Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lesson 4: Shop For Free

"But it's staring at me..."

And it was. Hardcore.

Shoes stare. It's basic science. They look at you in a way that emphasizes the fact it was on your foot just moments ago, being a good little shoe, making your legs look long and fantastic, but now you're leaving...without it. How cruel, leaving it behind like that, unloved, without a home, like an abandoned puppy...poor thing. Well now I don't want to be a cruel person...

As you're well aware of, shopping on a nonexistent budget can prove to be quite hazardous. Personally, I fight the urge until I just can't take it anymore and then whoosh I'm off in a spending frenzy. I return home and instantly empty everything onto my bed, treating my style savvy audience (i.e. my cats) to the fashion show of the decade. I frantically rummage through my stockpile of new treasures, coordinating recent purchases with closet classics, desperately attempting to create as many outfit combinations as fast as possible with all the urgency of a Emergency Room television drama.

Nurse: "Is she going to make it, Doctor?"
Doctor: "Not unless she finds a top to go with that skirt."

(Enter Marlee.)
Me: "What about this one?"
Nurse 1: "It's too risky!"
Nurse 2: "It'll never work!"
Doctor: "It's the only chance she's got! For God's sake people give her some space!!"

(Patient puts on top.)
Patient: "This is fabulous."
Doctor: "It's a miracle!"
Patient: "How can I ever thank you?"
Me (slowly putting on sunglasses): "No need. Just doin' my job."

This continues until I'm completely exhausted and I leave everything in a heaping pile in the bedroom, promising myself to put it away later (later meaning sometime in the next 2 weeks). I then return to my usual daily tasks, the rush of my shiny new purchases slowly fading. Soon the guilt sets in, and I begin contemplating returning anything with a tag still on it, but the thought of going back to the store I just so gleefully left, handing back my purchases like a broken and beaten consumer makes my stomach turn. So I keep everything. Bad day.

I seem to have found a solution for this dilemma: Closet Swap Parties.

For those of you who have never been to or heard of one, closet swap parties are the equivalent of throwing a large quantity of raw meat to a pack of starving hyenas. They are chaotic, they are dangerous, and they are positively terrific.

Now I'm sure somewhere in the world there are nice proper versions of these parties, where well-mannered ladies sit in a circle and collectively "ooh" and "aah" over each individual item, passing it around and then politely excusing themselves to the restroom to try on a below-the-ankle sock, but this just isn't the case with any I've attended.

In my experience, they are basically an organized riot where everyone brings any clothes they no longer wear, throws them all in a huge pile, and then tears through said pile like a pack of ravenous beasts, taking what they want, discarding what they don't, and killing whoever is foolish enough to get in their way. There is no sneaking away to try anything on because there's simply no time for it. If you want that shirt, damnit you better prove it.

Simply put, a closet swap party is about as close to a guy's "women's locker-room fantasy" as you can get. There's usually some sort of fighting involved, and in most cases there's always something complicated enough to require assistance getting it on.

Men of the world, your welcome.

Having said that, all of this madness and margaritas (or tea and crumpets, depending on your circle of friends) has some serious advantages. First of all, everyone usually has different tastes, so one person's hand-me-down gag-inducing 60's dress is another's fantastic find. Different sizes are also accounted for, so a woman six months along with twins can find a mountain of riches in the woman-who-just-got-her-tubes-tied's useless maternity wear.

Nonetheless, there are rules. Well, only one actually. If two people want the same thing, a fair way of settling it needs to be established beforehand. One such  method of intervention is a try-on-off, which is where they each try on the desired article of clothing, model it accordingly, and then the group decides who gets it. For the fashionably self-conscious I guess an old fashioned game of ro-sham-bo (or bear-hunter-ninja, as we often play here in Montana) is in order. Perhaps you'd prefer a light-saber duel, a thumb wrestling contest, or a winner takes all game of flip cup. Anyway, decide ahead of time, otherwise it could get ugly.

Some advice if you're attending a closet swap party? Seriously try and clean out your closet. Don't take one or two items, there's no point. I read recently that the average women wears 20% of what she owns 80% of the time. So be honest, and really go through your wardrobe. As a general rule, anything you haven't worn in the last year is fair game. All those shirts you keep saying you'll wear but never do? Bring 'em! Seeing the look on someone's face as they absolutely fall in love with a piece of your clothing makes it immensely easier to let it go.

So for the budget friendly women of the world, I say consider throwing a closet swap party. My own version of shopping cabin fever set in weeks ago, but I held out for tonight. And the result? Five, count 'em five, pairs of jeans, 8 shirts, a scarf, and a jacket; all for free. There were even more categories I didn't choose from; shoes, jewelry, belts, purses. I got to come home, put on my usual spectacular fashion show, and then curl up on the couch next to my boyfriend, all without feeling one ounce of guilt. Great day.


  1. Fantastic idea!!!!! I may have to try this.

  2. nice blog!
    maybe we can follow each other??

  3. Great idea- I've heard of these but never knew anyone who did them. I'll have to tell some of the younger girls I work with!

  4. What a wonderful idea~

    Thanks for sharing this.

    I also have one guideline - no money, no going to the mall or browsing the internet, or store for even window shopping. If I didn't see it, I won't buy it.

  5. I've never heard of this--great idea!!

  6. I've been to one of these in college. It was fun and a great bonding experience, except I found one very big problem for me: I'm tinier than everyone I know, so nothing of mine fits them and nothing of theirs fits me! Apparently being 5'3" female with a 5.5 size foot is an anomaly in Michigan...

  7. Love the swap idea! In fact, I was just talking about this possibility with a girlfriend the other is like shopping with your girlfriends with none of the guilt :)

    xx Cat brideblu

  8. I do the same thing. I rummage through my pile and leave the pile on the floor in despair. hahahaha oh women.

  9. Hey Marlee..thanx very much for visiting me on my blog.Have to say it's very refreshing to see text that is interesting..and referring to your latest post..I've got so much clothes that are just there coz I think I'll wear it one day lol

    I'm going to follow you and hope that if your interested you'll be my follower too :)

    Where are you from anyway?

  10. Absolutely love this! I have heard of closet swap parties before but never in such a way that it made me want to call all my friends and say 'Hey let's do this'.

  11. Thank you for your comment! I absolutely LOVE your blog! It's so funny! A closet swap party sounds like a fantastic idea. I should definitely try it once :)

  12. I have always wondered about those..... I don't have anything in my closet that is not covered in some sort of stain from the kids or lying for three weeks dampin the laundry basket... sigh :)

  13. As I began reading this post, I thought to myself that you need to change the name of your blog. You redeemed yourself, however. Great idea!

  14. Am i the only guy to comment here..?!! HAHA
    Interesting blog... you almost sound Icelandic in your cost cutting!!

    swap idea is worth a million dollar try..! All the best with your audience.. apart from the cats i mean. ;)

  15. Hahahahahaha! This is bloody epic. Love how your blog has this specific theme. And also the fact that you don't refrain from longing lost posts cs I've seen a lot of "the blogging royalty" just putting in a couple of lines.

    Blogging is all about description ain't it? It's not just a slice out of your life, it's the whole goddamn cake!

  16. I love clothing swap parties! My friends and I used to do them all the time...I think I'm ready for a new one now. :) Thanks for the comment on my blog, btw! :)

  17. Funny post! I might be a little in love with your blog.

    Having said that - the idea of a closet-swap party terrifies me. I hate trying on clothes in the (relative) privacy of a store's dressing room. So the idea of the madness of a dozen (much more beautiful) heart just dropped into my stomach.

  18. Love the closet swap -- except I'm not sure I'd want to let go of anything!! I'm not a hoarder but I am in love with my clothes. I love the deal of the day clothing sites. I feature them on my blog -- you should check me out. I'm a new follower of yours because I LOVE your ideas.

  19. Love love love this! I am moving, and before I put a stitch of clothing away in my closets I am going to E-L-I-MI-nate! What a wonderful way to do a house warming with the girls! Heeheehee :)


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