I'm currently living in a state of permanent excitement because the next Walk In Wardrobe event is only next week! I've been looking forward to it since the last one, in November, my first visit to this clothes swap with a difference.
I always loved the idea of clothes swaps...
But wasn't so keen on the execution of the few I'd been to. Most clothes swaps have some kind of token exchange system, where certain brands are given a higher value than others, and the more high-end the clothes you bring, the more tokens you're given. I hated feeling like my clothes would be judged and worried that I didn't have the type of clothes the organisers wanted. What if I didn't bring any labels they considered acceptable? What if we disagreed about the value of the clothes? There are so many brands in fashion, there's no way that one person can know them all and assign them worth at a glance. I knew from my time volunteering in charity shop that at the end of the day, a nice dress is a nice dress, and a nice dress from a cheap fast fashion brand will sell just as well as a designer one. It seems contradictory to me to run a clothes swap which is meant to be anti-consumerist or at least anti-fast fashion, and yet still subscribe to the idea that some clothes are worth more because of their brand.
The one time I went to a clothes swap with a token system, my worst fears were proven true. I felt really awkward standing there as the organiser sorted through my items and assigned them a value - and she gave one item a way lower value than I thought it should get. I headed for the rails and didn't find one single thing I liked, ending up leaving empty-handed, which would have been okay, if it weren't for the sad fact that I also felt really self-conscious doing that!
Happily, there are plenty of clothes swaps that don't have a token system. Normally, at these events, when you arrive you lay your items out on tables or hang them on rails, then you're free to look around for items you want to take home. They tend to be drop-in - which is great on the one hand, because it makes it easy for people to take part, but on the other, I'd never got to see anyone take any of my items! When I used to volunteer in a charity shop, I absolutely loved it when I saw a customer pick up an item I'd donated. A couple of times we even chatted about the item, sharing its history and future. I always wished this could be part of the clothes swap experience.
Enter Walk In Wardrobe! I first heard about this event on Twitter and as soon as I read the description I knew I had to go. Walk In Wardrobe isn't like any other clothes swap I've ever been to, and here's why:
There's no token system
You can bring as much or as little clothing to swap as you want - the only rule is that you're not allowed to take something unless you've tried it on. So many clothes swaps don't even have space to change, let alone mirrors, but Walk In Wardrobe provided both. I was still a little nervous the first time, not knowing what types of clothes other people would bring - but I needn't have worried at all, there was a wonderful mixture of colours, styles and brands.
It's a fixed time event
Rather than being a drop-in, guests have to arrive together. The event opens with a panel discussion featuring people from the ethical fashion community, before the swapping starts. I absolutely loved the panel discussion at the November 2018 event and it was lovely to relax with a drink before the swapping began. And because everyone was picking out items and trying them on at the same time, I got to see and chat to people who had chosen clothes that I'd brought.
It repeats twice a year
Although I kind of wish it was more often, so that more people could go and I could clear out my wardrobe faster, it's quite nice that it's a recurring event with several months in between. Since my first Walk In Wardrobe, I've been putting items aside ready for this one, and it's given me the time to go through my summer clothes slowly and carefully.
If all that sounds good to you, join me at Walk In Wardrobe next Saturday!
If you need further convincing, here are some photos of the event and the items I picked up: