"Naked" Parties: Recession's Answer to the Mall

I'm standing in my underwear in a neighbor's Lake Worth living room, trying to wiggle into a pair of navy, pin-striped trousers. There's a bottle of red wine on the coffee table, next to a platter of hummus and chips. Coldplay strums from hidden speakers; candles glow on the bookcase.

Behind me, the dining-room table is piled high with T-shirts, bikinis, dresses, jeans -- as if someone dumped their hamper and fled. Shoes litter the floor. A girl I've never met is pulling a cocktail dress over her lacy purple bra.

I turn and peer into the mirror skeptically.

"Those are sexy-butt pants," my friend Tiffany Gore observes.

And just like that, the trousers are mine. They join a black polo shirt, white beach coverup,

and lacy brown skirt in the pile of treasures coming home with me tonight. All free, and all comfortably preowned by other guests at the party.

Some websites dub them clothing swaps or clothing exchange parties. Green hipsters call them "naked lady parties." But in South Florida, they're known as naked parties, because really, doesn't that make you want to show up?

It's simple. Clean out your closet -- plus your jewelry box, DVD collection, or bookshelf -- buy a bottle of wine, and invite a group of fashionable women over to do the same. Thanks to these parties, I've hardly had to enter a mall in two years.

Mitra Malek, a local journalist and yoga instructor, starting organizing the parties with a friend, Amanda Russcol, in Lake Worth in 2008. Russcol, a raw chef, has since moved, but Malek carries on the tradition.

"It's just fun because you can find all kinds of goodies that you perhaps wouldn't find otherwise," she says.

At the end of each party, Malek donates any leftover clothes to women's shelters, domestic violence centers, and other charitable organizations.

She throws a new party every few months, so guests can exchange any items they no longer want and find new treasures.

Says naked party veteran Rachel Heinrichs: "The great thing about free clothes is, if you don't wear it, it doesn't feel bad to get rid of it again."

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