As the festive season draws near, it begins. Invariably we are confronted with countless office Christmas parties, drinks after work, fancy masked balls and the question becomes unbearable and repeated as a litany: what can I possibly wear? The Christmas season is expensive as it is and if you find yourself cash-poor and outfit-dull, what can you do?
The answer, my friends, is that you can swish.
What is swishing?
The concept was dreamed up back in 2000 by Lucy Shea and her team at Futerra Sustainability Communications, an eco-friendly PR firm. The idea was to invent a social event that allowed everyone the thrill of a new outfit without any recourse to mass consumerism. Basically, swishing (which was so named to evoke the rustle of silk, the thrill of the chase) is a giant swapping party where everyone brings at least one unwanted item of clothing so they can exchange it for another item of equal value. So, if you turn up with a party outfit that looks good but now bores you senseless, you can exchange it for a more exciting prospect that has been nestling unseen in someone else’s wardrobe. And all for free!
Well, the price is right. How do I get involved?
There are plenty of opportunities to swish – charity shops often host evenings and often individuals run evenings for charity where you turn up, pay an entrance fee and swish to your heart’s content. These kind of events are easily googleable, but if you find there are none in your area, why not set up your own?
What we talk about when we talk about swishing
Throwing your own swishing party is a little more complicated then just inviting your friends over for a mass changing-room extravaganza. It’s important to make sure that if your friends have quite divergently sized bodies, that you stress the need to bring unwanted accessories, jewellery, hats and other items that don’t require a specific body type. There’s nothing worse than showing up at a swishing party only to find yourself sized out of a good time. Another way to get around this problem is to open up the invitation wide – encourage everyone to come: acquaintances, work colleagues, neighbours, friends-of-friends – when it comes to swishing, variety, mystery and spontaneity are the order of the day. Old ladies are goldmines and key, in this and most other matters.
What are the rules?
The beauty of swishing is that it’s a very casual affair and the tone of whole evening, whether it’s elegance, olives and chit-chat or giggly booze-up, is up to you. The only really important thing is that you respect the notion of fair exchange. A grotty, pit-stained H&M glitter top is not going to bag you an Armani evening gown. However, perhaps the dress you never wear from H&M’s collaboration with Lanvin will net some more positive results.
How do we evaluate the worth of an item?
It’s usually the host’s job to designate how items will be priced. Obviously a designer item will be worth more than a Primark smock but as everything is second-hand, it’s important to evaluate the condition of the garment and factor that into your final pricing decision. You can nominate someone who knows fashion and retail or you can decide yourself. Incidentally, the ‘completed listings’ search for similar items on eBay is an excellent barometer and has settled many a tense swishing situation. Once you’ve designated an item’s value, you give the swish-ee the equivalent amount of ‘credit’ to spend on other items. Anything that doesn’t get snapped up at the end of the night can be returned or donated to a charity shop. Everybody wins. Everybody gets a sparkly outfit. It’s also an excellent way of getting rid of unwanted Christmas presents. It makes you wonder why anybody would ever shop again. Swishing, my friends, Swishing.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Rebecca Forsythe writes about charity shop tricks, voluntary working and ways to make a difference in a sparkly top from H&M.