Last Saturday, a new company called ClosetRaid [now ClosetDash] hosted a clothing swap that I attended out of curiosity and to clear some of my closet clutter. I didn’t expect to find anything for myself, but when I saw that the other attendees wore a range of sizes, my hopes rose.

If you’ve never been to a clothing swap, here’s how this one worked:

  1. free admission for bringing 3 items of still-wearable clothing; otherwise pay an admission fee (in this case it was $10)
  2. bring up to 10 items and receive 10 poker chips
  3. while the workers organize the clothing in a roped-off area, the participants shop at vendor booths, check out the goodie bags, and snack on the provided refreshments
  4. an announcer tells everyone they can enter the roped-off area
  5. when a participant leaves the roped area, she gives a poker chip to the attendee at the exit for each item of clothing she takes out
  6. there are dressing rooms; if something doesn’t look right, the participant returns the item of clothing, gets her pocker chip back and re-enters the clothing area
  7. at a certain point everyone is asked to leave leave the clothing section while the clothing is reorganized and items from new arrivals are added
  8. steps 4-7 repeat as long as there is interest

My strategy was to make a beeline for the tops and dresses because I always need more of these. Sadly, everything I liked seemed to be S or XS, and I was too put off by the aggressiveness of the other swappers to delve any deeper. It was crowded and stressful–not my shopping style at all. So I focused on the accessories table, since size isn’t an issue there. Eventually, I also found a pleated khaki skirt to try on.

The dressing room turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the experience. I knew that the skirt shouldn’t look good on me, but it fit. However, both women in the dressing room told me not to get it. I love that! Later I found a couple of cardigans that my fellow swappers in the dressing room told me were keepers.

By the final session, many swappers had left or were mingling outside the clothing section. This is when I found it–a knit dress with princess seams that fit!

There’s a wide band of ribbing around the waist and a clever zipper detail coming down from the scooped neckline.  Interestingly, if this dress had been in my closet, I probably would have donated it to the swap because it’s definitely been worn and loved by its original owner. But for me, it’s a welcome new addition to my closet. Sadly, it has no labels whatsoever, so I have no idea who makes it.

If you’re considering attending a closet swap, here’s the strategy I’d take:

  1. Begin at the accessories table while the smaller-busted swappers clear the S and XS items from the dress and tops racks.
  2. Observe other large-busted swappers going to the dressing room and keep an eye on whether they return something that you like.
  3. Browse the racks at the very end to see what treasures have been returned.
  4. Wear pretty matching bra and underwear. It’ll make you feel good about yourself whether you find something or not. I saw one woman standing in front of the dressing room mirror in dingy, torn, cotton granny pants.
  5. If you have business cards for bra fittings, full-busted blogs or full-busted clothing, be ready to hand them out. All you have to say is, “This is good for someone who may be a D cup or higher,” and they’ll look at you gratefully and exclaim, “Thank you! I’m a 36DD.” You know they’re not, but you’ve pointed them in the right direction!

As I wore my “new” dress to church the next morning, I found myself daydreaming about the possibilities of a full-bust themed closet swap. Wouldn’t that be neat?

  1. We’d bring all the mail order items that we never got around to returning and all the bras that we discovered weren’t perfect for us once we cut off the tags.
  2. We’d have booths with reps from all the full-busted brands so that we could try everything on in person. The designers would be there so that we could give them immediate feedback.
  3. We’d have seasonal details like coat and jacket vendors in the fall and swimwear vendors in the summer.

But here are the challenges:

  1. Would there ever be enough tops and dresses? The problem is that once a full-busted woman finds a top or dress that fits her perfectly, she either wears it into the ground or gets a stain on the bust the first time she eats something while wearing it!
  2. Are there enough full-busted women in enough parts of the world to hold regional swaps? I could see London being a great swap headquarters, but could we get enough participants to come to NYC, Chicago, Atlanta and LA? We don’t want transportation costs to exceed the value of the experience.
  3. How would we publicize it? This is always the challenge, but I think as more full-bust clothing brands and blogs develop, we’re coming up with the right terminology to attract the right swapper.

What do you think??