Vancouver on the Cheap: The Clothing Swap


If you were to create a Venn diagram where one circle was labeled “cheap” and the other labeled “awesome”, the middle point where they cross over could be labeled “Vancouver on the Cheap”. In other words, this is a weekly series on things to do and places to go in Vancouver that fall into that magical category of being both cheap and awesome.

Got a cheap-living tip you’d like to share? Send it in!

Want to know one of the best ways I know to get awesome clothes, not only for cheap but for free? Clothing swaps!

Not that long ago I was with a friend and she commented that I always so dress well despite always talking about how I don’t have any money.  My first response was some natural level of shame at the fact that I apparently talk about being poor all the time. My second response was to look at what I was wearing at the time. Turns out, every single item except the shoes had been procured at a clothing swap.

The idea is pretty simple: you and your friends go through your closets and pull out all the clothes that, by no fault of their own, haven’t seen the light of day in years. You know, the ones that you bought assuming they would fit one day, or that you were certain you would one day have the guts to wear in public. This is the right time to face the facts: you won’t ever have the guts to wear that top and if it fits weird now it will always fit weird. Take it to the swap. Then trade away.

My most recent clothing swap was held at a friend’s dance studio, and while there were only about 7 of us there, there were tons of clothes to choose from:

To keep it from becoming a frenzied free-for-all, here are a few ground rules:

  • Arrange the clothes by type – sweaters, pants, tanks, etc. It’s just easier that way.
  • Don’t forget accessories! Shoes, bags, jewelry, ties, whatever – bring it all.
  • There is a protocol!  This isn’t a hoard-fest and we weren’t born in barns, so when you find something you want hold up the thing you want for all to see and let everyone know you want to take it. If someone else wants it they get to try it on, and if you both still want it after that, you hold a fash-off.
  • Fash-off rules: Everyone who wants a particular item models it for the group and people vote on who “wore it best”. It sounds mean, but it doesn’t have to be, as the winner of a fash-off isn’t necessarily the hottest person but the person who makes the best case for ownership of the piece.
  • Clothing swaps don’t have to be just for girls, but for some reason boys seem to think they’re a weird idea.  I would suggest everyone be open-minded and give it a try.  Everyone loves free clothes!

There are big “official” swap-type events around the city where you pay cover and get tickets in exchange for every item you bring and everything gets vetted to make sure it’s stylish enough. I’m sure those are fun, but they also sound like a lot of work. I will advocate for a DIY clothing swap any day.  All it takes is a group email and a room big enough to you and all your rejected clothing.

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