a Clothing Swapper

‘Tis the season for shopping, right? Not anymore. But how about swapping? And I don’t mean bartering goods. I mean willingly laying your stuff on a table for anyone to pick up, and for you to do the same.

I was introduced to the art of swapping by veteran swap producer, Victoria C. Rowan, known to New Yorkers as writing coach extraordinaire and Creatrix-in-Chief of Ideasmyth (Victoria is up for a Daily Candy Sweetest Things 2008 Award – VOTE!). Victoria’s swaps are legendary, combining an endless stream of shoes, bags, jeans, dresses with great women and great fun. At my induction swap I gave away a pile of painful, pointy-toed shoes and nabbed a pair of size 10 rubber duck boots.

I went to my first swap of ’09 this past Sunday. But, before I share those photos, Victoria is here to inspire us all with invaluable trade secrets. Thanks, Victoria!

Victoria RowanI’m a native New Yorker who knows that fashion is fleeting, so why pay for it? Since I’ve remained the same size since high school, there’s little practical rationale for buying new clothes. What’s good for practicality, however, is bad for a girl’s inner fashion-lust. Swapping saves one from the fashion doldrums. And, swapping is shopping for free – WITH a guaranteed good karma booster shot! What more can a budget-conscious material girl hope for?

I hate shopping, I hate the fluorescent changing room lights, the guilty time away from more important things. It’s far more fun to combine ‘acquiring’ with quality girl time. And how nice to share clothes among your favorite folks, or friend-vetted friends?

Swapping is great for my closets: the methodical culling reconnects me with my full wardrobe and I start wearing a wider variety of my remaining clothing. Getting dressed starts to feel like I’m shopping in my own closet.

And, it’s amazing for my morale: swapping encourages me to LET GO. For whatever psychological reason, it’s easier for me to give away really great items when I know the end beneficiary. The hardest ones to admit to yourself they no longer fit or flatter – no matter how much you spent on them – those items usually find a happy home with a friend who’s thrilled.

After every swap I feel an emotional high, particularly from shedding things imbued with negative stories. When I give away clueless family gifts gone are the reminders that my family still, after all these years doesn’t understand my taste. Instead, I’m left with the relief of knowing I never again have to figure out how to wear things I never want to wear, under any circumstances, even at family reunions! When I give away terrible bridesmaid dresses, I also lose all the fury that I had with friends who chose styles that highlighted my worst physical features, and memories of how much fun we had together that weekend resurface. The joy that other women express – especially after releasing themselves from bad ex-mother-in-law or ex-boyfriend gifts – is sheer jubilation by proximity.

Some of my best swap scores: new rollerblades, the PERFECT cut pair of black business slacks, fantastically beautiful damask napkins, a slinky baby-blue and lace nightgown and a crimson crushed velvet turtleneck that is the most comfortable and sexiest thing in my wardrobe!

Ah, there are so many reasons to love swapping, the challenge is containing my enthusiasm to something of manageable length. To really grasp the swapping thrill, you’ll have to attend or throw one yourself!


  • Invite people a month in advance with weekly reminders to start combing through their homes (I have a SWAP bag I’m always adding to at the back of my closet.)
  • Encourage people to bring non-size centric things (fashion accessories, small-sized home decor items) so everyone will be able to go home with something
  • Only bring items you don’t want to see again or ever hope to make money on consignment. No money is exchanged
  • Swaps do not have to be equal exchanges of goods – anyone can take anything that fits or suits them. The golden rule is fairness – if one person already has lots of stuff, then someone with less should get the item in question
  • Come ready to try things on! And bring your stuff in a bag that you can use to bring home scored items


  • Clothes in good condition (no stains or holes)
  • Accessories like jewelry, bags, scarves, new-ish shoes
  • CDs, books, DVDs
  • Small home accessories: file racks, African masks, dishes, tablecloths, vases have all found happy homes from swaps of yore


Find a charity; the tax write-off goes to the schlepper and/or hostess. Last time my swap sent everything to a NYC women’s shelter. On previous ones, we’ve sent rejects to a village in Latin America. (Many charities, like Housing Works Thrift Shop, will give receipts for tax deductions which often can be of legitimately high amounts)

Happy swapping!

Victoria Rowan,

Maeve Richmond is the founder and head coach of Maeve's Method, a home organization system based in New York City. She specializes in parents & kids, couples, small space solutions, space planning and decorative elements for the home. Contact her at or @MaeveRichmond.

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