I hosted an accessory swapping party yesterday and now have a box full of new gems. My friends and I had a lot of fun relaxing with tea and browsing each other’s pre-loved treasures. That is the way to swap! The experience couldn’t have contrasted more starkly with my recent trip to The Big Swish clothes swap I attended last month with my good friend Charlotte.
I was thrilled to be popping my swapping cherry. The day before the swap, I carefully picked good condition and season-relevant items and made sure that they were clean, ironed and wrapped in tissue paper. I smiled as I imagined how pleased the organisers would be when I unwrapped the packages. As I was leaving, I decided to add a pretty Marc by Marc Jacobs summer dress to my bundle on whim.
The event was being held at the sexy Amika nightclub in Kensington; the high polished black tiles and sparkly fairy lights did nothing to quell my excitement. First stop: check-in. I proudly plucked my packages out of my bag and passed them to the clothes inspectors. The tissue paper was ripped off of the clothes and chucked on the floor. I pouted. After a very brief inspection for obvious damage and to make sure the clothes were not too basic (no vests or plain tee shirts allowed), they were added to the top of a towering heap. I pouted again. I didn’t get any coos for the Whistles but I did get a special stamp on my swapping card for the Marc Jacbs which granted me access to the designer section .
To kill some time while the clothes were hung on rails, Charlotte and I sat down in the bar at the back with our usuals (a G&T for me and an Amaretto and Diet Coke for the lady). Raw Skin Food, an ethical, organic and vegan skin care company, were handing out complimentary cupcakes and giving back massages. My pout subsided! The bar was full of stylish and demure women reading novels and politely chatting about the weather. As the time approached 7:30, toes started to tap and eyes glanced at the clock. When the organisers started the countdown, all demureness gave way to a stiletto stampede!
Charlotte and I got sucked into the rush, shoulder-to-shoulder with the other women and piled through the door into the clothes room. Within the 10 seconds that it took for us to get to the front, half of the clothes were on the floor, having been considered and discarded by the first women to reach the rails. I was desperate to get to the designer rail but had no choice about the direction I moved in until the stampede separated me from Charlotte and deposited me at an empty plus size rail. By the time I had squeezed through the masses, the only “designer” item left was a canary yellow Lacoste teeshirt. Not happy. Still, no time to dwell on what there wasn’t; I had to get stuck in and find something. Everywhere I looked, women with arms full of clothes played tug-of-war with jumper sleeves through the rails. Wine glasses smashed and a voice over the speakers begged, “Please don’t hurt each other!” I frantically looked around for an opening so that I could get my hands on some clothes.
I grabbed a pair of white, wide leg trousers from Zara that still had the label on; “Score!” I thought, until I noticed that they were 2 sizes too big and had been on the wrong rail. I scrabbled around on the floor and filtered out the Billabong emblazoned teeshirts and frayed denim pedal pushers. Charlotte rushed past me. I lay my hands on a leopard print mohair cropped jumper and one hundred would-be outfits flashed through my mind. “That’s mine!” A savvy blonde squealed at me whilst pulling a sequined body con dress over her head. “Oh, I’m sorry”. Darn my British manners! I stepped up onto the stage for a birds eye view. It was 7:35 and the room was nearly empty. The best “swishers” had bags full of clothes at the checkouts and I had nothing! In my desperation I picked up the nearest item to me: a reasonably wearable yellow floral blouse. Hang on, I brought that blouse in with me! I kept it anyway in preference to going home empty handed.
As the crowds died down, I found Charlotte in the shoe section clutching a pair of size 3s that nobody else could fit into. She had also managed to pick up a few items of clothing which she was now peacefully contemplating. This seemed to be a good tactic; I noticed a group of 4 friends who were reviewing their hauls together in a huddle and discarding items that none of them wanted. I joined a few loitering vultures and snatched up a couple of rejected cardigans. I begged them with my eyes to toss the green velvet trousers and black tiered mini dress but they were wise and kept them.
Reluctant as I was to give up, the room was empty by 7:50. I took my blouse and the cardigans to the checkout and tried to ignore the sympathetic looks from the girl who checked my ticket. I felt embarrassed at my lack of grit but I’ve since read a review of the Big Swish by Ms Wanda who gave a similar report. This is not a clothes swap for the feint hearted! If you do decide to go to the next event (tickets on sale for Thursday 11th November at Big Wardrobe) then I implore you to only take clothes that would otherwise go to a charity shop. And sharpen your elbows!
Feature image pinched from Swishing Parties.