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Anna G. Larson, Published January 25 2013

Clothes encounters: Clothing swaps help women dress for less

FARGO – A new scarf could cost $40, or it could be free.

Fargo resident Hillary Stevens hosts clothing swaps at her apartment a few times each year and gains “new” items for free.

“Clothing swaps save money and help us get rid of clothing we don’t want,” Stevens says.

Stevens and her friends, who are in their 20s, bring unwanted clothing and accessories that are in wearable condition to exchange with each other at the swap. As hostess, Stevens usually divides the clothing and accessories into piles to make it easier for people to navigate. The women try on clothes, eat and talk.

“We get together and bond – it’s totally a bonding thing,” Stevens says.

Clothing swaps are trending nationwide for Americans aged 18 to 34, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek article.

San Francisco resident Suzanne Agasi is often credited with starting the clothing swap trend. Agasi is the founder and director of ClothingSwap.com and started hosting small clothing swaps in 1994. Today her swaps average 150-200 swappers and have been featured on the “Today” show and in The New York Times and Time Magazine, according to her website.

For many of Stevens’ friends, the swaps are a place to find transitional clothing. Some are recent graduates who need professional attire and others have changed sizes. At the swaps, the women can get the attire they need without spending any money, she says.

Stevens keeps a shopping bag in her closet and fills it as she finds items she no longer wants. Once her bag is full, she knows it’s time to host a swap.

Fargo resident Elizabeth Jost also hosted a clothing swap and plans to do it again because it was so successful.

“It was fun to get new stuff without going shopping,” she says.

One of Jost’s favorite parts of a swap is trying out clothing that she normally wouldn’t consider buying.

“There were some things that I never would think of buying for myself that I ended up really loving,” she says.

At her swap, everybody went home with something that was new to them, and not much was left over.

Stevens has had swaps with many leftover items, and she usually asks her friends to bring their unwanted clothes home with them or to a thrift store.

Both Jost and Stevens donate unwanted clothing at the end of a swap.

A successful swap doesn’t require much. Jost and Stevens share their tips for a fun, easy swap.


Stevens plans to donate to Dress for Success after the next swap.