How To Get Free (Or Almost Free) Clothing

Like the changing of the leaves, those of us living in chillier climes change our outer gear seasonally. This means hauling out storage boxes that were carefully packed with moth-deterrents like cedar or camphor, washing, ironing and trying on clothes to see if they still fit. This ritual is often followed by a quieter ritual of weeping and self-recrimination, when waistbands appear to have magically shrunk themselves.


image by SmileyHaiku of


If, like me, you have been lounging about all summer and making some questionable food choices (helpful tip: Ice cream doesn’t constitute supper) – some of your favourite sweaters, pants and jackets won’t fit the way they should. What to do with the clothes that don’t fit, especially if you can’t really afford an all-new wardrobe?

The good news: There are some sweet ways to score new-to-you stuff, at no or minimal cost.  If you’re bound to your desk during the day, there’s still a way to hound down that hard-to-find sweater or a way to ditch the cute-but-not-that-cute dress while you are within reach of your mobile.

Free Apps and Websites to Find Free Clothes

  1. Freecycle.  This free online website is like an electronic trading post. People post what they are getting rid of, but members of the community can also list items they are looking for. You can sign up for daily “digests” – an email that summarizes items people are giving or hoping to get. You can sign up for various neighbourhoods, such as locations near where you live or work.
  2. Free apps like TrashNothing, Kijiji and CraigslistPro.  Yeahhh…it’s a mixed bag. There’s no real guarantee about the quality or the availability, but it’s always worth a shot.
  3. Peerby, the app that lets you borrow something from a neighbour. Their motto is, “want something, but don’t want to buy it?” This app is strictly for those who will return the item to its owner after borrowing it, but it’s great for those moments you simply must have a handsaw to complete your lumberjack Halloween costume.
  4. Barter is coming back, but unlike our grandparents’, we are using technology instead of trading face-to-face. Swapsity and Swapdom are websites that have members list what they want, and what they are willing to part with in exchange for the item. Swapsity is also a great resource if you’re looking for a service that you’re willing to barter for, such a re-upholstery or handyman work.
  5. Vinted is an app that also gives you the option to sell your unwanted clothes online, but if you’re looking for clothes to swap, it might be a good option to check out.

Image courtesy of “dierregi” of


Find a Local Clothing Swap – Or Host Your Own

  1. Host a clothing swap.  Bring your friends together – the more the merrier. The wider the array of sizes, the better. Have snack foods ready, and donate anything that is left behind to a charity of your choice. Friends get clothes, purge out their closets, and donate to a cause they believe in: win-win!
  2. Check Facebook or any local newspaper for clothing swaps in your area. Perfect for those who don’t have the room/time/energy to host.

Speaking of which, if you are in the Greater Toronto Area, there will be a clothing swap held on October 29, at the Arts Market (846 College St.) on October 29, 2015 at 7:30 pm. A donation of $5 at the door will go towards Urban Wildlife Care, a group dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of our native wildlife.  Bring your fall/winter seasonal clothes, and only the stuff that’s in good shape: Nothing frayed, broken or missing buttons, please. As with all clothing swaps, kindly do not bring underwear or swimwear.

If you’re still looking for a Clothing Swap in November, Toronto’s West Coast Swing community will be holding a charity clothing swap to support CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.) Please bring your previously-loved clothing, shoes and accessories to the Dovercourt House (805 Dovercourt Rd.,) 3rd floor on Sunday afternoon, November 8th at 2:00 p.m. The cost is $10 and all proceeds go to CAMH. All attendees will be eligible for the Door Prize: a pass to the Sweet Side of Swing – Northwest 2016 event taking place in Vancouver, June 24-26, 2016.


How to Host A Clothing Swap Party

What’s not to like? Clothing Swaps are cheap, it forces you and your friends to finally purge your closets and dressers, and you can have an excuse – not that you need one – to finally get together.



If you bring drinks, a clothing swap will give you a semi-legitimate reason to get tipsy before noon. Or afternoon. Or all day. We at Champagne Tastes and Beer Budgets do not judge.


  1. Select friends with similar tastes, but a wide range of sizes. A sweater from one friend can be a cute sweater-dress for a shorter guest.
  2. Give your guests a minimum of two weeks notice so they can go through their closets and dressers.
  3. Set up the invitations: You can use Evite, or any other free online invitation service. Some prefer Facebook to set up the event, to see who is and isn’t going, and post updates to rally reluctant hoarders along.
  4. Have food ready.  Finger foods that you eat easily with one hand that won’t leave grease or powdered sugar markings are recommended. Try deviled eggs, hummus on crackers, raw veggies. (Once everyone has made his or her choice, and the donations have been packed up, you can bust out the messy snacks.)

Set up the rules early. Post them on the Facebook event page, include them in your emailed invitation, and refresh everyone’s memory just before you begin:

Suggested Rules for a Drama-Free Clothing Swap

  • Take turns. Put names in a hat, and pick who gets to go first. Limit the number of items to three per turn to keep it fair and moving fast.
  • Use “tickets”. The host hands out a ticket (can be a playing card or a poker chip) for every item a guest donates. If a person brings 10 items, she gets 10 tokens with which she can purchase 10 new items.
  • One bag in, one bag out. Everybody goes home with the same number of items that they brought in, unless they want to donate it.
  • Have everyone agree on a charity to donate to.  Pack up the clothes that are left behind – after making absolutely sure nobody wants it – and send it along the same day. Nobobdy wants clutter in their home overnight.
  • Create display areas. Set up folding tables, or dryer racks. If the weather is good, try the clothing line outside. Otherwise, large storage bins and chairs can work well as temporary displays.
  • Have a fashion show. If two people want the same thing, opt for a “who wore it best” episode.  Have each contestant try it on, and decide by consensus who wears it better. If it might spark animosity, flip a coin.