With the rise in awareness over the financial and environmental cost of fashion in the 21st century has come a simple but brilliant concept- swishing. What started as an idea in the UK in 2007 has spread globally, with women worldwide helping to organise chances to meet and swap clothes, saving money and reducing some seriously overflowing wardrobes out there. On a very rainy March evening, I attended my first official “Swishing Party” at Swansea’s Environment Centre to see if Swishing lived up to everything that I’d heard.
I’m no stranger to second hand clothes. In fact, I have a few friends who regularly approach me telling me they’re having a clear out and, knowing my penchant for the occasional bargain, ask if I’d like to buy anything before the rest gets put on ebay or shipped off to a charity shop. Still, I had a lot of question in my mind about the event, not least whether I’d find anything that I liked, and even if clothes I’d brought along would be deemed “good enough” for swapping!
The clothing in question that was folded up in my bag, hangers and all, included:
a bottle green velvet blazer
a grey, empire line dress
a pair of grey corduroy trousers, a little frayed at the bottom
a green, ankle length summer skirt
a navy blue vest top
After paying a small entrance fee and entering the Environment Centre, I picked up a copy of their monthly newsletter “Green Light” which, advertising the Swishing event, told me the following facts:
The average household owns around £4000 worth of clothes
I knew that, living alone, the worth of my clothes would be far less than the average, but imagining the majority of UK households with so many garments piled up made me realize just how much of an impact our clothes buying habits can have upon our own finances and on a wider scale.
30% of clothing in wardrobes has not been worn for at least a year
Now this was a fact that hit home even harder. Plenty of clothes in my wardrobe haven’t seen the light of day in months, if not years, and I’ve never had the intention of wearing last year’s “accidental buys” just to clear my conscience. Fortunately, this is where the beauty of Swishing comes in, where women can make space in their wardrobes and rid themselves of those ill-fitting items without feeling like their money has been thrown down the drain.
The cost of unused clothing is around £30 billion
A staggering figure, and one that really got me thinking about what worthwhile things we could all be doing with these unwanted clothes!
After dropping off my clothes with some very friendly ladies, and a brief reception where I had a cup of tea, some delicious organic cake and quick browse of the recycled and eco products in the centre’s gift shop, I headed upstairs to the hall where the Swish was about to start.
Universally, Swishing has 5 golden rules, or “the rules of the rail” as they’re often called:
Everyone must bring at least one item of clothing in a good condition
There is half an hour to browse all clothes before the Swish opens
No items can be claimed until the Swish has opened
Once the Swish is open, everyone can take what they like
and- quite importantly when clothes are involved- no scratching, spitting or fighting! If an item is picked up by two women at once, the fairest way of deciding who gets it is usually to flip a coin
Browsing clothes was made easy by the organisers who had hurriedly hung all items in size order. There was a great range of items from figure hugging work blouses to long, flowing cardigans and plenty of wardrobe classics like jeans and pencil skirts. There was even a small selection of shoes and a magpie nest’s worth of necklaces, earrings and other bits of jewellery.
As a size 8, there was a modest amount of clothes that would fit me, but it didn’t stop me mooching through the larger sizes. I usually find that the label size is just a rough guide and see nothing wrong in embracing the oversized look. A big part of shopping (or swapping) ethically is interpreting items how you wish, seeing how you can make the most of something that might not quite be perfect and looking beyond the mannequins and models to find something that looks good on you!
Another thing I enjoyed whilst walking amongst the rails was seeing other women pick up the items I’d brought and seeing their reactions. My long green skirt which had always been that bit too big for me was held up and admired a handful of times, and seeing a very pretty girl leave with my old, rarely worn green velvet blazer made me feel almost warm and fuzzy inside. It was an odd experience but felt good to not only free up some extra space but to know that other people were going to enjoy the clothes I no longer needed, without having to spend a penny.
I left the Swishing event with a basic purple hoodie (one of my favourite “essentials!”), a teal shirt (a little big but pretty, versatile and overall very wearable) and a grey Reiss cami top. A month on and I can say that I wear all 3 far more than any of the clothes I traded in, and I definitely appreciate that bit of extra space whilst knowing that my clothes have gone to a good home. Swishing is an idea that is gradually gaining popularity across the world and, while I can’t speak for every event, the outcome for individuals taking part is usually a good one. Of course, with Swishing, you certainly get out of it what you put in, and the more people taking part in the event, the greater the range of clothes will be. I’d like to think that in the future, Swishing will become more common amongst schools and universities where fashion tastes will be similar and relevant to that demographic.
Swishing is a brilliant alternative to buying new on the high street and can become a great remedy for all the impulsive and excessive shoppers out there. It can help us to reduce our consumption of new materials, reduce waste and make fashion a more friendly and sociable place. So why not try attending a Swishing party near you- your purse and the planet may thank you!