Friday, September 03, 2004

Host a clothing swap

"It's true, what you've been hoping for: heaven does exist, and you can take it all with you. The catch is, you have to carry it yourself."
--Jeanette Winterson


LOCATION: Your clean, well-lit apartment. EQUIPMENT: Yourself, your (probably female) friends, libations, snacks, and vast mounds of clothing spawned from the excess of our consumerist society. OPTIONAL: Easy-going gay male friend to dress up in drag.

In university my roommate Anna and I anticipated moving time like vultures in the American West must have anticipated buffalo-slaughtering parties. The day after the storage deadline, we'd steal carts from our residential college and pick up perfectly good toasters, tables, vacuum cleaners, jackets, shirts, bookshelves, and boxes of textbooks from the lawn.

We snickered at our overprivileged classmates' waste, but I admit I do know the boom-bust cycle of object possession. You see it and it's not yours, and you want it. Then you get it and you have it. You don't exactly treasure it, but you certainly can't imagine living without it, and you wouldn't dream of giving it away. It belongs to you! But then you have to move it. Suddenly a proud room full of riches becomes a terrifying room full of heavy bulky matter. All of these objects together weigh so much more than you do! And they're all different shapes. Where will they go, how will they fit? You didn't think that you had so many of them. It's 2AM and you have a flight for noon the next day. Your fingers ache and you have bruises on your shins. You fantasize about the objects simply disappearing. What the hell do you need them for anyway? You certainly don't need them now! So - and this was the solution independently discovered by several people I knew - you throw them out your window.

One friend in particular had a stuff problem. He came from a very rich family, and his bedroom was a primordial soup of papers, dirty socks, and expensive electronic equipment with a bed rising up in the center like a volcanic island in the Pacific. He was very sweet but emotional and sensitive, so the freshman year move hit him like a sack of existential bricks. "I hit bottom," he told me later, "at four in the morning. I'd run out of boxes and I had all these knick knacks still on the floor. I was hungry and tired and a little crazy. There was this very heavy jar of change. So I tipped it out, sorted through it for the quarters and dimes, put them in my pockets, and threw the pennies and nickels away. My roommates teased me about that for the next year, and I'm sure there was a better solution, but it was the only thing I could think of to do."

Overwhelming objects usually relate to your life temptations - places you confuse wants with needs. I've got two bath towels, I like them, I use them, I can't imagine getting any more. But I've got more clothes than I need, and many, many more books. I covet my books. Sometimes I gloat over them. I stroke the textures of their pages. But during my last move I decided upon a new book ownership philosophy: easy flow. I gave half my books away, and now if I think of a friend who might like a book on my shelf, I give it to them (that way guilt is avoided when they forget to return it). Then people give books to me. Or I see them for $1 on a used books table, or I pick them up at work. They come, they go, and it doesn't really matter.

My friend Jamia, experiencing a similar philosophical evolution, recently hosted a clothing swap. Jamia is glowingly beautiful and an artist; the main subject of her art is herself. Whenever she leaves the house, she looks amazing. She also owns enough clothes and accessories to carpet the Grand Canyon. And she has many friends in similar, though less extreme, straits.

I came to Jamia's house early to help her set up and found her perched cross-legged on top of a clothing mountain. She looked like the dragon Smaug sitting on his hoard of gold coins. She'd reach down, pull up a piece of clothing, inspect it, stroke it against her cheeck, then toss it to either the "keep" or "swap" pile. Sometimes she'd get distracted, reach over to the "swap" pile, look at something again, and move it back over to "keep."

People began arriving with trash bags full of clothes, which spilled out and mixed together on the floor, on the couches, on the tables, even in the kitchen. There was music playing and we passed around bottles of wine. You'd rummage through a pile, try something on, then toss it to a friend. A few times I'd pull out a shirt and think, "Hey, that's pretty nice." Then I'd realize it had been mine.

I'd expected the evening to be competitive, but we were all drunk on generosity. "Here, this would look better on you!" Occasionally Jamia would leap up to retrieve more clothes from the "keep" pile in her bedroom. As the night progessed pants became scarves, skirts became funny hats, and more and more of us were sitting back in our underwear and giggling.

When the last guest had left Jamia's apartment was still full of clothes. She was eventually to donate them all to goodwill, but in the meantime we juggled with them, made big piles and jumped on top of them, and buried each other beneath them. It gave us a buzz similar to what I imagine KLF must have felt when they burned a million quid - although, of course, several orders of magnitude less bad-ass.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Help me Dude, I'm lost.

I was searching for Elvis and somehow ended up in your blog, but you know I'm sure I saw Elvis in the supermarket yesterday.

No honest really, he was right there in front of me, next to the steaks singing "Love me Tender".

He said to me (his lip was only slightly curled) "Boy, you need to get yourself a shiny, new plasmatv to go with that blue suede sofa of yours.

But Elvis said I, In the Ghetto nobody has a plasma tv .

Dude I'm All Shook Up said Elvis. I think I'll have me another cheeseburger then I'm gonna go home and ask Michael Jackson to come round and watch that waaaay cool surfing scene in Apocalypse Now on my new plasma tv .

And then he just walked out of the supermarket singing. . .

"You give me love and consolation,
You give me strength to carry on "

Strange day or what? :-)

3:59 AM  
Anonymous jewelry said...

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2:10 PM  
Blogger halla000 said...

I'm hosting a clothing swap! When: Saturday, July 29, 2 to 4 PM Rain or Shine
Where: Jequie Park (Fenton St. & Takoma Ave in Takoma Park)

7:19 AM  
Blogger halla000 said...

I'm hosting a clothing swap in Takoma Park. Sat. 7/29 from 2 to 4 PM at Jequie Park (Fenton St. & Takoma Ave).

7:23 AM  
Blogger The Frugal Fashionista said...

Fellow DC Fashionista's! Please join us for our newar monthly large fashion clothing swaps! We have over 650 ladies in our group! Check us out at

Can't wait to see you at the swaps!!!

4:35 AM  

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