Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Swap till you drop!

Thanks so much for all your well wishes for my clothing swap - it was SO great! I would've logged on Sunday to dish all about it, but it was rainy outside and I was a lazy bum all day. I didn't even cross #1 off my to-do list. I did make it out of the house - amazingly - for an afternoon yoga class. But really, I was a bum!

Anyway, the swap was just all-around fabulous. I must say it was one of the few events that actually lived up to the excitement I'd built up in the planning process. The actual planning is where I really get my thrills. But this was an easy peasy process - and SO cheap to do - which made it a breeze really. I did get a bit nervous Sat a.m. when I got those usual day-of calls from a few random girls saying they weren't going to make it afterall. So already I was worried our "inventory" would suffer some. I think there ended up being 10-12 girls total - and that really was the perfect number for my first swap.

I wasn't sure if everyone would bring a lot of stuff (I had asked for a minimum of 5 pieces), but everyone came in with tons! It didn't take long at all to get everyone's stuff organized. I had several different areas set up. I didn't want everything crammed in one room so we were all stepping over each other. I did a couple of racks of tops in the den. Jewelry and small accessories were on the dining room table. In our living room (which is virtually empty), I set up a banquet table with bins for handbags and shoes. I also had a couple of racks in there for coats, suits, and more room for tops (I figured there would be a lot of tops - and I was right!). At the top of the stairs we have a spare bedroom that is empty (the someday nursery), so I put 5 racks in there for bottoms and dresses. I also had one rack out in the hallway designated for maternity, but no one ended up bringing any. I contributed the one maternity item - funny enough. It was a dress I got on clearance for $10 that I know would be too big. Well, let's just say that if I blew up enough to hold the top of the dress up, I wouldn't want to be seen in that dress. It's really cute and the one prego chick that came snatched it up and was super excited about it.

We did not arrange anything by size because (a) that would take forever, and (b) you don't want one chick snatching an entire rack of size 8 pants or something. It forces everyone to dig a little. It's very... Filene's Basement running-of-the-bride's style. So for the first 45 minutes or so, we were getting everyone's loot hung up while having a champagne cocktail and some munchies. None of us had ever hosted or even been to a swap before, so it was new territory for all. I gathered the girls and quickly explained the "rules" - though there aren't any real rules per se - and then they were off! As soon as I said go, some were hesitant, but one of my best girls made a dash for the room upstairs - it was hilarious. I too wanted pants, so I ran up there. People were a little timid at first and were just casually pulling stuff off the racks to try on, but before long we were all getting a little more aggressive. It was so fun. I told the girls if any two of them were going after the same piece, we'd have to have a walk-off. But no walk-offs needed.

The jewelry was really, really popular. There was very little left that didn't get taken. There were a good bit of clothes left - which most will be taken to Goodwill. But I think I'll hold on to some of the nicer stuff for the next swap. There was only one other girl there with my same shoe size, so a lot of my shoes were left. All of my bags were taken but one Coach bag (which I was surprised - but there were atually two Coach bags left in the end). I got a great stash of things for myself! I snagged a pair of skinny jeans that fit great. I've always wanted to have some but have never had the guts to buy them. I'm not sure I can pull off the skinny jeans and flats thing... I'm little, but I'm short and I have curves. So we'll see... but I can definitely wear them tucked into boots - which none of my other jeans do well since they are more flared at the bottom. I also got this cute BCBG top that is so fun. I have like NO "going out" clothes as I do not frequent clubs and bars. I got some cute skirts and some other pants that will be great for work. So not only was it great to purge my closet of old stuff, but I got to add a ton of fun new finds - for FREE!

Below are some pics. I'm already looking at dates for a fall swap. It was just so much fun and I can't wait to do it again! Everyone seemed over-the-moon about it. Every girl walked away with stuff and many commented on how they didn't even get a chance to go through their winter clothes yet because they'd already packed them away. So a fall swap is definitely in order!

Here's the beverage station... I did a champagne punch (well really it's a mimosa with cranberry juice added), another non-alcoholic punch, and then the usual sodas, etc.

I have all kinds of stemware and plates, etc on hand for parties, so I never have to buy this stuff. I used my champagne flutes and pulled a bunch of different ribbons to serve as wine tags. I figured people would be walking all around with their glasses and setting them down everywhere - so we needed a way to keep them straight. For the soda, I used my fabulous monogrammed stadium cups that I got from Ida Claire for my 30th birthday party. I tell ya - best $50 ever spent. We live out of those cups and I always whip 'em out for parties. Super cute, yet totally practical. And you can use them again and again!

The jewelry table was so fun to set up... I used serving dishes to display the jewelry. I wish I had gotten a pic earlier in the afternoon - it's very picked over at this point...

One of the many $5 IKEA racks... and one of my IKEA mirrors.

Here you can see everyone's stash piles. Everyone kind of designated a "spot" and stuck all of their finds there.

Here's my stash! I totally made out well. The fun was, everytime you went back through a rack you'd find more stuff. I kept finding more - I guess others were trying stuff and then would put it back. So you have to make several rounds!

Yes, so if you haven't gathered by now - it was a total A+++ success! Easy, cheap, and over-the-top fun. I plan to do these every 6 months. And I look forward to the day when I can do them for baby and kids' clothes - how fun would that be?! So in case you have thoughts of throwing a swap of your own, I'll give you the quick 1-2-3, as well as how much I spent. I think I pulled some how-to info a while back, but here's the Buford Betty version...

1. Pick a date - I think afternoon is best. 3 hours is plenty of time. Gather email addresses and use evite to send out your swap invite. I sent mine out 8 weeks in advance since the girls had to do a little work for this party! You'll want to explain the basics in your evite. I set parameters as far as what to bring. I would definitely set a minimum (I asked for 5 pieces) - most will bring way more, but it gets the point across that you gotta give a little to get a little - no freeloaders! I also laid out a timeline - making it clear that the girls needed to arrive on time so we could set up shop. And most importantly - I strongly encouraged that they leave the kids at home. It's just not a place for kids.

2. Figure out how many racks, etc you're going to need... I had 10 racks total and they were pretty full. I certainly could've gotten away with less though. The IKEA ones I used were maybe like 3.5 feet wide. But hey, at $5 each, I just got a bunch. I spent $45 on racks and I also purchased a couple of mirrors for $7 each. I already had plenty of bins on hand for shoes and handbags. So for "shop" supplies, I only spent $60. And that was a first-time only purchase. I won't have to buy any of that for future swaps! Also you'll need to have hangers and shopping bags on hand. I suggested in the evite to bring your items hanging if you can, but that I'd have hangers available. Some girls even brought more hangers, so there was no shortage of hangers at all. Use old shopping bags for girls to carry their new items home in - though many will already come with bags (used to tote their old stuff) and won't even need them.

3. I recommend an afternoon timeslot (I did 2-5pm) so you're not overlapping with any real mealtimes and feel obligated to provide heavy snacks. Including flowers and alcohol, I spent less than $100 on groceries. That's a total record for me as I tend to go overboard - always - in that area. I limited the menu to 3 items. I did cheese and crackers, brownie bites (courtesy of Costco), and the one item I made was chocolate-covered strawberries. I covered the basic girly food groups... cheese, fruit, and chocolate. Even that was more than enough. I only went through one bottle of champagne for the punch... so no outrageous alcohol bill there. Of course you don't have to have cocktails, but I wanted to!

4. As the girls arrive, help them get there stuff organized. I definitely recommend setting up different areas in your house with swap items so everyone's not crammed in one space browsing. As I mentioned, I organized by category but not by size - I definitely think that's the way to go. Also make sure there are areas for the more modest to try on things. Some of the girls there had no problem stripping down in the middle of the room, but others ran for a bathroom or spare bedroom. Allow 30min - 1hr for the setup and chit chat time. Once you've got everyone there and settled, let 'em loose!

5. There will be leftovers... I am taking most of it to Goodwill this week. Some of the nicer pieces that didn't get taken will be saved for a future swap. And some girls took back a few of their old items that didn't get taken.

So that's it! Can you tell I'm excited about this? I can't stop talking about it and I totally can't wait for the next one! :-)


Preppy Pink Crocodile said...

Love it!! Can't wait to come to the Fall swap!

Amelia said...

It looks awesome!!! What a great idea :) I especially loved your ribbon idea with the champagne flutes! Thanks for sharing.

The Eubanks said...

That is an amazing idea! What a great way to get rid of older, and still nice stuff!

Some Like it Southern said...

I am excited for you! And so glad to hear that it was so successful! I am going to pitch the idea to some of my girlfriends! Thanks for all the details and suggestions. I'll be sure to let you know if we decide to do one!

Sue said...

What fun!!!! I think you may have inspired me to try this! Yippee, a fun new way to get together. And, hey, your house is so cute! Along with the decorations!

Jill said...

You are an amazing hostess! I LOVE that cute purse with the tulips - you are just too much! Anyway, I'm so sorry I couldn't make it - April has just been a crazy month. I hope to make the next one!!

Jennifer H. said...

I LOVE this idea. Would you share with me what you said on your evite. Also, was it an even swap - bring 5 items, take 5 items? I'd be worried that someone would be a clothes hog. How did you plan on handling fighting over items? Also, did you have a guest room serving as a dressing room to try on items?

Buford Betty said...

Jennifer - I'd be glad to send you the evite wording. Email me at aaz106@yahoo.com and I'll be glad to forward it.

There were no rules as far as it being an "even" swap. There's no real way to monitor that, but I wasn't really concerned about that happening since these girls were friends. Everyone brought a ton of stuff and I think they were just as thrilled to get rid of old stuff as they were to get some new things!

No one fought over anything but I suggested having a "walk-off" if two girls were going after the same piece. But there was so much stuff - it wasn't even necessary.

I did have a spare bedroom available to change in as well as a couple of bathrooms. But most of us just threw things on and off in the middle of the madness! I wore a dress - makes trying on pants and skirts so easy.

Trenches of Mommyhood said...

What a great idea and it sounds like so much fun! I'd love to be able to do this with my gal pals!

Somewhere Between Pinot and Pacifiers said...

This seems like such a great idea! And what a wonderful job you did hosting it! I love the little ribbons tied around the stemware. I bet your friends had a blast!

The Bona Fide Preppy Bride said...

Thanks for your comment & dress advice on my blog! I really appreciate the help! I love your blog and I want to sit and read it all when I have the time.. and I am definitely "borrowing" the ribbon around the stemware idea for a Mother's Day brunch I am having next week!