(Disclaimer: I apologize to the men reading this because it's a post about shopping. I know ho hum who cares about my thoughts on the subject when you know that we don't need another pair of shoes, or another purse and god knows we don't ever wear those earrings we were dying for 10 years ago so why the hell are we window shopping at Zales? However I do have a portion about nude women later on so stick with it and maybe you'll learn something...else)
Swap meets is what they are called in the West - or at least in Los Angeles. Back home in New York City we call them Flea Markets. In Beverly Hills, Bel Air and other upscale communities they are called consignment shops everywhere else we know it as good ol' Goodwill and The Salvation Army.
These are images we are all familiar with because these organizations have been around all of our life times. The Salvation Army has existed since 1865 founded in London in by William Booth and his wife Catherine. This passionate couple intended to evangelize people from and on the streets with tent meetings, telling everyone about the goodness of Jesus through salvation. Having the presence and structure of the military by the volunteers wearing military styled uniforms I will assume the goal of The Salvation Army was to intimidate people to listen to their important message about the goodness of the lord. This organization has gone through several name incarnations, first - East London Revival Society, second - Christian Mission and finally what is still today known as The Salvation Army.
Goodwill is a younger organization started in Milwaukee in 1919 by the Methodist church. The church felt that after World War I thousands of soldiers were considered unemployable. Along with the senior population and eventually those living with disabilities The Methodists thought that this demographic had the right and untapped skills that made them completely employable. Their mission was as grassroots as it's older charity model however their intention shifted to the individual as their statement is "to provide a chance, not charity."
Well today that spirit of the three R's [Reduce, Reuse, Recycle] is as popular as ever today in popular social gatherings called swap parties. I believe that these events merge the two intentions of Goodwill and The Salvation Army: Have a come to Jesus by giving people a chance to put away the credit cards, peek into someone else's closet to shop for free. Stand on your soap box of spewing the evils of consumption and debt history! Give retail capitalism a break!! Have FREE retail therapy with friends in a safe and clean environment. The only caveats are that the clothes must be clean and intact. Don't bring moth eaten items, or items with stains, rips, tears and odor/fragrance.
I was invited to such an event yesterday afternoon. The host, held the swap party at her home offering light snacks: chips, fruit, cucumber water, and delicious vodka lemonade that I took to the head like a professional lush. Give me a break it was delicious in the 100 degree weather that was plaguing our valley yesterday. Besides I don't need much of a reason to partake in libations. I can't front though, I did have my share of cucumber water as well to stay hydrated and because it's just so darn good. But I digress...
When I received the invitation, I immediately went to my closet to gather items intended for Goodwill that I'd rather see on friends enjoy a new life since I will never fit into those skinny jeans again and the dress and bracelet from that bad breakup with [insert name here] just leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I see them in my closet. Certainly I could choose set it all ablaze Ala the Angela Bassett scene from Waiting to Exhale when she discovered her husband's' infidelity. It would be fictionally dramatic to have that happen for sure. But why when some stranger who has no emotional connection to my things can enjoy it and frankly the thought that some woman would look better in the item than I did brings a smile to my face. That being said, I took all of the items that my ex purchased for me [in his attempt to control me, but that's another story for another time over drinks] and dumped them from a paper bag onto the floor of the hosts living room LOL this was my first swap event I did not know the protocol. After I was introduced to the ladies, they taught me how the swap works.
- All items must be clean and pret-a-porter [ready to wear]. No moth eaten items nor items with stains and rips. Nothing that needs mending. Everything must be something you either no longer want but would wear if you did want it, something you can no longer fit into or something you never could fit into [items with original store tags]. Nice things...
- Separate items per the genre, pants with pants, dresses with dresses, shoes, jewelry. You get it.
- Walk around and try on the items you'd like to have, take as many items as you want. There is no limit to the number of items you can take but there is a shopping time limit. If the event is from 2 to 5, shopping begins promptly at 2 and ends at promptly at 5. Not two-ish and never five-ish. Rigid times to get in, shop, have a few laughs, and get out. In a friendly and loving way.
- After everyone gets a chance to shop we sit in a circle to show everyone what we have in our bags.
- You may claim any one item as "safe." This item regardless of the desire to steal can not be touched because you called keeps. All other items in your bag are up for stealing. I stole an item from my friend and it felt good (insert evil face and rubbing hands).
- If there are any item that someone did not see because they were busy shopping, drinking, in the restroom or a late arrival, they have a chance to steal it from you by the very democratic and monumentally mature process of rocks, paper, scissors. This levels the playing field. As many women can try to steal any one item at the same time. This makes the party fun watching women duke it out for whatever. It makes me nostalgic for my days as an adolescent fighting with my sister over something stupid like catching her sneaking into my closet to take a cute top from me. Or sharing my favorite clothes with my female BFF's.
- Yes there is quite a bit of modeling at this event. Sorry gentlemen, I had no forethought to take pictures for this post, no one at this event was shy. Rather they channeled their inner exhibitionist tendencies, peeling off their clothes in a decent and sanitary way [meaning panties stay on at all times], many women rip off their bras without hesitation. Let's face it, bras are uncomfortable regardless of how pretty they can be [my regrets men, you know nothing about this subject from a personal perspective]. So in 100 degree weather any reason to yank it off is a blessing.
- There also tends to be healthy competition, women get offended if no one wants their contribution, while others try to force their clothes on you- trying to convince you that those leg warmers from 1984 and the rubber washers that Madonna made popular would look great on you. "You can bring those back into style!" LOL. Not really but retro fashions can be quite fun. Only if the period was 1967 to 1978.
The next swap is at the home of a Beverly Hills socialite. I'm not so excited about that one since my understanding is that those women tend to take a swap party way too seriously. Really, do I need Prada in my life? I say no because evidently...THE DEVIL WEARS IT.
*All Photos courtesy of Google