SWAPmaine brought things up a notch Wednesday night with its first soiree – giving ladies an excuse to have a few cocktails and trade clothes.

Well, not the ones they were wearing.

Swappers were asked to bring five items worthy of a soiree swap – resulting in a large selection of designer, retro and otherwise trendy finds at the event held at the Mariner’s Church Banquet Hall in Portland.

“I went through my closet like I was mad at it,” laughed Alison Hayward of Portland.

After a cocktail hour set aside for perusing the options, SWAPmaine organizers declared the swap on.

Women descended on the restrooms like teenagers trading clothes for the big dance.

“I really like the idea of reuse and recycling,” said Anna Pierson of Portland. “As a creative person, I get bored with my clothes and not having the budget to buy new things all the time. I love this. It’s like shopping from your friends’ closets.”

SWAPmaine started two years ago with a few local bloggers interested in fashion and frugality.

“We all became friends via Twitter,” explained Allie Munier, who writes the blog Broke207. “One day a couple of us were having a conversation about how we needed to have a citywide clothing swap.”

At the first SWAPmaine event, the organizers were shocked to see 200 people show up.

“We had a line down the street,” Laura Duplissis said.

A partnership was formed with Goodwill Industries of Northern New England.

The first three SWAPmaine events brought in a clothing surplus for the Goodwill stores, ultimately benefiting Goodwill’s work force, residential and brain injury rehabilitation programs.

The fourth event, the SWAPmaine Soiree held Wednesday, was a more intimate swap with about 50 women.

Tickets sold for $20, which when combined with jewelry sales in a “boutique” area of the ballroom, raised nearly $1,000 for Goodwill.

“Not only are you adding to your wardrobe, you’re also helping Goodwill,” said volunteer Aubin Thomas. “You can’t lose there.”

Many SWAPmaine enthusiasts love Goodwill anyway.

Nancy Puleo of Scarborough remembers her first Goodwill purchase as a child almost 50 years ago – a shirt for 77 cents.

“I was so excited,” she said, “And they aren’t all that much more now.”

“I’m a huge Goodwill fan,” said Ann Arsenault of Gray, attending the swap with her daughter Kelly Perry of Scarborough. “My husband and I do Goodwill tours and hit three or four Goodwills at a time.”

“Goodwill shoppers aren’t just for need,” explained Trendy Stanchfield, director of development for Goodwill. “Swappers can get a look at higher-end bargains. And, this, the exclusivity of it, intrigued people. This has more of a boutique feel.”

“Having a chance to shop a curated collection of things and benefit a nonprofit – what can be better?” said Meg Gipson of Minot.

“There could be some really cool vintage or designer stuff,” said Terri Coakley. “We don’t have anything like this in Kennebunk.”

“It’s really fun giving people an opportunity to get rid of their stuff and yet take something away,” said Munier, showing off her new-to-her rhinestone bracelet.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer from Scarborough. She can be reached at:

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