Some tricks for building collective wardrobes are as old-fangled as Garfunkel’s turtleneck, while others are new. Here are five of the best.
Gone are the days when the only rentable clothing was regrettable men’s prom wear. Now, you can lease high-end dresses from Rent The Runway and Lending Luxury, and designer purses from Bag Borrow or Steal.
While this is dandy for formal events, if you’re like me, your idea of everyday luxury is a shirt with no visible holes and/or marinara stains. Renting something for daily wear seems far-fetched, obtuse. Not to mention, not-so-sustainable. If you’re so caught up in trends that you need to constantly update your wardrobe, the clothing selection’s rentability will diminish faster than your wallet and green cred.
Two sites that bridge the gap nicely are Mine for Nine for maternity rentals and thredUP for kid’s clothes. While we obviously don’t want y’all getting pregnant just so you can rent some flexi-pants and OshKosh B’goshes, it makes sense to quit buying clothing for rapidly changing bodies.
If you’re late to the clothes swap epidemic, you’re really missing out. Basically, you invite a bunch of pals of various shapes and sizes to come over to your place with their underutilized, undesired wares. It’s a fun, lovely way to get rid of clothes that still might hold appeal to one of your friends. There are a lot of how-to guides on the internet. This Frisky piece does a succinct job, while this O Magazine article lays down the laws. I’d just emphasize one ingredient: wine.
There are online options for swapping as well like Swapstyle and Rehash. Here’s how it works: You upload images of whatever you’re looking to swap, then offer to trade or buy other members’ stuff, and ship to each other once you’ve reached an agreement. That sounds dandy on paper, but a perusal of the selections left me feeling … uninspired. You’d have to spend a fair amount of time digging in order to find something worthwhile. At that point, why not just hit up your local secondhand store? With the cost and footprint of shipping, it’s not like you’re doing the Earth or yourself much of a favor.
3. Sharing skills
Come rain or shine, Michael Swaine mends clothing for free once a month on the streets of San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. He teaches interested parties how to fix clothing and lends an ear to strangers who quickly become regulars. If you’re interested in sharing your skills, take it from Swaine, who has been doing this for over 11 years, and be realistic. By doing something once a month, rather than daily or weekly, it’s less likely to feel like an obligation.
Or, if you like working in a group, check to see if your city has a fixer collective or repair cafe. If you’re feeling extra ambitious and have a group of like-minded, crafty friends, start your own. Here are some tips from and a tour of Fixer’s Collective NYC.
4. Sharing designs
Whatever your craft (or lack thereof), there’s likely a community out there sharing ideas, tips, patterns, and projects. Knitter and open-source proponent Amy Twigger Holroyd is a fan of Ravelry. Crochet? You’re covered. I recommend poking around different websites for a feel of their aesthetics, mood, and community.
I’m a fan of Kollabora for its neat design and careful curation. Part of its crispness, though, stems from the fact that it sells the supplies for user-generated craft projects. That will either make things easier for you or sound a bit too capitalistic. Like I said, poke around.
5. Your grandmother’s closet
While we tend to think of sharing as a temporary or permanent exchange of underutilized or unwanted goods, vintage is a “kind of covert long-term leasing,” note Kate Fletcher and Lynda Grose in Fashion and Sustainability. New-to-you shopping means buying gently used, loved clothing that someone gave up and — hopefully — putting it back into the secondhand system once you’re done with it.
And indeed, vintage shops are brimming with clothing that was made before the days of cheap fashion designed to not last the season. By only purchasing vintage or high-quality new clothing, we can pay forward all the good times those ’80s leather jackets gave us and ensure future generations have tangible pieces of our fashion culture beyond grainy Instagram photos.
Obviously this list is incomplete, but you don’t want me to break into bad Paul Simon puns again, do you? Are there any sharing websites or systems you recommend?
Get Grist in your inbox