When you want to get pissed during the day in the city, you have a business meeting. When you want to get pissed during the day in my town, you have a clothes swap.
Clothes swaps are a bit like a big city business meeting, only with fewer wankers.
The currency in question at a clothes swap is, of course, clothing. Pre-loved, used, recycled, upcycled, second-hand — we have so many words for ‘old stuff’ now, don’t we?
If you think business people can be ruthless in their quest to obtain the object of their desire, you haven’t been to a clothes swap in my town. When there’s an item of attire we have our sights set on, look out.
I have a few friends who organise these high-powered events in their homes on a regular basis.
It works like this: we all turn up with garbage bags full of clothes we no longer wear, and dump them in a massive pile, which usually smells like various essential oils.
Then, we wander off to the kitchen to open the champers. We chat up a storm. Pour another drink.
Then — and I think this happens psychically — one person sneaks off to start quietly sorting through the clothes, and then BAM! we all dive in and it’s on for young and old.
We toss clothes in the air with the steely determination of a business exec about to close a deal, then swoop in on certain fabrics that catch our eye.
Going for the fabric is the only way you can identify something you might want to wear when it’s crumpled in a big pile, rather than hanging neatly on a rack in a store. You can’t see the cut of the garment, the brand or whether it’s a top, pants, a dress or big pair of undies until you fish it out.
Since the men folk usually avoid these gatherings, we just strip off in front of each other and try clothes on in a mad rush not to miss out on anything. The more Zen among us do this calmly, knowing that if we miss out on something, then the Universe will provide another, more perfect item.
I’m not one of those calm, trusting ones. I either go like a bat out of hell, or I give up and go and drink the champers.
At some point, a natural break occurs when the smokers duck outside for a ciggie and those of us in the kitchen smash some rice crackers and dip.
Then we dive on the pile again, rifling through the clothes and imagining tops and skirts and dresses on ourselves that we would never normally consider buying in a store.
We become more adventurous with our clothing choices, because hey: the clothes are free — what have we got to lose? And if it looked good on someone else once, may as well give it a burl.
At my last clothes swap, one of the women was checking out a new dress she’d just tried on, cocking her head from side to side with a tentative look on her face. Then it dawned on her: “Hey! Is this a skinny mirror?”
“Yeah, I love that mirror,” my friend called out from the verandah, without missing a beat.
And really, who doesn’t love a skinny mirror? There should be more of them. The whole world should be a skinny mirror.
I’ve left clothes swaps with absolutely nothing but a headache from too much champers. And I’ve left with stacks of clothes, and a headache from too much champers. Some of those clothes have become firm favourites; others have gone back into my ‘next clothes swap’ bag.
I dislike shopping in most clothes stores, so I look forward to clothes swaps. They’re such a cool way to catch up with friends, clear the dead wood from your wardrobe and take home some fun new clothes without spending a cent.
Even if they do smell like sandalwood and patchouli.