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Morph You 

Trading clothes and matching beats

Wednesday, Jul 31 2002
Swap meet Men are simple creatures with simple needs. Take my friend Dave, who when asked why he never left a party before it ended said, "If I leave early I might miss the one time a bunch of girls take off their shirts."

Dave would've been really happy at "Morph," the third "FABULOUS! Fashion Exchange" party, which took place at the Red Devil Lounge earlier this month. I have to admit that standing there among all the declothing and reclothing people I was pretty happy myself -- but probably not as joyful as Dave would've been, considering that I'd done this kind of thing before.

Just last February I had my first experience with swapping -- clothes, that is. At a friends' housewarming in Berkeley, someone had decried the lack of concrete, intergender sex discussions, so we ended up having a round-table chat. After a while, all 10 of us moved to the living room, where we began to dance -- and take off our tops. The idea was that each time a song ended, everyone would remove his or her shirt and pass it to the person on the right, the only problem being that there were several tiny women and a few large guys. When I complained that the men were getting the rough end of the camisole, a woman turned to me and said, "Well, you get to see us in our bras." Fair enough.

So my friends and I should've been prepared for "Morph." But as new things are often frightening (like George Bush monitoring corporate greed), we spent an hour nervously questioning what the party would be like. Unfortunately, we didn't yet know that the first two "Exchange" events -- "Hot Pot and Hot Pants" and "May You Let Loose" -- were wildly successful, with the former going until 10:30 in the morning and the latter transforming the Werepad into a fabric free-for-all. We didn't know that "Morph" was a benefit for a Burning Man dance-music camp called Lotus or that the evening's DJs from the Peach Smoothie Collective would play a supremely happy blend of house and breaks. Certainly, we hadn't a clue that the party's originator, Ben Wang, had been inspired by Burning Man's barter economy, or that when we walked in the door and hung our used clothing extras up on the racks, people would swarm around them like piranhas in a kiddie pool. (Last year the Bay Guardian whined that Burners are lame because they save their creativity for the desert instead of using it here. Now I hear people grumbling that there's too much Burning Man around, as if benefits in which dancers trade goofy outfits were a bad thing. God forbid anyone should try to infuse the daily grind with a little imagination.)

Not everyone was enchanted with "Morph." One attendee muttered that it was "your typical bar pickup scene lacquered with a thin veneer of Burning Man street cred." Perhaps, but there aren't too many pickup scenes where men and women use dress-swapping as an opening line on the dance floor. Also, maybe I'm a simple guy (like Dave), but I dig conversations that start with, "What did you think of my bra?"

I switched threads a half-dozen times during the night, trying on a few colorful shirts, a white slip, a Mervyn's long-sleeve, some very small leather pants, and an extremely tight tube top, from which a woman quickly rescued me. By the time a lady asked for help taking off her pants, it seemed less like an invitation than a communal moment. Sure, there was plenty of ogling going on, but there was also a giddy freedom: hence, the huge bouncer wearing the women's floor-length Indian sari and a cowboy hat. "Morph" co-host Stephanie Andelman put it best when she said, "I left with a leather bra and tight purple shiny pants -- and both of those items came off of guys." Dave, you missed it: You could've gone home with that fuzzy Wonderbra you've always dreamed of.

If you would like to be put on the "FABULOUS! Fashion Exchange" mailing list, send an e-mail to

Correction The tubaist mentioned in last week's Mickey Tachibana piece ("Daydream Believer") should've been Tom Heasley, not Kurt Heasley, who fronts the Lilys. We regret the error.

About The Author

Dan Strachota


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