Woman searching through her closet
Are you a closet raider?

C'mon. You know you've done it.

Once again, you've somehow found your way into someone else's closet. Gawking at all the fantastic items that don't belong to you, you start by grabbing one shirt, but then you're drawn to another and, oh wait, you've found one more that would look great on you tonight. And what about those adorable pumps (I really hope they fit!)? You gravitate toward the accessories: earrings, gold bangles, clutch—check, check, check—and before you know it, you're set for the evening, all decked out in someone else's clothes.

But Why the Raid?

It's the American way. Just as someone else's dinner will always look more appealing, that black dress on your best friend looks way more appealing than any black dress you own.

Brooke Kosofsky Glassberg, fashion features editor at O, The Oprah Magazine, explains that hint of admiration (or is it jealousy?) you feel when you spot someone else strutting around in a great outfit. "We covet what we don't have, and we admire another woman's sense of style more readily than our own," she says. "That leopard-print skirt that you'd never take off the rack in a store suddenly looks amazing when you see it on your best friend."

Kosofsky Glassberg says women crave variety. "We get bored staring at the contents of our own closets day after day."

Emily Tisch Sussman, a Washington, D.C., resident, suggests "women go into other women's closets because we like the fashion choices and risks our friends take that we are too nervous to take ourselves."

Closet raiding comes in all forms. But whether it's your friend's, sister's or, yes, even your mother's, there's always something in another person's closet that looks more promising than the contents of your own.

Even if you don't have the luxury of another female's closet, your husband's or boyfriend's offers a great alternative. Elizabeth Roach, a production assistant and freelance makeup artist in New York City, says she raids her man's closet. "Up until a year ago, I have always lived with girls. I had second opinions, multiple closets, and a never-ending supply of accessories," she says. "Once I moved in with my boyfriend, I was left with only what I owned. After awhile, I discovered a way to utilize his closet and update my look."

Roach says she wears his V-neck undershirts with long necklaces and tight jeans, then throws on heels and a clutch to go out for the night. She also pairs one of his white button downs with a feminine skirt or belts it with skinny jeans (picture Sharon Stone at the 74th Academy Awards).

"I think integrating a masculine piece into your outfit can look very sexy," she says.

Why It's the Economical and Fashionable Thing to Do

While closet raiding is often event-specific or the product of your own laziness when it comes to laundry, it can be convenient when you're bored with your everyday wardrobe and running low on cash. While sales are great, why not save some moola and go shopping in another person's closet?

Melissa Brown, who works in pharmaceutical advertising, says she used to hate getting up for work because of the pressure she felt when deciding what to wear. She soon realized that walking into the next room could be the answer to her problems. "I live with three other girls, and raiding their closets has been something that is now a daily ritual," she says. "I love being trendy with a 'new' outfit every day that I get to take credit for."

Sussman, too, says "every girl loves a new outfit, but it's tough to keep up with, particularly given the current state of the economy. Getting clothes for free from our friends is the perfect way to infuse excitement into your wardrobe without spending money."

Raiding Etiquette

While closet raiding may seem like an uncomplicated art form, Kosofsky Glassberg suggests following these simple rules:

  • Be sure your styles make sense together—you don't want to look like your friend; you want to look like you with some new pieces.
  • Swapping should work both ways. Lend as much as you borrow.
  • Take no more than two or three pieces at a time, or you increase the odds of having something the owner wants when she may need it.
  • Treat items with extra consideration. (Don't wear a suede jacket out in the rain even if you're just running to the car!)
  • Return everything quickly, and ask how the person you borrowed the clothing items from would like them cleaned. You don't want to ruin someone's favorite jeans because you threw them in the dryer like you do with your own.
Throw a Raid

Clothes swapping parties have become quite the trend.

Tisch Sussman recently moved from New York City to Washington, D.C., and wanted to make the transition a little bit easier by purging a lot of clothes she hardly wore. So she gathered 12 of her friends who are in their late 20s and early 30s for a swap..

Sussman says attendees brought everything they had been meaning to clean out of their closets and just dropped it in it a pile. There were no rules, and $5 admission went to a neighborhood tutoring program. She served wine and cheese to her guests so they could hang out while investigating the goods."Girls of all different sizes and styles came," she says. "Everyone had a chance to try on clothes that normally might have been out of their comfort zone."

All the clothes that were left over were given to Housing Works, an HIV service provider in New York, and Sussman already plans to make it in an annual event.

Callie Siegel attended the event and says she walked away with a Betsy Johnson dress, LuLu Lemon workout pants, black stirrup pants, a striped tank top and a beaded necklace. "Everyone left with at least one article of clothing," she says.

Spring-cleaning doesn't have to be the only time of year you clean out your closet. Plan a date with friends, and after you give your closets a good wipe out, you can all can meet up, throw clothes in the middle of a room and have at it.

Let's be clear that by no means do we recommend you take anything without asking, but the next time you find yourself saying, "Ugh, I have nothing to wear," or, "I hate my clothes," consider going on a raiding spree. There's no need to pull out the credit card with this kind of shopping.

Now it's your turn. Show us what you can find in a friend's closet. Share your comments below. Whose closet do you raid?


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