Style/Shopping: Cure for the Recession Blues: Clothing Swaps

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When the recession blew a hole in her clients’ budgets, local wardrobe consultant Karri Grant knew she’d have to come up with creative ways to get them into new clothes. So one recent Sunday morning, she invited about a dozen women to a private home in Carmichael. Their marching orders: Bring at least five items from their closets that they no longer wore and were willing to part with—clothes, handbags, jewelry, shoes. Grant hung the clothes on rolling dress racks and arranged the other items on tables, then handed out shopping bags and told the women to pick out pieces they’d like to take home. The scene resembled a rummage sale, but with one crucial difference: No money exchanged hands. Instead, each woman received a “credit” for every item she brought and was allowed to take an equal number of items. There was some good stuff to be had, including a pair of leather trousers, an Elie Tahari pantsuit and a Ralph Lauren velvet jacket. A few pieces still bore their original tags.

Clothing swaps have taken root in big cities such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and Grant hopes they’ll catch on here. Participant Julie Vails loves the idea. “It’s like digging around in your girlfriend’s closet,” she says. One satisfied customer: her daughter, Genevieve Vails-Dobson, who came with a bagful of castoffs and left with a silver lamé sweater, a white cotton vest and a black Kasper skirt suit. “I’m very happy,” says Vails-Dobson. “There was something for everybody.”