JENEE OSTERHELDT: New clothes, new friends a good fit

It looks as if a fashion blizzard just blew through the apartment.

Piles of clothes lie everywhere: living room, dining room, on tables, couches, chairs and floors. And I'm standing in the middle of it.

But it's an intentional mess. Somebody calls it a closet swap.

About a dozen girlfriends have come together to exchange clothes, and they invited me, too. Each of us brought things we no longer wear. Some still have tags.

It's not the dreamy Vogue closet that Carrie Bradshaw got to raid on "Sex and the City," but it's as close as most of us will ever get.

What better way to bring a group of girls together than fashion and food?

It's my first time here, my first time hanging out with these girls, and I'm excited and anxious all at once.

You know how you meet people and you agree to hang out but never do? I'm notorious for doing that. I rarely go through with getting together, because being the new girl is always a little nerve-racking.

But I've been saying I was going to hang out with two of these girls for a while, and I genuinely wanted to. So it was time to put my nerves on the shelf and get some clothes out of my closet. I let go of enough things to fill a large shopping bag, including a few favorites -- my blue and yellow messenger bag, a pink tweed purse, a brand new jean jacket, my white platform heels.

I walk through the rooms, meet their friends and add my things to the organized confusion.

All the donations have been separated into big lumps: long sleeves, short sleeves, no sleeves, pants, skirts, dresses, shoes, accessories.

We all start eyeballing the things we want.

Our hostess, Sara, pulls our names out of a bag to determine who will get first pick for each pile before it becomes a free for all. I get first pick of long sleeves, and I choose a top another girl really wanted. So I give it to her, because I really have my eye on a vintage Felix the Cat T-shirt and hope my good deed pays off.

A full-length mirror stands in the middle of the two rooms so we can try things on and get advice from each other on what's hot and what's not. We are a fashion jury, boosting each other's self-confidence and keeping one another from making faux pas.

Even though most of them have been friends for years, I don't feel uncomfortably new, and when it comes to how my outfits look, I begin to trust them the way I trust my very own best friends.

When we get to the no-sleeves stack, I try on a few tank tops. The girls cheer my glittery gold tank top and the striped magenta one, too. I pick the latter, but soon end up with both.

A few hours later I'm sitting on a pile of pants, trading fashion tips and shopping secrets. I'm looking around at all the clothes and getting a glimpse of the stories behind why the pieces were chosen. It's better than shopping at any boutique. And it's not just about trading clothes and our own stylish upgrades -- the leftovers are going to charity.

Yes, I have a whole shopping bag of new goodies, even the Felix shirt.

I'll admit it: We're all leaving with things we love, things we might only rock once before swapping again. But even if the clothes get worn only one time, new friends never go out of style.