At the time of this writing there are millions of people in America that are forcibly frugal. The forcibly frugal often have no budget for clothes at all, but sometimes they still need to fill a gap in their wardrobes. Luckily there is a solution. Get together as many people as you can and hold a clothing exchange.
A clothing exchange is part of the gift economy. It starts when a person with some organizational skills decides to do it. They must call at several members of their extended community and get them to involve themselves. Someone should arrange a space to hold the exchange. It can be a private home, or a public building. Sometimes a congregation will allow a clothing exchange to be held in their church. Use your imagination. Just make sure it is big enough. And it is nice if there is space to change and a mirror, but that can be worked around.
If any of the organizers have clothing racks or other retail display equipment they should bring it. If not, try to get your hands on some as soon as possible if you intend to do this regularly. The more people that attend, the more successful the exchange will be. Try to invite people of many different sizes and shapes. That way no one will feel left out and the choices will be more interesting.
The rules are simple. Bring what you no longer want or need. Take what you do. If someone touches an item it is theirs till they relinquish it. Very simple. Don’t worry if you only have a small contribution. This is not barter. When the exchange is over the remains go to the goodwill. Of course sometimes, if another exchange is coming up and there is a storage space available, the clothes are kept to seed the next exchange.
There is no rule that the exchange must be limited to clothing. How about house wares, or books? Though many exchanges focus on women’s clothing, there are more co-ed exchanges happening every day, and more exchanges that feature other items as well as clothes.
It may not be Macy’s, but clothing exchanges are FUN. They are also much more community oriented then another alienating trip to the mall. You can find some wonderful things at an exchange. I once was at an exchange where a woman was looking for a suit for a job interview. This size two woman found a conservatively cut name brand blue suit that fit her perfectly. That has the mall beat in my book.
Here are some other takes on the exchange process. No doubt your community will form its own traditions.