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How to Host a Clothing Swap Party – Rules & Ideas


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I don’t know how many times I’ve stood in front of my closet and complained that I had nothing to wear. Despite my wardrobe overflowing with shoes, tops, dresses, and jeans, I still become weary of repeatedly wearing the same pieces.

It’s a problem that many women have dealt with. Too bad we don’t all have unlimited budgets to buy new clothes and accessories whenever we’re sick of the old stuff. However, if your wardrobe is in desperate need of an update – but you don’t have the cash to head to the mall – a clothing swap with friends might be the best alternative.

Hosting a Clothing Swap

A clothing swap is a party where you and each of your attendees bring an agreed upon amount of clothing and accessories to the event. All of the items are fair game, so you can trade, barter, and donate clothes to your friends while snagging some new stuff to breathe new life into your closet. Remember the old saying that someone’s trash is another person’s treasure? The same principle applies to a clothing swap. While you might be tired of your cherry red pumps, they might be just what one of your friends have been looking for.

Don’t worry about the idea sounding strange to your friends. Chances are, they’ll love the idea of mixing it up with a few new items. Of course, the way you present the idea will have a huge effect on how your friends receive it. Make the party sound chic and exciting and you’ll have a good group of people on hand.

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1. Choose the Invitees

The first step to hosting a swap is to choose the people who will be invited. Clothing swaps are typically most successful if you put thought into the sizes of your attendees. If you invite nine girls who are all a size four to eight with the exception of one, who is a size 14, you risk having her feel left out without the ability to swap with other attendees. Either invite a good mix of sizes and make sure there’s at least one match for each size, or stick to inviting party-goers who are within one or two sizes of each other. Otherwise there’s not going to be a lot swapping going on.

If all of your friends are vastly different in shape and size, try hosting an “accessories only” swap, since stuff like scarves, shoes, necklaces, and shades are easier to fit a wider range of women.

2. Set the Rules

If you just let your friends show up at your place and start trading clothes, you might not give everyone the chance to check out the wares. Set some rules for the swap and send them out via email or in the invitation a week prior to your event.

Factors and rules you’ll want to consider include the number of pieces each swapper needs to bring. If some people bring a ton and others only bring a few shirts, it’s uneven and unfair. Settle on a number, such as 10, as the number of pieces each swapper must bring along to participate. You could even set up some sort of lottery system where numbers are drawn out of a hat to determine the order in which each participant selects a piece of clothing.

It’s also important to stipulate that all items must be clean, quality clothes that are in good shape – no broken zippers! Set a time for the swap, but point out that you’ll also have drinks and appetizers after the swap is over in case a friend doesn’t want to participate in the swap but wants to join in on the festivities afterwards.

3. Set It Up

Presentation is key to a successful and chic clothing swap. Just because your clothes are in a jumbled pile in your closet doesn’t mean your swap clothing should be too. Your friends don’t want to feel like they’re sifting through someone’s laundry, so set up a few tables and create a space where each guest can arrange her items. It will look less like your bedroom floor and more like a posh party.

4. Get It Started

Make sure everyone is aware of the rules. Everything on the table is fair game, but it pays to be polite – no fighting over that amazing pair of crocodile shoes on the far table! A clothing swap party is supposed to be fun and beneficial for everyone involved – no girl should go home with more items than she brought.

Once the rules are explained, let the fun begin! Encourage everyone to start browsing and bartering, and clear out a space, such as a bathroom or a screened-off area, for a “fitting room.” Set a fixed amount of time for the swap, so that when it’s over you can all relax with wine and cheese.

5. Donate

Once the swap is over, there are bound to be pieces left that no one was interested in. Since lugging home items could make party-goers feel bad about the clothes they brought, sneak over to the tables and bag up the leftovers while your guests are noshing and mingling. Announce that you’ll be donating the clothes to charity, giving guests the option to come snag back items if they aren’t on board. That way, no one has to see exactly which items were snapped up, and which pieces languished on the swap tables.

Donate Clothes CharityFinal Word

If your first event goes over well, a clothing swap might become a regular event between you and your friends. Hold one in the fall and in the spring to punch up your wardrobe on the cheap, right in time for the new season. Your friends will love the chance to mingle and the chance to snag clothing and accessories for free.

Have you ever hosted or attended a clothing swap? What tips do you have for making the event special?

Jacqueline Curtis writes about edtech, finance, marketing, and small business strategy. With over 14 years of copywriting experience, she's created content and scripting for organizations such as GE, Walgreens, Overstock, and MasterCard. She lives in Utah with her husband, three kids, and an overzealous springer spaniel named Penelope.