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Hand-Me-Down Used Clothing for Women

by Deborah Mitchell
The Challenge

You throw away more than 68 pounds of used clothing and rags each year, if you're like the typical American. Collectively, Americans discard two quadrillion pounds (that's a two with fifteen zeroes) of used clothing and textiles into the landfills each year.

The majority of clothing purchased in the United States is for women and, similarly, the amount of used clothing available for reuse, recycling, or disposal in landfills is women's clothing. The good news is that 95 percent of used clothing is reusable or recyclable, and indeed millions of pounds of clothing are spared from landfills each year as people pass along items to other family members or donate their used clothing to nonprofit groups that help the less fortunate, like the Salvation Army, Goodwill, homeless shelters, and thousands of religious- and service-based organizations.

Yet millions of tons of reusable clothing still get added to the solid waste stream annually.

Among those millions of tons of used clothing are items for which there is a tremendous need; namely, quality used clothing for women in special circumstances, such as business and/or career attire for women in financial need who are entering or returning to the workplace; prom and/or wedding dresses for adolescents and women who cannot afford these special occasion clothes; and clothing that addresses specific needs, such as plus-sizes and specialized clothing items for women who have had a mastectomy.

Fortunately, there are many resources to which you can donate these clothes to make sure they reach the women who need them rather than find their way into already-bulging landfills.

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You can choose the most appropriate recipients of your used women's clothing donation depending on the type of clothing you have to offer. There are two categories below: Special Needs and General Donations. You are entitled to a tax receipt if you donate to a charitable/nonprofit organization.

Used Clothing – Special Needs

  • Gently used women’s professional clothing is accepted by the Women's Alliance, which has locations in 17 states plus the District of Columbia and Canada; and Dress For Success, which has affiliates in 41 states plus the District of Columbia and various countries around the world. You can drop off or ship your donated used business clothing and shoes.
  • Used prom and other formal dresses are collected and made available for young women who otherwise would not be able to attend their high school prom or other formal events. Both The Princess Project and the Glass Slipper Project collect and make available used prom and other formal dresses, as well as formal purses, shoes, jewelry, and unopened cosmetics and hosiery for young women. If there is no location near you, you can mail the used dress and other accessories to the organization of your choice. Donate My Dress has multiple locations in 39 states plus the District of Columbia and Canada. There is an extensive list of locations and contact information on where you can donate your dresses.
  • Donate your used wedding dress and accessories to help others. The Brides Against Breast Cancer project accepts donated wedding dresses, veils, and related items and sells them at a discount, then uses the money to fund the wishes of women and men who have metastatic breast cancer.
  • If family, friends, or neighbors do not need your used maternity clothes, contact your area family resource centers, teen parent centers, women's resource center, or family planning clinics (see the Yellow Pages) to see if they have a collection program.
  • Plus-size women's clothing (size 14 and larger) is typically the most requested type of women's clothing in all categories, from business attire to maternity clothes to everyday wear. Your donation will be greatly appreciated wherever you decide to make it.

Used Clothing – General Donations

  • Charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Vietnam Veterans of America welcome your used clothing.
  • Clothing drives are often conducted periodically or are ongoing at schools, churches, clinics, homeless shelters, shelters for abuse women, and other institutions. You can contact these organizations in your community for their donation needs and to arrange for a pick up or drop off.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open to clothing needs by family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and others who may have a need for women's clothing and accessories.
  • Internet sites that provide a means to donate items such as clothing are another option. These free services, including Freecycle, require a quick registration and then you can offer your items at your convenience. Craigslist also offers opportunities to find organizations and people who may need clothing and a chance to offer clothing for free to organizations or individuals in your area.

Don't "dress up" the landfills; donate your usable women's clothing to someone in need today.

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