How to Give Your Clothes to Your Friends

Copy of Winter capsule wardrobe (1)Donation is one great option for clothes you no longer wear/love. But don’t discount letting your friends get first crack!  (Especially since doing so might encourage them to return the favor…)

It can feel a little odd to see your coworker show up to work in what was formerly your shirt or to meet your BFF for drinks and see them wearing your ex-heels, but mostly it feels like a big ol’ boost to your karma.

Y’all know I’m a big fan of the “picture someone else loving this” method of convincing yourself to part with almost-perfect-for-you…but not….items in your closet. Well, the motivation is even stronger when you actually know the person on the receiving end and might even get to see them exuding the joy of rocking new-to-them duds.

Click through for tips on how to do it right.

Side note: if part of being able to let go of a piece you’re on the fence about is knowing you’ll never see it again—thus avoiding the looming specter of “donor’s remorse”—just donate it. (Preferably to a store far, far away where it won’t show up on the racks you’re perusing a week later.  This totally happens to me.)


  • No egos allowed. Before you think this tip and the karma reference mean I’ve gone all metaphysical on you, let me explain: if you can’t pass clothes on to friends without caring whether the receiver ends up keeping and actually wearing your donated clothing, you shouldn’t do it.  Why? Because…
  • No strings attached.  In order to keep awkwardness to an absolute minimum for all involved (aka to avoid becoming the friend who’s always pushing their stuff on others), be super explicit when offering to share, and be willing to take no for an answer.
    • Sample conversation: “Take a look through, see if you like anything, and don’t hesitate to donate stuff you don’t want. Seriously.”
    • You can also offer to take it back and donate it yourself; not recommended, though, if there’s a chance it’ll end up back in your “maybe” pile ad infinitum.
    • Follow up: if the donated pieces don’t show up on the wearer’s body in the next few weeks,  SKIP ASKING about the clothes (unless you’re close friends and you can pull off a casual, I-am-just-interested-as-your-friend version of “Any of those clothes work out?”).
  • Pitch the clothes with enthusiasm and tact.
    Don’t make it sound like you hate the clothes (even if you do); you risk implying that your friends will want them because they have horrible taste!

    • Related: be tactful around weight/size differences. I wish we lived in a society where body size didn’t carry moral weight, but we don’t, so saying “I just lost weight but these might still fit you” won’t necessarily be heard as a value-neutral statement.
    • Skip backhanded compliments, too—ixnay  on “this is too big for me but it’ll be great on you!” and similar.
    • While we’re at it, don’t belittle your own body as you pass clothes on—if you are giving away something that doesn’t fit, for whatever reason, see it as an affirmation of the body you have right now.
    • Sample conversation: “These are great clothes/some of my favorites, but I’m just not wearing them very much and they deserve a better home. Any chance you’d be interested?”


I have to admit it can feel a little strange to see your friends wearing your ex-clothes—my favorite clothes-freeing imaginative exercise of picturing an anonymous stranger reveling in your donation has none of the emotional impact of turning the corner and suddenly seeing your friend/coworker wearing “your” item.

This probably has to do, in part, with the endowment effect—the minute we own something, we ascribe more value to it, even if we never really liked it or wore it in the first place!


On the other hand, you may not feel that awkward donor’s remorse feeling at all.  You may, in fact, enjoy seeing someone else wearing the clothes that had been squashed in the back of your dresser drawer.

And even if you don’t feel this “donor’s high” right off the bat, the endowment effect will probably decrease and your affection for your former clothes’ new home increase the more you see your friend sporting your former duds.



What are your experiences with passing clothes on to friends?  Success?  Awkward failure?  I-would-never-be-that-tacky-in-a-million-years?  Scroll down to comment!


Bonus for everyone who made it to the end: my friend’s texted pics whenever she wears an item I passed on to her.  These put a smile on my face!

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“Hey, like my shirt?”



4 thoughts on “How to Give Your Clothes to Your Friends

  1. I LOVE THIS LEAH!! I am pretty firmly in the ‘ego boost’ camp – after our recent clothing swap my friend mentioned she loved a necklace that she scored from it, and I realised it was one of my ‘exes’ and felt so proud! It felt like a real vindication of my taste – which admittedly doesn’t make much sense because it obviously wasn’t quite to my taste because I wasn’t wearing it. I guess it’s the same feeling as giving a good gift? Am linking to this post on FB btw! xx

    1. Hahaha…so true—the paradox of “good on me for liking it in the first place and then not liking it so much I could give it away so you could like it.” Thanks for the FB link!

    1. Try inviting them to a clothes swap – it can be just a few friends and it’s an easy way to get some free, unwanted clothes in circulation without imposing on your friend’s good will :)

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