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The Green Life: Clothing Swaps and Frugalistas

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July 28, 2008

Clothing Swaps and Frugalistas

Actress Lindsay Lohan, queen of the recyclable tabloid headline (“Another Scandal for LiLo!”), staked out a new domain for promoting reuse this summer: Visa Swap, the United Kingdom’s annual vintage and gently used clothing fest. Lohan’s was the fashionably furrowed face of this year’s three-week-long extravaganza, in which people traded unwanted clothes, shoes, and accessories for points. Earlier this month, swappers used their points to buy stylish second-hand stuff brought in by fellow participants. Anything not snapped up went to the charity Textile Recycling for Aid and International Development, which collects and sells used clothing to help fund projects like a solar-entrepreneur-training program in northern Malawi. Scandalous!

Of course, the idea of trading clothes is older than even the most dated dress in your closet. But today's economy and shopper's heightened awareness of environmental and social issues have infused swap soirees with a new buzz. Clothing Swap founder Suzanne Agasi touts swaps as a way to do right by the planet, while London's Sun traces the trend to so-called frugalistas--would-be fashionistas hit hard in recent months by the credit crunch who have found new (well, new-to-them) ways to revive their wardrobes.

This convergence (frugality + high-fashion + enviro ethos) represents something new for the world of eco-fashion, which has largely catered to buyers willing to pay a premium for a bona fide green look.In 2006, Wired described driving a Prius or wearing an organic-cotton shirt as "a way of "peacocking individual virtue and pursuading others to change their ways." What do you think it says now?

Are you a swap master? Hit the comment link below to share your tips and stories about great second-hand finds.

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