Dear amazing women,

My mother raised me and my siblings in Ireland in the 80's. No one had any money, least of all my mother and her friends. They would gather together and bring things they no longer wanted from their closets and bookshelves and use it as an excuse to get together and have fun. Once I left home and started to travel I took this idea with me. I began to hold women's gathering in whatever town I lived in...Denver, Dublin, Oviedo, Galway...the results were always wonderful. I developed a template for what got named: The Black Bag Night

This is a night to gather good women from your life. To have fun and to get some free shopping out of it. There are a set of rules that got developed over time through trial and experimentation, and the rules help to create a safe and loving environment that is non-critical. This is key because as women, we are often insecure, self conscious and self critical. This is especially tied in to our bodies and how we perceive ourselves physically. Clothes can bring up a lot of issues for women. So the rules are there to keep it fun for everyone, and I guarantee you that if you host a black bag night, every single woman will walk away from it with something new for her that she absolutely loves, as well as a great evening shared with other fabulous women like herself.

BLACK BAG NIGHT: instructions and guidelines

  1. choose an eclectic group of female friends (varying in ages and body sizes,and social cicles). Choose no more than 10 women, though 8 is ideal.

  2. Empty your wardrobe of all clothes, shoes, and accesories that you no longer wear, have never worn or have planned to wear or use for years but still haven't. Encourage all the other women to do the same. If something is really badly damaged to the point that it can't be easily repaired do not include it in the bag.

  3. Create a warm cosy comfortable space. Light candles, keep snacks close at hand, nice music and lots of comfy seats/pillows/places to recline for your women friends to relax and enjoy their free shopping.

  4. Get everyone to bring something for the, juice, snacks, nibbles...that way you're not doing all the work!

  5. Take everyone's black bag when they come in, put them in a pile near where you will be holding the event. Dump all the contents of all the bags onto the floor in ONE BIG ANONYMOUS PILE.

  6. Explain the rules to everyone who has arrived. a) all clothes are now anonymous. no one may explain or justify, defend or clarify why they bought something. Now that it is in the communal pile it is anonymous. This stops anyone criticising themselves or their purchases. We have all of us bought things that were too big, too small, too funky, not funky enough, etc. The world is a critical place of women, the Black Bag Night is a criticism free space.

    b) As the hostess you pick up each item individually and display it to the group. This allows everyone to see it and prevents a mass surge on the pile, and also prevents any fighting over an item. c) Each woman simply looks at the item displayed and says YES if she wants it, otherwise say NOTHING at all. This will feel odd at first as you will want to explain or defend clothes that you have brought. It gets easier as the night goes on. If one woman only says YES the item is hers. If no one says YES it goes in the pile for the charity shop. If more than one woman says YES it goes in the GRACE pile to be decided at the end of the evening. d) at the end of the pile of communal clothes you will have the GRACE pile. a pile of clothes that are between two or more women. The best thing to do is to try on the wanted item, often it will fit or suit one better than the rest. Otherwise it can be decided through barter over other items, or through tossing a dice.

The Black Bag Night always turns into a gorgeous night of fun and frolics for me. Everybody will walk away with something new that they love, an item they would never have thought to buy for themselves. It also creates a fun safe atmosphere to be with good women.

I know it seems like the rules are quite severe and that there are a lot of them but this comes from me hosting Black bag nights for the past 12 years. I have honed the rules to make them as loving and kind to women as we need to be with ourselves.

You can also bring books, jewellry, shoes and kitchen items along. I am taking the Black Bag of leftovers from the last one I hosted and going to host a BACK BAG NIGHT in the nearby refugee hotel. There is a lot you can do with this idea. It is not new, women have been doing it forever. This is just my version. I hope you enjoy it! Please let me know if you do it and if it worked for you!

in cahoots Clare

Comment on this Post


I think this is a wonderful idea. It provides so many opportunities for women in one setting without spending money: recycling, sharing, recreation, acceptance, friendship, and more. I like the rules, too. Structure is good. I like this much better than attending one of those home parties, where you feel obligated to buy candles, cosmetics, etc.


Is what we call it in my town ! How funny, I've just cleaned out my closet with an enormous bag of cool clothes i never wear anymore, and was starting to wonder about inspiring my friends for a naked lady party...because you can just strip down together, unembarrassed, and try on all the clothes. And, here is your fascinating post. You make it sound even better than i remember. i wish i could transport myself to Ireland with my bag. Jensine

Jensine Larsen World Pulse

Dear Jensine

I have to say, I like your name a lot better! It might intimidate some of the shyer women I know but its a stronger name for sure. You'd be most welcome over here with your bag, but me thinks the miles of distance might prevent you. I am off to meet a woman from the refugee hotel this morning to see about hosting one there. What fun eh! Have fun with your naked lady party.

in word and deed Clare Muireann Storyteller, Social Entrepreneur

Clare Muireann Murphy

I will try to host one.With my height of 6 feet+,i am sure it may not be all smiles for me.I imagine that somebody else may give my extra length clothes an extra hem or slimming :>) .I may also have the same trouble with getting shoes or wearers for mine!

Well,i will try it out! I am sure everybody will have something to gain.Thank you Clare for sharing this.

Leah Auma Okeyo.

Dear Leah Auma

My friend is 6'1 and she got a lovely jacket out of the last black bag. I am a size 8 or 41 in shoes!!! You'll be surprised at what shows up in those bags! Always good to invite a mix of sizes of women too. I am so glad you like the idea, please let me know how it goes! And I will be sure to pass on your story to my women friends here. We all inspire each other.

Thanks for getting in touch Amani Amities con amistad do chara your friend Clare

Clare Muireann Murphy