In late September, a group of seven women hauled bags of clothing into Isabella Goldader's living room. Shirts and jeans and sweaters spilled onto Goldader's vintage coffee table as the guests emptied the contents of their bags.

After asking if her guests wanted anything to drink, Goldader climbed onto the sofa, picked up a striped T-shirt from the top of the pile and held it in the air.

"Who wants it?" she asked. 

The clothing swap began.

Clothing swaps

A clothing swap is a gathering where people exchange clothing they no longer need for clothing they would like to own. The host sets the rules for each clothing swap, so they will vary.

Goldader kept her rules casual and conversational. An item was displayed, and whoever claimed it first could try it on and claim it.

Clothing swaps emerged during World War II when the British started a Make Do and Mend campaign. According to the British Library, women were encouraged to mend clothing in an effort to ration.

They would also trade clothing at gatherings in their communities, according to Swap Society.  At the time, trading clothes was looked down upon, so it was almost always done anonymously.

Now, it is a growing trend — swapping clothes instead of buying new. It saves money, reduces the carbon footprint and can help cut America's enormous clothing waste.

Americans throw away more than 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person per year, representing 4% of municipal solid waste, according to the EPA Office of Land and Emergency Management.

Producing fast fashion also wastes water. According to the World Wildlife Fund, it takes 2,700 liters of water to produce the cotton to make just one T-shirt.

Clothing swaps have become a ritual for Goldader, who advertises her events through her online vintage store, Regrowth Thrift. When the seasons are about to change, she announces an upcoming swap to her followers on Regrowth Thrift's Instagram page.

"I attended a clothing swap that one of my girlfriends was hosting here in Columbia," Goldader said. "I remember thinking that it was genius. It was even better than the thrift store because everything is free and everyone leaves happy."

Tips from a pro

In order to make her clothing swaps lighthearted and productive, Goldader has acquired a number of tips and tricks. 

• Encourage guests to bring as many clothes as possible. That way, they have a lot to choose from.

• Provide drinks and snacks to make attendees feel comfortable enough to mingle and relax.

• Invite people of all shapes and sizes to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome. The more diverse the sizes, the more to choose from.

While hosting clothing swaps has allowed Goldader to build a sustainable wardrobe and strengthen her social circle, it has also given her a chance to spread the word on social media about the need to recycle and repair clothing.

"As soon as something hits the runways, it’s in fast fashion stores," she said. "The consumer pays a cheap price, and it is not meant to last them a long time. Therefore it’s just more and more waste piling up."

She often posts ways on Instagram to save clothing by removing stains, mending rips and tears and patching holes in jeans.

Giving garments a new life keeps them from stuffing landfills. In 2017, an estimated 11.2 million tons of textiles contributed to landfills, according to the EPA.

“When I started, I didn’t know thrifting was environmental,” Goldader said. “Now, I can teach people to thrift not only to save money but to save the environment.”

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