Swap Meet

Clothing trades: How to make friends and shop without money

Before the choosing begins, the women each tell the history of the bag they have brought. "Funny things come out," Juhng said, like stories of thrift stores in the Midwest, shoplifting teen years, or well-meaning mothers-in-law who just didn't quite get it right. But when it's time for the picking, "it's a little like The Price is Right."

The Rejects

After all the swapping is done, the hostess should not let any leftovers accumulate in her apartment. Instead, bring them to the nearest Salvation Army or Goodwill, or choose another place to donate to. Juhng always brings extra purses to Housing Works—she even donated a Coach bag once, which was just a little too "straight" for the group.

"Your butt's too big for that necklace."
photo: Nina Lalli
"Your butt's too big for that necklace."

Olenik brings the leftovers to Bottomless Closet, an organization that helps New York women on public assistance find work by providing appropriate clothing, guidance on resumes, job interviews, and more.

If you can't shake the bartering itch, you can always bring clothing and accessories to Beacon's Closet, to receive store credit or cash in return. Call to find out what season they are buying for, and bring items that are in style, regardless of labels. Whatever they don't take, you can bring home or they will donate to a non-profit called Mr. Dominic's Mobile Ministry or an outreach program for abused women and children.

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