By Morwenna Kearns
The wonderful people at Hubbub have come up with a more sustainable, cheaper and very probably more fun alternative to hunting for so-called bargains on Black Friday: #BrightFriday.
From tonight, the environmental campaigners will host three free #BrightFriday swishing parties in London. Raid your wardrobe for unloved or unworn garments and swap them for other people's clothes – therefore getting a new outfit or two without paying a penny, or adding to the 300,000 tonnes of clothes that go in the bin each year in the UK.
Since the clothes are free and there's fresh wardrobe space going spare, why not keep an open mind and dress dangerously? For my first official foray into swishing, in a pub in Birmingham, I elbowed my way through the throngs of women and grabbed anything a) I would conceivably wear and b) might, potentially, fit me.
I picked up a very short, full-skirted sundress with a pattern of bright orange and pink pansies from H&M, of the kind worn by nine-year-old girls during the summer of 1976 – although I'd be wearing it with black tights and a cardigan – and a French Connection wrap dress in a bright geometric pattern in turquoise, blue and black (again, tights-friendly).
My sister, who'd come along with me, stuck to her more usual style and got hold of a pair of new-looking Gap jeans and a brown leather handbag. Opting not to try jeans on there and then (at the height of the semi-riot of swishing the room was full of half-naked women falling over skirts and cocktail dresses), she was disappointed later to find the jeans were the wrong size. I did manage to squeeze into the jeans, so I made out like a swishing bandit.
As for what I'd brought to swap, a red 1980s wrap dress (eBay, far too big – the size was mislabeled) and black strappy evening gown (worn once at a university ball) disappeared before I'd even made it to the racks, while the Cadbury's-purple mini-skirt (itself a hand-me-down, and too small) was destined for a Brummie charity shop – the next stop for unswished clothes. I hope it found a suitably glamorous new owner.
Some ridiculously high mint-green peep-toe platform stilettos from Asos I'd thrown into my bag on an impulse remained sitting on the table after the swishing smoke cleared. I decided to take them back home. They'd look great with the geometric wrap dress.
In the chaos, I hadn't seen what my sister had brought to swap. "A little black jacket, three-quarter sleeves. The sort of thing that was fashionable about five years ago," she scoffed. (She is infinitely more grown up and stylish than me.)
"What, this jacket?" I said, having snaffled it from the rack. Perhaps we should have swished at home.
Life with the short orange and pink floral sundress didn't work out. It's now with a friend who is is five inches shorter than me, so she wears it like an adult rather than a child – and it has a lot of fun in its new home.