Clothes SwapYou swapped stickers at school and tried to swap your little brother for something more fun to play with – but now you can go one better and swap your whole wardrobe internationally as swap sites kick off on-line. It’s out with old and in with the new, and you don’t need a credit card to do it.

Clothes swap sites are essentially social trading sites which enable people who don’t know each other to swap things they don’t need. You put up a list of things you don’t want, and a list of things you do – and see what comes your way! Swapping is shopping with karma; the more interesting clothes you offer, the better treasures you’ll get in return.

Swapping is not only fun, it’s environmentally friendly too. Cheap, throw-away fashion accounts for up to 30% of waste at some landfill sites in the UK, according to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. The ‘Primark Effect’ of cheap international labour means that we currently produce more goods than we can consume, so why take part in the insatiable cycle of mass production when someone can offer you those jeans you’ve been lusting over for free (as well as finding a whole host of other must-have items that you didn’t even know you needed!)?

Swapping may sound kind of scary (Will I get what I want? Will I make a good swap?) But when you don’t have to open your wallet, you’ll find that you’re willing to take more risks with what you wear and you can push the limitations of your own style. I recently came away with a bright yellow scarf and vintage suit that I never would have thought of buying if I had to look at a price tag.

One of the biggest clothes swapping sites, whatsmineisyours.com, has seen a 33% increase in the number of swaps over the past two months. As more people get involved in international swapping (or swishing, as it’s also known), the better booty that’s up for grabs.

Although some swappers specify what they want to exchange things for (e.g. this stunning pink trench coat for an old fashioned hand fan, please) you’ll find most postings say ‘I am open to all swaps.’ Which means if you want it, you can offer them anything. This is an intrinsically revolutionary system, where economy and worth are set by the consumers rather than producers. There is no fixed value in monetary terms; it’s all down to what you value individually.

linds-fancy-clothes-swap

So many clothes, so little time: Lindsay Lohan as the face of Visa Swap.

How to get started:

1. Pick a website from the list below

2. Put the kettle on and turn your room upside to find things you’re happy to part with (Yes. The dress that still doesn’t fit you. No, not that jumper with holes in the sleeves.)

3. Make sure all your clothes are clean and in good condition. Sort them into categories to make uploading easier. Take pictures of all the things you want to swap (who buys anything online without pictures?) Add mood lighting and a pretty background to make them look appealing.

4. Make another cup of tea. Upload your goodies.

5. Get swapping!

Here is our list of top swapping sites:

What’s Mine Is Yours

Fitted with a currency convertor, advanced search options that allow you to search by vintage period and a community chat room, this funky, friendly website has taken swapping to a whole new level. With no membership fee and over 22,000 members, you’ll be spoilt for swaps.

Fashion Space

A free international social-trading site for designers, creatives and fashion lovers. This site has the added bonus of personalised profiles that enable hot new designers to showcase, swap and sell their products and services without being limited by geography.

Swap Style

An international swap site with an emphasis on designer wear. SwapStyle has a modest joining fee, but the Swap Diary and links to top international Style Blogs means you’ll be one step ahead of the fashionistas and not fall into the red on your bank balance.

Big Wardrobe

Catwalk, vintage, high street, or cheap and cheerful – this site is like rummaging through your best friend’s wardrobe on-line. You can swap your clothes and even turn unwanted threads into hard cash.

Swap Cycle

Everything from antiques, clothes and vehicles to vintage books and new DVDs. Not limited to clothes, you can get your hands on treasures such as first editions of The News of the World, a Fiat Punto or a two-piece PVC suit.

Freecycle

With 4,726 groups and over 6.5 million members across the globe, freecycle is like eBay without all the waiting around. A grassroots, non-profit movement run by volunteers, this site enables people to give and get stuff for free in their own towns.

girl-with-bags1If that all sounds like high-tech hard work, why not make your own swap-a-rama? Swishing.org has a list of upcoming swaps around the UK and will guide you through setting up your own clothing swap. They even offer fancy invitations and Swishing Rules for guests who might get a bit rowdy.

So now you can invite a few friends over with their unwanted togs (those with good taste and an obscenely large wardrobe are best), crack open a bottle and swap ‘til you drop. Who knew that shopping could be so revolutionary?!

WARNING: The writer has experienced the addictive nature of swapping. Since commencing research for this article she has become the proud owner of a duck shaped telephone, straight legged jeans that don’t fit and a gorgeous vintage bottle of Channel no.5.