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August 1, 2006

Get What You Want Without Spending A Dime

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Fashionistas have long used barter to appear well-heeled, courtesy of a popular party trend involving cocktails, friends, and cast-off clothes. At a "Bitch and Swap," participants arrive with items they no longer want, then play show-and-tell. If a piece elicits multiple cries of "mine!" from guests, the coveted item goes into the "bitch" pile, and contenders take turns trying it on. Then partygoers vote, and the woman who wears it best takes it home. At a recent swap in New York City, Holly Crawford, 31, scored a chic DKNY coat and "a sexy Diane von Furstenberg dress that looks like it was cut just for me." There are many reasons to attend, she says: Closets get cleaned, wardrobes get more svelte, and charities score the leftovers. Plus, she adds, "There's a supportive, 'you look really good in that' thing going on." That, and the fun of shopping- with none of the guilt. The bitch-and-swap battle cry? A whole new wardrobe for free, natch.

It's a no-brainer to swap what you have. But savvy swappers know: What you do is a bargaining tool, too. Erika Forster, 25, from Boulder, CO, is one of dreamy electronic-pop band Au Revoir Simone's three keyboardist/ singers: She and bandmates Heather D'Angelo, 26, and Annie Hart, 25, recently traded knitting lessons for singing ones. While on tour in Japan with their friend Antoine Bedard, he asked if the three would sing backup vocals for his solo project, Montag. In return, the singer-songwriter-techie redesigned the band's website: aurevoirsimone.com. The girls retained creative control ("Heather did the drawing," Forster adds), but the barter gave their domain a free upgrade. Kate Lacey, 31, a New York-based photographer, does shoots ranging from high fashion to hard news. Be - cause her assignments are varied, so are her swaps: She's gotten her fee in the form of designer jeans, a spa facial, and a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant. "I did a portrait of a jewelry designer for his website and received my standard day rate's worth of jewelry," she says. "I kept half and gave the other half to my mom for Christmas!" For Lacey, trading off was a win-win. "I never would have spent $200 on a pair of jeans, but they seemed free because I was paying by doing something I love-my photography."

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