Increase Your Wardrobe — Without Spending Any Money {Developing a Women’s Clothing Exchange}

shirts

Written by Erin Odom, Contributing Writer

My family operates on a tight budget. And since having children, there hasn’t been much–if any–room in that budget for adding to mine or my husband’s wardrobe.

But just over a year ago I discovered a way to increase my wardrobe–without spending any money: a women’s clothing exchange. 

girls shopping

Image by agador

My Sister’s Closet

A local church where I attend a weekly Bible study has hosted a women’s clothing exchange called My Sister’s Closet for several years. Although I never would have voiced that I didn’t have the extra money for new clothes, the idea of the exchange excited me. It wasn’t a program for a certain income level. My Sister’s Closet is open to all women involved in the church’s women’s ministry–whether they be church members or Bible study attendees. 

And the atmosphere for the yearly event is like that of a girl’s night out with friends. Women bring clothing a few days before and volunteers sort and hang the clothing. There are three rooms of clothing (sizes small, medium and large) and one room full of accessories and shoes.

Each woman is allowed to choose a certain number of items–depending on the amount of donations. There are even dressing rooms, so the ladies can make sure the clothing fits before they take them home.

I was so humbled and grateful after the first time I participated in My Sister’s Closet. I was 9 months pregnant and felt very sure I wouldn’t be fitting into my pre-pregnancy clothing any time soon. Yet, I knew I would need some clothes for the in-between stage. I walked away from the night with designer jeans, sweaters, blouses, a dress, and even some maternity clothes for my newly-pregnant sister-in-law. 

dresses

Image by shellgrand

Starting Your Own Women’s Clothing Exchange

Are you intrigued by the idea of a women’s clothing exchange? Why not start your own?! You can form one with:

  • a group of friends
  • the women’s ministry at your church (or combine several local churches)
  • a mom’s group, or
  • even your co-workers!

While developing a program that will truly help you increase your wardrobe–without spending any money, keep these tips in mind:

1. Decide on participation requirements (if any).

Must participants donate clothes in order to receive them? If so, will you require a certain number of donations? Must participants be church/group members, or will you open the exchange to the public? Must participants serve volunteer hours in order to benefit from the event?

clothing rack

Image by theswedish

2. Secure a location.

If your church women’s ministry is hosting the event, then the logical location will be your church building. Other possible venues could be your workplace, a school gym, a community center or even at a participant’s home.

3. Organize the clothing and accessories.

Part of what made me feel so special was that My Sister’s Closet was very attractively organized. Donations weren’t just thrown together or scattered all over the floor like in a garage sale. Think about consignment shops or consignment sales.

Make each women feel as if she really is spending a day with friends shopping. My Sister’s Closet organizes the clothes according to size and season. Designate racks for dresses, skirts, blouses, pants, coats, maternity, pajamas, workout clothing, jeans, etc.

4. Provide a dressing room.

Since the clothing is free, there are no returns. There will only be so many clothes to go around, so ensure that each woman leaves with items that she can feel confident will compliment her body.

5. Determine what to do with leftovers.

Will donors be allowed to reclaim their items, or will you pick a local charity to receive the excess?

What are some ways you have increased your wardrobe without spending any money? Have you ever participated in a women’s clothing exchange?

 Top image by jnnfrmarie

About Erin O

Erin is a follower of Jesus, wife to Will and mommy to three little redheaded girls (born in 2008, 2010 and 2012). She is a life-long, professional dreamer and recovering overwhelmed homemaker. Her mission is to encourage, educate and empower her readers at The Humbled Homemaker to live a grace-filled, natural life. She is the author of a 200+-page eBook all about cloth diapering-- Confessions of a Cloth Diaper Convert: A Simple, Comprehensive Guide to Using Cloth Diapers.

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Comments

  1. A friend of mine organized a clothing swap for the ladies at our (very large) church. It was a huge success! She wrote a four-part blog series describing how she organized the event. http://organizingmadefun.blogspot.com/2010/10/you-want-to-organize-what.html

  2. When baby is a few months old I am all over doing this at church. Already, coming up with scenarios in my head!

  3. I’ve always wanted to do one of these! We’ve done kids’ toys/clothing exchanges and other exchanges, but never specifically clothes.

  4. I am sure my friends would love the idea. I personally have a lot of good dresses that I am tired of wearing and instead of adding dresses in my wardrobe, I think it is great that there is a choice that I could just exchange it for a dress I will like. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Wow! I’ve never heard of this before, but it sounds awesome!

  6. This sounds great! We have a local women’s consignment sale two times per year…and it ROCKS! It’s “semi-free” because you can take your old clothes, sell them, and buy new ones. :-)
    I’ve been to a sale sorta like this for children – but the quality control wasn’t very good.
    Fabulous post – as always. :-)

  7. Our church hosts a twice-a-year item exchange that we call “Share N’ Swap.” The Friday before the event, people donate any good condition items you would typically find at a garage sale & those items are sorted by volunteers. Then on Saturday, everyone comes back and takes whatever items they want. There is not limit on the number of items, you don’t even have to give in order to receive (but everyone typically does). It’s only advertised in our church bulletin, but we open the doors to anyone in the community if they know about it. We do this once in the spring & once in the fall. It was a huge blessing to my hubby & I when we got married a few years ago. We found some very helpful starter furniture pieces and kitchen items! It is such a blessing to give and share what we have!

    • What a blessing!! I didn’t even mention in the post, but we were incredibly blessed when we first got married by something similar (but not with clothes) at my husband’s seminary. A local church (it was a HUGE church) donates items to the seminary families, and they are given so many items. That was 6 years ago, but we still have 2 end tables and an entryway table that we snagged at the giveaway!

  8. In the church I grew up in my grandmother organized an ongoing room that was called the “Blessing Room”. People could bring their unwanted clothing and others in need could take what they needed or wanted. She also organized the same type of thing when my grandfather worked for a local bible school. Many of the students came from backgrounds of addiction and had little so this was a great place for them to get what they needed!

  9. Beth Ann Schad says:

    This sounds similar to what my home church does. Mom started asking our church members for clothes they were decluttering and several of the church ladies (and even some of the men at times) have sorted and stacked the clothes that came in. My home church holds their clothing give away in August and we have had homeless, Amish/Mennonite, regular “town” people, relatives, etc. come in and find clothing. It depends on the donations what is available during the giveaway. Also, the lady who cleans the church is able to get clothing from some consignment shops when they switch out their merchandise, so she brings a stuffed van load of garbage bags to church every so often, which helps out a lot. Mom, and the church, has developed a policy of not putting out clothes that are in any way ripped, stained, or that have offensive stuff on them. This has developed in part because Mom or church people heard town people say things like “if it’s free, it must not be any good.” That, and it’s just nice not giving away junk.

    • I agree that the clothes need to be kept nice. I see it almost like a free consignment sale. Consignment sales for children’s items are hugely popular where I live (in North Carolina), and there are even women’s consignment sales popping up now.

  10. I think this is such a fantastic idea. Thanks so much for sharing it, Erin!

  11. I love the idea of starting your own! What a great idea Erin! It’s a sure way to meet other like-minded women and who knows what else would come out of something like that:) Thank you for the inspiration.

  12. our church has something similar, but for children’s clothes. We have a room where you can bring children’s clothes and put them on the size appropriate table. Everyone is welcome to take what they need. We call it the “Free Room” Occasionally adult clothes will also show up. If there are household items available, they are run through the email list. Our budget isn’t tight when it comes to clothing, so we donate more than we take, but it is a blessing to be able to help others with our abundance.

    • I’ve thought how neat it would be to do this with children’s items as well! It reminds me of the church in Acts–sharing all their belongings! I hope to see churches and groups everywhere start this–a blessing during these hard financial times!

  13. Jennifer Milner says:

    I organize a shop-and-swap – basically the same thing – twice a year for the moms in my area for kids’ stuff. Women save up their used clothes, toys, breast pumps, etc. and bring them in the night before, then “shop” the next day for whatever size they need next. I organize coffee and juice and light snacks, and the women love the gathering time. Our rule is you have to donate just one item, and can take as much as you need, and so far it’s worked out quite well. We’ve seen the same pieces of clothing come through two or three different times now! It’s great stewardship. We always have lots of leftovers, which we take to a local shelter.

    • I love the idea of providing refreshments–making it even more of a girl’s night out! I do think it’s such great stewardship! Hope to see these popping up everywhere! I get compliments on most of the clothes I have been blessed with!

    • Our church has quarterly Swap Shop events that are publicized to the community via social media and word of mouth. Organizers set up the day before and everyone brings their stuff at the same time on the day of the event. Within an hour, everyone’s stuff is sorted. Then we break for announcements. The premise is that people take what they need for themselves or their family or friends, NOT to sell on Ebay or whatever. The problem we’ve had is that some of our best “sorters” are actually “pre-shopping” and setting aside piles of clothing during the sorting time, which is absolutely prohibited. We’ve tried to address this issue in various ways, but we may end up changing the format to a drop-off-one-day, shop another day.

  14. Leigh Ann @ Intentional By Grace says:

    What an amazing idea, Erin! I will keep this in mind. I would never have thought of this. But what a blessing it could be for so many women!! Thanks for sharing!

    • I can see you and Mark organizing one of these, Leigh Ann! Some of the other ladies had the idea to do this with kids’ clothes, toys, etc. The possibilities are endless! It really reminds me of the church in Acts–sharing their belongings!

  15. I hope your church goes for it–and that it blesses many women!

  16. This is a great idea! My church has three sites and we’re always trying to come up with ideas to bring everyone together for social activities. I will definately be bringing up this idea for the future!