Clothes, camaraderie, community

Swaps enable participants to shop for free and make friends

If you go

When: Free clothing swaps are held the first Saturday of the month, from September through June, at 6 p.m., at Rushing Water Yoga Studio, 417 N.E. Birch St., Camas.

Cost: Free. Attendees are asked to pre-sort clothes so they can be separated into piles of small, medium, large and plus sizes, and to bring clean clothing, accessories and other items in good condition.

Additional info: For more information about specific swap rules or to be put on the e-mail list, contact Dorothy Krahn at or browse

Contact: Reach Lynn Johnston at 834-0724 or visit

Participants had the opportunity to peruse several unique pieces, including this sundress and shoes from 1989.

Clothing swaps, like this one in Camas, sometimes include accessories and non-clothing items as well.

Clothing swaps have been in existence for several years in the Portland and Seattle area. A Camas swap was started eight years ago by a local teen, and it continues today.

Those who enjoy fashion, socializing and saving money have an option to do all three every month with a local clothing swap.

Here’s how it works: After signing up to receive email from a Swap Positive coordinator, participants are invited to the event. There is also a listing of other swap opportunities online. The rules are simple: Bring clean, usable clothes to give away, take something “new” home and don’t resell anything. All clothes that are not claimed are donated to organizations which give them away.

Some of the groups that have benefited include church clothing closets, women’s shelters and area Parent Teacher Association clothes closets.

Dorothy Krahn has been participating in clothing swaps for five years. Now, she organizes the Camas group, which meets the first Saturday of every month during the school year.

Krahn took over for her then-teenage daughter after she moved out of the area.

“She attended a clothes swap in Portland (as a teen) and decided to start one in Camas,” she said. “I enjoy the sense of community at swaps. What goes around comes around, and there is always plenty.”

Krahn has not purchased clothes for two years.

“It becomes an ethic,” she said. “Why spend money needlessly? Anything you buy is only new once, the first time you wear it.”

She also attends a clothes swap in Portland. Her volunteer job as the Camas coordinator is to post the local swap notices, e-mail reminders and take all leftover clothes to Share House in Vancouver.

Dress For Success, an organization that provides professional attire to women in need, is also a beneficiary.

Saving money and staying stylish are two of the most common reasons swappers give for participating. Many also enjoy the recycling and not-for-profit aspect.

“I know people who will throw clothes away, and it’s such a waste,” said Kirsten Seyfertf of Washougal. “Someone can always use it. This is a great way to share and I usually bring more than I take home.”

She has been attending clothing swaps for one-and-a-half years and enjoys the monthly events.

Between exchanging friendly greetings with others and perusing the clothing, Seyfertf noted that swaps are also an opportunity to get to know like-minded members of the local community.

“I love the vibe and it is something fun to do here,” she said. “You find all kinds of unique stuff. I don’t come with any expectations other than to have fun.

Plus, I always know my stuff is going to a good place. It’s also an opportunity to get organized and clean out my closet.”

The Camas swap includes women’s and teen-style clothing and accessories in all sizes. Krahn noted that her best find was a silk jacket from China.

“It is very unique and I always get comments on it,” she said.

Tejal Patel is a mom of two in Camas. Saturday night was her second clothing swap.

“It’s a good way to recycle instead of donating it to Goodwill, and it’s a great way to give away stuff and get something,” she said.

Angela Marks of Vancouver has been attending swaps for seven years. Saturday night was her second one of the day.

“I love clothes and I can change my wardrobe up without spending money,” she said. “I have found so many things. All of my jeans and favorite shoes have come from swaps. This way, I can save my money and spend it on really unique pieces.”

Nina Hightower, who has attended swaps for two years, enjoys the variety of items and the social aspect.

“I only shop for new items at sales,” she said. “If it is really reduced, sometimes I will buy it and bring it here. It’s fun and I get something that looks different.”