Friday, April 18, 2008

Wardrobe Swap Shop

If you are a careful reader of this blog, you will occasionally see that I note the origin of an item as “via swap” or “swapped.” Sometimes I’ve gotten the item from Fashion Lady (aka Londyn), but most of the time I swapped for it on Wardrobe Swap Shop, a Flickr group.

The group’s premise is simple. Members post a picture and details on a fashion item they no longer want. Then, they either wait for another member to contact them, or actively look through the pooled photos and initiate a swap themselves. Swappers work out details via the photo comments or Flickr Mail and ship the swapped items to one another. It isn’t a perfect system. There is the cost of postage. The actual item may not be exactly as pictured or may not fit. You run the risk of encountering a swaplifter (someone who never sends their item off to you). When it all works out, though, you have the chance to trade clothing items all over the world, develop relationships with perfect strangers, see your unused items go to a new home, and, most of all, HAVE FUN!

Are you interested?

Getting Started
1. Sign up for a Flickr account. (It’s totally free.)
2. Join the Wardrobe Swap Shop group. Using the search page, select “groups” and then enter the name. You should find it easily. Or use the hyperlinks on this page. Check out the latest buzz on the group’s Discussion board.
3. Take photos of your items. The very best photos are of clothing modeled on a body – real or dummy. Second best are clothes hung from a hanger or clothesline. As a last resort, lay the clothing on a table, bed, or floor to photograph. In all cases, you want a clean background and well lit conditions. Take the same care you would if you were to sell the item. It must appeal!
4. Edit your photo. If needed. Do not use image editing software to fix holes, cover stains or otherwise misrepresent the item.
5. Take notes and measurements. I write down the brand, size, and fiber content. I also measure bust, waist, and hip widths. Measure length as well, being sure to note how you measured it (shoulder seam to hem, waistband to hem, etc.) Also note any damage at this time. Be honest!
6. Upload your picture to Flickr.
7. Add a description. Put your notes and measurements in the item description.
8. Add the photo to the group pool. At the top of your photo, you’ll see a “Send to Group” button. Click it and select Wardrobe Swap Shop. (The group will not show up until you join it, as specified in step 2.)
9. Start swapping!

Courting Through Comments
Because initial interest in an item is usually expressed in the comments, be sure you check your Flickr comments daily. On your Flickr home page, new comments are displayed in the Recent Activity section, along with a thumbnail of the photo. Only the last four or five "activities" show up on the home page, so, for a more complete history of comments, click on the More Recent Activity link.

If you leave comments on others’ Wardrobe Swap Shop items, I recommend that you keep your words grammatically correct and clear. I’m always hesitant to swap with someone that leaves comments like “watn swap.” If they didn’t bother to write a complete sentence or check their spelling, I have little faith the package will get in the mail! (Of course, you’ve got to cut any non-English speakers a little slack on the grammar.) In addition to clearly expressing your interest, include a link to your Flickr page (or for the Flickr-advanced, your Wardrobe Swap Shop set). That way the other person can easily find the items you have for swap. For example, “I’d love to swap! Let me know if anything in my swap set interests you.”

If someone expresses interest in your item, but you see nothing of their's you like, leave a comment on your photo. For example, “Thanks Miss Matilda, but none of your items strike my fancy at the moment.” It’s just common courtesy to let your fellow swapper know that you are monitoring your comments, but not interested in swapping at this time.

If you’ve left a comment on someone else’s photo and they respond, the update will show up in the Recent Activity section on your home page (under the default Flickr settings).

Seal the Deal with Flickr Mail
Obviously, all this comment-checking can be a bit tedious. Once you’ve established that you and another swapper want to make an exchange, move your conversation to Flickr Mail.

The easiest way to send Flickr Mail to another user is to click on their icon, select their profile page, and then click the “send Flickr Mail” link. It works like any other web-based email system.
I usually confirm the items with the other swapper (e.g. I’m sending you my green top in exchange for your red skirt) and then give my shipping address. Use caution with giving out your home address to a stranger.

It’s nice to send a second note after you’ve shipped with an expected delivery date and a confirmation number.

Shipping and Receiving
I send all US swaps via Priority Mail. The post office provides free shipping supplies if you use Priority Mail, so I figure the extra postage cost is justified. I also purchase Delivery Confirmation for a small fee so that I (and the receiver) can track the item.

I advise that you wrap any garments in a plastic sack (even a grocery bag will do) before stuffing it in the envelope. It would really be disappointing for your fellow swapper to receive an item ruined by something leaking in the mail truck. Some swappers also include thank-you notes or trinkets. That isn’t necessary, but appreciated.

If you will be delayed in getting to the post office to mail off your package, let your partner know. It’s better to admit that you won’t get there until Saturday than to leave the swapper hanging.

Shipping overseas is expensive. I will do it, but not for heavy items like shoes or leather. Some swappers prefer not to swap outside of the continent at all. If you feel that way, note it in the description of each of your photos (e.g. U.S. swaps only). It may sound harsh, but it’s better than disappointing another swapper by backing out after you’ve learned they are across the ocean.

The Afterglow
One of the most disappointing experiences I’ve had (besides being swaplifted) is expressing interest in an item only to find it was swapped long ago. If you have a swap pending (still in the comment/mail exchange phase), add “Swap Pending” to the item’s title. After you’ve mailed it off, change the wording to “Taken,” and remove it from the pool. You can remove it by going to the pool, locating the photo, and clicking the “x” next to your user name. You can also remove it by going to the photo page, selecting “Send to Group,” and clicking the “x” next to the group name. This is not only courteous, but will improve everyone’s browsing experience.

Discuss Amongst Yourselves
It isn’t required that you read the Wardrobe Swap Shop discussion board, but I recommend it. Start a thread introducing yourself, describing the types of items that interest you and inviting future exchange partners to leave feedback on their experience with you.

When you are interested in a swap, check the board for the threads the user may have started on themself. Have others left positive comments? No comments? Or even bad comments? Also search the discussion group for swaplifters. Search the user name of your intended swap partner and any threads regarding that user should come up. Group members generally look out for one another and swaplifters are soon discovered and banned from the group.

Only send CLEAN items to swappers. If an item is damaged, note it in your comments. Be prompt and courteous in your communications.

The Plunder
Just to get you excited about swapping, here are some outfits I’ve worn featuring swapped items:

I hope to see you as a new member to Wardrobe Swap Shop!


Anonymous said...

i tried to join the swap shop ages ago and never received an "accepted" from the moderator.

Mykeru said...

Wow, it's so much work, isn't it?

Jennifer said...

Thanks SO much for all the info! I had looked at the Swap Shop a while ago when I saw you reference it, but was a bit confused as to the whole process, so this was great. I will be joining soon!

Kasmira said...

Anon- maybe you should try again?

Anonymous said...

i keep getting "still awaiting moderator attention" message. too bad, i have a ton of cute stuff to swap.

Robin Feltner said...

Just signed up for this group. How fun! Not to mention...I'm eying the red New York and Company dress you have posted on there! Gorg!