Old Clothes Cluttering Your Closet? Swap-O-Rama-Rama!

SORR participants look through piles of clothes in Des Moines last year. Photo: Courtesy Des Moines Shop-O-Rama-Rama

I’ll bet you have clothes in your closet that you haven’t worn for years. And how about shoes? How many of those are cluttering your shoe rack or heaped on the floor?

Two of the three Des Moines SORR co-organizers, Kelsey Blessman (L) and Elizabeth Andrews (R). Photo: Courtesy Des Moines Shop-O-Rama-Rama

The vast majority of people reading this post have clothes that you’ve forgotten about. What good are they doing cluttering up limited closet and drawer space? Isn’t it time to tell them to move along?

After all, someone, somewhere, would love to have a gently used pair of jeans in the size that no longer fits you. Or maybe they’d enjoy those black pumps you only wore a couple of times before deciding they’re not really your style. And that cool outfit you bought that turned out to look better in the magazine than it does on you? Yeah, somebody else would like that one, too.

Swap-O-Rama-Rama (SORR) is an event designed to solve the problem of too many clothes and too little space. At a Swap-O-Rama-Rama, you donate your lovingly worn or long-forgotten clothing at the event, then take home something that’s just right for you today.

The phenomenon is sweeping the U.S., including Des Moines, Iowa, this Saturday. While the specific details of each event will vary, the general approach, licensed by Tremayne through Creative Commons, is the same.

Founder Wendy Tremayne, writing on the SORR website, says, “Swap-O-Rama-Rama is a clothing swap and series of do-it-yourself workshops in which a community explores creative reuse through the recycling of used clothing.”

How It Works

Work stations offer ways to spruce up (and spice up!) your clothing finds. Photo: Courtesy Des Moines Shop-O-Rama-Rama

Local Swap-O-Rama-Rama hosts — usually a nonprofit group — pick a location where there’s plenty of room for tables (or piles) of clothing, workshop areas, privacy for trying on “new” clothes, and a fashion runway.

As a participant, you bring a small donation ($10 in the case of the Des Moines Swap-O-Rama-Rama) and a bag of good, unwanted clothing.

Once inside the door, you’ll place your donated clothing in a designated area. In Des Moines, organizers Stephanie Bracelin, Kelsey Blessman, and Elizabeth Andrews — along with other volunteers — will sort the clothing on long tables. In some locations, participants heap the clothing into one large pile, and everyone just dives on in to see what they can find.

You get to sort through the pile(s) and select items you’d like to take home. Try on your new duds to see if they fit. But don’t expect a mirror. There won’t be any. This is a social event, where you’re encouraged to ask others how that outfit or shirt looks on you. Meet new friends as you browse together and help each other find a great, new look.

Embroidery adds a personal touch to gently used clothes. Photo: Courtesy Des Moines Shop-O-Rama-Rama

Once you’ve selected clothing, it’s time to head over to the workshop area. Would you love to embellish your new find, but don’t feel confident that you have the skill? No worries. Experts will be available to demonstrate all sorts of interesting fashion tips, such as how to —

  • Modify clothing to make an entirely new piece — a dress from men’s slacks, or a handbag from old ties, for example.
  • Screen print designs on a t-shirt or sundress using the YuDu.
  • Embellish jeans with rhinestones, buttons, lace, or embroidery.
  • Hand dye or bleach a shirt to give it a fresh look.
  • Apply needle felting techniques for a unique touch.
  • Make basic repairs or alterations using a sewing machine.

After you’ve customized your new clothes with your personal designer touch, pick up a free SORR label to sew into your new creation.

Who Benefits?

It’s hard to imagine a swap in which everything is taken at the end of the day. With Swap-O-Rama-Rama, nothing is ever wasted. Organizers donate the excess items to local charities.

In Des Moines, leftover clothing and shoes will be given to Hope Ministries, a local church organization that distributes clothing to homeless shelters and charity thrift stores.

What about the funds raised at the door? First, they go to paying expenses, says Kelsey Blessman, co-organizer of the Des Moines Swap-O-Rama-Rama. Any funds left after expenses will go to Blessman Ministries, a mission run by Kelsey’s relatives to do charitable work among impoverished people in South Africa.

Des Moines Swap-O-Rama-Rama

Swap-O-Rama-Rama will be in Des Moines April 24, 2010. Photo: Courtesy Des Moines Shop-O-Rama-Rama

When: April 24, 11 A.M. – 4 P.M.

Where: Make\Break
300 SW 5th St.
Des Moines, Iowa 50309

Parking: Free on the street

Admission: $10 plus one bag of good, used clothing and/or shoes

Come early! The first 30 participants will receive a bag of cool swag made by local artists and artisans.

Handmade Nation

Watch Handmade Nation at the Des Moines SORR. Photo: Courtesy Des Moines Swap-O-Rama-Rama

While you’re at Saturday’s Shop-O-Rama-Rama in Des Moines, take a break and watch a showing of Handmade Nation, an independent documentary by Faythe Levine. The film profiles 24 widely varied crafters from across the U.S., with interviews about the types of things they make, and how they get their inspiration. It’s only $5, and you might just come away with ideas

When: April 24, 11 A.M. – 4 P.M.

Show Times: 11:30 A.M., 2:30 P.M., and 4:30 P.M.

Where: Make\Break
300 SW 5th St.
Des Moines, Iowa 50309

Parking: Free on the street

Admission: $5 per person

For More Information

To find out more about attending a Swap-O-Rama-Rama, or to find one near you, visit the SORR website. If there’s no Swap-O-Rama-Rama in your area, you can learn how to start one of your own.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)


2 Responses to “Old Clothes Cluttering Your Closet? Swap-O-Rama-Rama!”

  1. Blue Planet Green Living | Des Moines Swap-O-Rama-Rama on April 23rd, 2010 8:32 pm

    […] Blue Planet Green Living helped us out tremendously by writing an article about our event. Check it out here! […]

  2. Breaking Out of Throwaway Culture in 2013 | Blue Planet Green Living on March 17th, 2013 1:33 pm

    […] with the first point, people are not only taking their old clothes to be repaired, but they’re repurposing old articles of clothing into something fashionable. Thrift stores are becoming more socially acceptable and the norm as people use them to cheaply […]