"The concept of swapping clothes, getting something for nothing and refreshing your wardrobe appeals to everyone." That's thespian and noted mink-snatcher Lindsay Lohan. I hate to burst LiLo's bubble, but the sad truth is that clothing swaps are anything but fun. It seems like such a good idea: get a bunch of friends together, refurbish your wardrobe without spending any money, get rid of what you don't wear. And yet. And yet. This seemingly innocuous non-event is rife with pitfalls. For every uneventful, pleasant rag trade, there exists a humiliating maelstrom of passive-aggressive torment. The following horror stories are culled from friends:

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The shock swap:

"I had just moved to New York and didn't know a lot of people; I was also pretty broke so when a friend-of-a-friend told em about this clothing swap, it sounded great. But when I got there, every single girl – literally all of them – was like a size triple zero. There was no way I was going to fit into any of this stuff, and they all looked at me with pity. Also, all their things were really nice – like, designer labels – and no one was touching my three-year-old Target and H&M – even if they could have fit into it. I felt so bad leaving that place."

The cut-throat swap:

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"My friends decided to organize a clothing swap, which sounded good, since I had some stuff piling up and I wanted to give friends first dibs before I brought it to the GoodWill. Also, a bunch of us are around the same size, so we all knew we could probably come away with something. I was really psyched that this one friend, Julie, was going to be there since she has amazing style and lots of cool vintage stuff she's found at thrift stores. When I got there, though, I saw that everyone had the same idea. We were all looking at Julie's pile covetously. Things quickly got really competitive-like, people jumping in to grab things. One girl tried to cut a deal in the kitchen with Julie for some of the best stuff, which is so not cool. It took a while for the rifts to heal from that particular clothing swap."

The pity swap:

"Some of my coworkers organized a clothing swap: big mistake. It was like the worst of all worlds – not friends, but not strangers either. We were all being super-polite to each other, and th pressure was on to take something from everyone, just to be collegial. I ended up with all this stuff I didn't want at all, just because I didn't want to offend these people I have to see every day. This one woman kept being like, 'I'm sure you're all too stylish to want anything of mine,' so then of course we all had to take her skorts and Christmas sweaters. The worst part was, since we all worked together, we were hyper-aware of what everybody was wearing and not wearing in the coming weeks. This one girl actually said to me, 'I notice you haven't worn that vest I brought to the clothing swap. That was a really expensive vest, you know.' Result: we all walked around in these totally bizarre outfits for, like, a month, until the sensitivity had died down."

Swap at your own risk, friends. For my part, the SalvA is my friend.

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Lindsay Lohan launches Visa Swap 2008 [Elle UK}