Monday, May 21, 2012

How to host a clothing swap

A clothing swap is a fun, sustainable way to refresh your wardrobe by trading clothing you no longer wear with friends... and the best part is you usually don't have to spend a dime! Over the past few years I've gone to many clothing swaps- some good, some bad, others fantastic! Each taught me different lessons of how to successfully host a clothing swap party. So when a friend recently asked me for some tips on creating her own, I figured I should just write a blog post about it.  Below I have outlined Bon Vivant + a Budget's rules for hosting a clothing swap (and a few more tips if you are attending one). Happy Swapping! 


  • Save the date. Weekends are usually best, just make sure the day you picked doesn't coincide with major holidays, weddings, or travel plans. 
  • Make a budget. Many clothing swaps are free, others charge a nominal admission fee of $5 or $1o to absorb the cost of refreshments. 
  • Tap your network. Invite your friends and have them invite their friends. This maximizes the diversity of attendees- you want all different styles, body shapes and sizes to ensure everyone who attends can find something.  A good clothing swap should have at least a dozen people. 
  • Make invites. Use Facebook, Evite, eventbrite, or traditional paper invitations and send them out at least two weeks in advance to accommodate people's schedules. This will give attendees a chance to go through their closets. Include directions, admission cost, and any special instructions on the invites.
  • Call a charity. Clothing swaps are a great way to give to people in need and you can even get a receipt for a tax deduction. Once the date is set, contact a local 501c(3) charity to arrange a pickup the day after the swap; some great charities include Goodwill, Salvation Army and Housing Works. 
  • Create signage. Make signs by type of garment (accessories, tops, skirts, pants) or by size. 
  • Set rules. Decide on a minimum/maximum amount of items each person can bring. Tell people not to bring damaged clothing. Ask attendees only to bring stuff that's in season. (This is for good reason- In June, people aren't looking for wool sweaters and winter coats)
  • Give people something to look forward toDon't do clothing swaps too often (more than once a season), otherwise you risk people not coming or having little to swap. 

  • Designate a friend to help you sort clothes as guests come in. You need a large enough space, but it can take any form-  tables, on the couch, on clothing racks with hangers or on a clean floor. 
  • Give each guest an index card with a number. The number corresponds with the number of items she brought for the swap. When guests are ready to "checkout" this is the currency by which they pay OR you can do a free-for-all, whereby it doesn't matter how many items anyone brings, if she sees something and likes it, it's hers. 
  • Provide refreshmentswine, drinks, cheese, fruits, crackers, veggies and dip are perfect finger foods. Sifting through clothes for hours can be draining if you aren't fueled.  You can also ask guests to bring something edible to share. 
  • Pass around a mailing list and let people write down their contact info- you can always email this group of people if you want to host a clothing swap in the future.
  • Have fun. Play music, take pictures, have a fashion show and allow the clothing swap attendees to model their new clothing, give a prize for the best or craziest outfit. 
  • Give a small thank-you gift for comingSome hosts give goody bags. I have seen other gifts such as nail files, small candles or a blank notebook. This is a good idea because there may be a person who finds nothing that fits- this ensures she doesn't leave empty handed. 

  • Dress in layers. There probably won't be a dressing room, so wear close fitting clothes such as leggings and a camisole as your base layers, which are great for trying things on top of. 
  • Only bring items that you are proud of. Don't bring anything with stains, rips, bad pilling, broken zippers, holes or smells. 
  • Bring a reusable shopping bag to carry your stuff home in. 
  • Keep an open mind. Something might not look great on the hanger, but it might look fantastic on your body... try stuff on that other people recommend for you.
  • Inspect anything you are considering taking home for any damage. You don't want to bring it home and then decide that you will never use or wear it. 
  • Bring business cardsAlthough it's a not a traditional place to network, clothing swaps present a unique opportunity to make new friends and professional contacts. 

images via + via

Have you ever been to a clothing swap? What did you think? Would you ever host your own? Do you have any swapping tips to share?

xX Helene


  1. Love this post and your blog!!! Hope you will visit mine too! Let me know if you want to follow each other : )

  2. Thank you Brandi! I will check it out

  3. Great advice Helene, I wasn't even aware how much thought needs to go into a swapping event.

  4. thanks :)

    if you want it done right, it's definitely in your interest to take a few hrs to plan a clothing swap

  5. Well hopefully I pulled it off this past weekend :)

  6. Kimberlee, your event was great- really well orchestrated and a lot of fun!

  7. I've never hosted a swap, but your tips make it sound easy. Thanks.

    Congrats on links a la mode!

  8. Thank you Gigi! It really isn't hard, it just takes a little planning ahead of time

    1. I would love to join your friends group in NYC. I am back and forth between both cities.

  9. Nice post! You have a great blog! Would you like to follow each other?

  10. this is a great post! thanks for the tips =)
    congratulations on being in Links a la Mode!

  11. This is a great post!! I always think of doing this kind of thing with friends, because that seems easier, but your tips make it sound so doable for a larger group.

    PS- I found you via Links we Love at IFB.

  12. Great Advice Helene! Very well put! It was like reading I was reading a "How To" book (-: when are you having your own shop and swap? ;-)

  13. haahaaa I would love to write one of those books one day... Maybe I will have a swap in the Summer at some point

  14. What a great post. I 'm really considering hosting one this summer and this is a wonderful guide.

    1. Thank you, MissRockwell :) When you do, I'd love to know how it turns out!

  15. Thanks for these great ideas
    I have been thinking about doing one for a while and these tips and tricks are awesome
    Will let you kow how it goes

  16. I've been to one of these before and came out with tons of great "new" stuff!

    I'm a new subscriber and love your blog! Would love the follow back :) Enter my giveaway for a Nordstrom and Starbucks gift card!

    The Pretty Pinhead

  17. Thanks ladies! Pinky, definitely let me know how it goes.

  18. Excellent, comprehensive tips Helene - thanks for the great post. I love swaps and have blogged on this too at my site if you ever want to check it out. Will start following you and your wise words! All the best, Ashley

  19. Thanks Ashley! I'm gonna check out your blog now

  20. Great tips! I've never actually held a swap party before, but I freely invite my friends to look through any clothing I don't want anymore whenever they come around. Sharing is caring!


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