The Ethical Writers Tell Their Second Hand Stories

To celebrate our 4th and largest bi-annual style swap this Saturday in New York, the Ethical Writers have gathered personal stories about their second hand wins. While our swaps are always a good time, we do have an agenda: swapping is an easy way to be ethical and sustainable. By swapping, we reduce the demand for new clothing and make use of items that already exist. Every member of the Ethical Writers Coalition has realized, at some point or another, the benefits of swapping before shopping, and we’d like to share our stories with you! 

Here's mine:

I find there's a delicate balance between holding tight to items I love and letting go of ones that no longer add value to my life. But once I decide to let go, I'm happy to see the thing change hands and bring pleasure to someone else. I love our swaps because I'm able to see someone delight in one of my items in person—squealing, grinning, and mugging for the camera with their new love—it's quite different than dropping it off at a thrift store to go who knows where. The excitement for both giver and receiver is intoxicating. I highly recommend it!

Addie Benson of Old World New

“Reuse, sustain, make old new again.” That’s my motto, and my favorite old things to make new again are clothes. Finding timeless pieces at thrift stores, vintage shops, garage sales, and even at clothing swaps make for a great curated closet. Sometimes I’m amazed by my finds and wonder how anyone could have ever let them go, until I head to my closet and realize my style has evolved and that I, too, need to donate or swap some things that I once loved to don regularly. The cycle of donating clothes and finding more second hand clothes to wear is exhilarating. It is never the same twice, but it is always a fruitful adventure that yields endless style possibilities!

Faye Lessler of Sustaining Life

Ever since I was 10, every time I went over to a close friend’s house, I would bring a bag of clothing with me and come home with a few fun, new-to-me pieces to add to my closet. To me, swapping is about trying new things and creating stories around our relationships through our clothing!

Bianca Alexander of Conscious Living TV

As part of my commitment to Conscious Living, for the past two years, I’ve sworn to buy no new clothes. To me, swapping is the new shopping! Whether attending a swap party with some of my most fashionable friends, vintage hunting, or treasure-troving at the local Goodwill, nothing beats second hand style. I already have so many beautiful pieces in my wardrobe, so I try to be extra-mindful of only incorporating items that, in the spirit of Marie Kondo, truly bring me joy. One of my favorite buys is this ‘60’s leopard-like vintage faux fur coat I picked up at American Rag in San Francisco - it’s vegan like me, one of a kind and goes with everything in my closet whether I dress up or down. I get compliments each time I wear it, and it’s so unique, I’ll never see a doppelgänger. Vintage, second hand and recycled fashion is not only timeless, it’s the most conscious way to make a powerful fashion statement.

Catherine Harper of Walking with Cake

I have a vintage watch and purse that I wear all the time. To me, these things get better with age and I like knowing that there’s a history behind the pieces I use on a regular basis. It’s fun to imagine the women who loved them in the past.

Alden Wicker of EcoCult

I have this one pair of pants I got from the last EWC fashion swap – well, I got two great pairs of pants actually. One is a pair of black jeans from Banana Republic that I wear constantly. The other pair of pants are the ones I’m thinking of, though. They’re super skinny, with a black-and-white abstract pattern and a lay-flat zipper in the front. Honestly? I’m sure they weren’t expensive to begin with. And I probably never would have bought them new. And yet, they were free at the swap, they were in my favorite colors (black and white) and they fit, so I took them home with me. I pulled them on one night to go out to a party at a nearby bar. I met my fiance there, and he took one look at me and said, “You’re butt looks so good in those.” He grabbed my female friend and dragged her over to confer. She agreed. “Your butt. Amazing.” Now I wear them whenever I need a particularly sexy confidence boost.

I think we all buy different things second hand than we do new. Shopping new is an exercise in careful selection. It is reasoned. You come in with a plan and execute. Second hand shopping is all serendipity. You could go in with a plan, and that might sort of work in a large store. But more likely you’ll stumble on something you never knew you wanted, for the perfect price. And it will become a favorite.


I’ve been second hand shopping since I was a kid. I used to spend all the money I made from selling femo figurines at the market, babysitting and the few little acting parts I got at a second hand store, which was about a ten minute walk from my house. Back then, I had no idea shopping outside the mall was "green." To me, it was just an avenue to a sense of independence and individuality that I couldn’t find elsewhere. Today, it is a sense of magic that draws me, I feel much-loved pieces find me, not the other way around. The second hand shopping here Paris is insane—I did a whole Vlog post on it here for Fashion Revolution Week—they make their second hand store look like any other Parisian boutique and it is filled with French women’s unwanted clothing which leaves little room for complaint!


Whenever I go home to visit my mom, a closet raid is a must—we have always loved swapping clothing. It is very nostalgic, sorting through the pieces with her, clothing she wore and loved throughout my childhood. Luckily for me, she is always happy to share, to see the pieces continue on to new adventures. Last year, she handed down a pair of Levi's that she had set aside for me. I gave her the jeans as a gift back in the 90's, they no longer fit her so she wanted me to take over ownership. My mom loves gardening and she did a ton of it in these jeans. They have a slight brownish tinge that doesn't wash out as a reminder of that and the fit is a little boyish, with a serious case of cowboy crotch. But they are perfect and I hope one day to pass them down to my own daughter.

Leah Wise of Style Wise

I attended my first swap two years ago, right before two of my dear friends moved away. We laid everything out in a friend’s living room, sipped wine, and had a lovely time trying on each other’s clothing. Even though we were all different sizes, we found lots of things that fit. Plus, it’s so wonderful to have a few items to remember my friends by now that they live far away.

Sara Weinreb of IMBY and Necessary Trouble

A few years ago I bought a vintage coach purse at a flea market. I love it and use it all the time! It is such great and sturdy quality, and I wouldn’t have spent the money on it new, plus I love the worn-in look to it. Added bonus that my fashion student cousin was with me and authenticated that it was real!

Stephanie Villano of My Kind Closet

I think there’s a romantic element to swapping or buying second hand. I like to imagine who was wearing or using the piece of clothing or home decor (my husband and I like to shop second hand to decorate and LOVE antique mirrors and nautical stuff) before me and I often come up with a story in my mind about what that person was like and how they styled it. I’d like to think that the person who owned the pair of boots, piece of clothing, or artwork before me would be happy to know that it has found a new home and is still being enjoyed.  I also sometimes consign old items with a local consignment shop, and I really take pleasure in seeing someone around town wearing something that I know used to be mine.

Renee Peters of Model4greenliving

I have a pair of boots from my favorite consignment shop that I have worn almost every day, for the past two winters, all over New York. The soles are worn and the heels need repair. The effort to restore them pales in comparison to the joy that they bring me. They have endured countless city miles, northeastern arctic chills, and Parisian cobblestone streets. They have also shared some my best memories and proudest moments.

Whether worn for work or for play, these boots are an essential in my life. I am thankful for whoever resold them rather than throwing them away. They gave an old item new life. They prevented more waste from entering our ever-crowded landfills and provided me with the perfect shoe for my needs.

That is why, whenever I am ready to lose the items that no longer serve me, I am happy to participate in a clothing swap with my friends and neighbors. I know that my unwanted things could bring even more joy to someone new, just as those boots have for me. And who knows… maybe I will find my next favorite thing at the clothing swap too!

If you are in NYC, I'd love for you to experience all of the joys of swapping! Get $5 off your ticket with the code: NOTE10


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