Clothes Swapping With Friends (And Strangers) Breathed New Life Into My Wardrobe

I grew up on 'hand-me-downs', now 'hand-me-overs' are cheap, sustainable way of getting new clothes.

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For years it hung unworn in my wardrobe: my beloved polka dot jumpsuit from Warehouse. The last time I tried it on I ripped the material on the bum by the zip, because I was desperately trying to fit into it even though I’d long outgrown a size 10. But I kept it, as I’m sure many women would, certain that one day I’d fit into it again if I “just lost a bit of weight”.

Eventually I realised the impact of that jumpsuit hanging there mocking me every day. With no intention of going on a diet, I felt rubbish every time I saw it. It took me two years to finally fold it up and put it in a drawer; another six months before I realised I could (and should) give it to a new home.

Handing my tormentor over to a friend who would actually be able to wear it was quite an unceremonious affair, but inside me something shifted. It was lovely to gift an item I’d enjoyed wearing so much (sure beats it being hidden away in a drawer), and I was freed from its pressure to be smaller.

But imagine my delight when, a week later, I found the very same jumpsuit in a size 12 on Depop (the trendy, millennial eBay alternative) and for a fifth of the original price I paid. Two jumpsuits, three women – two of them happy new owners and one a little richer. What’s not to love?

The holy jumpsuit.
The holy jumpsuit.

Clothes swapping, hand-me-downs or hand-me-overs (as I prefer to call them) are nothing new, but with fast fashion getting cheaper and cheaper, we’ve become accustomed to reaching for something new and throwing away what we’ve grown less fond (or out) of.

According to Wrap – the Waste and Resources Action Programme – the value of unused clothing left in behind in our wardrobes is estimated at around £30bn, while £140m goes into landfill each year.

In the UK, the average lifespan of a garment is just over two years (!) and anything we can do to extend that – repairing, buying second hand or even passing on to a charity shop or friend – greatly reduces its impact on the environment.

Last year another friend handed me a bag full of clothing last year, because she didn’t like them anymore and thought I’d get more use out of them. Rather than being insulted, I was delighted. The contents of the bag were right up my street and I wear those three tops all the time.

Of course, I can’t say I don’t buy new clothes. The sparkling white Nike trainers that I’m wearing on my feet as I write this are one such indulgence (but only because my last white trainers fell apart).

Not only is swapping better for the environment, it’s cheaper. Meaning you can spend your money on something more valuable to you, whatever that may be.

Even if it is a pair of Nikes.