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youngandthrifty shares how to organize a clothes swap. In just 8 easy steps, you too can host a clothes swap. Good for your budget and soul, guaranteed.

A few weeks ago, I went to my third clothes swap.  It was fantastic.  This was the first clothes swap held at a friend’s home (the ones I went to before were of a larger scale, for example, one at a yoga studio, and the other one at school).  I was worried that because there were only a few of us there (6 girls), and we each had completely very different body types, AND didn’t really know each other, the clothes swap might be a bust.

However, I was pleasantly surprised, and came away with two great button up tops, a royal blue cowl neck long sleeved top, and a nice viscose dress (perfect for those weddings that seem to be cropping up everywhere).  I also got rid of this polka dot skirt that had been sitting in my closet for years (and someone actually thought it was adorable, and a few girls were “fighting” for it, surprisingly).  I got rid of a few other items of clothing too that I couldn’t sell at a second hand shop, but were in good condition.  One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.  Getting rid of junk not only is good feng shui (less clutter means better flow of energy), but you’ll feel good too staring at stuff you actually want to wear.

Everyone left the clothes swap very pleased with their new finds.  This feeling of euphoria that you get when you buy something nice for yourself lasts EVEN LONGER after you find something nice (FOR FREE!) at a clothes swap… trust me on this one.  I have a pair of capris I got from a clothes swap, and they are one of my favourite pairs of pants.  Essentials for the spring/summer season for me.

So without further delay, here’s how to organize a clothes swap.

I hope this post inspires you to get with your girlfriends and start swapping!

  1. Choose a place. If you’re planning to invite 20+ people (and 20+ people are going to come) you may want to pick a larger venue.  Some studios may allow you to use the space for free, especially if you plan to donate whatever hasn’t been picked up to a local charity.  It may be more intimate and interactive if you choose to have it in your home
  2. Invite your friends. Invite your friends, you can set up an “event” in facebook (ohh, how facebook has changed the way we run our day-to-day lives) and can estimate to see how many people are going to come.  You may want to pick a day of the week most people are free (Sunday evenings work well, or weekday evenings) and aren’t partying until the cows come home.  Open the clothes swap party to friends of friends (the more the merrier!).
  3. Set some Limits. First off, let your guests know what to expect- bring a few pieces, and whatever doesn’t get picked up will be donated.  I brought a few key pieces (even though I had a lot of stuff I wanted to get rid of) that I knew people would like or find unique.  I brought a pair of shoes, some bags, a few tops and some jeans.  There was a girl at the clothes swap who literally brought TWO LARGE GARBAGE BAGS of clothes.  Some of these clothes were really crummy and non-desirable, like souvenir T-shirts from Mexico (come on, who wants that?).  As she was showing them, everyone in the room squirmed in their seats.  Some of her clothes had holes in them (I’m serious!).
  4. Make some Food.  Pour some wine.  Set up a mirror in the room. Some nice appetizers and snacks are always appreciated.  Nothing like some food and friends.  White wine may be nice in case you’re worried about red wine splashing on the new-to-you clothes.  The mirror will be fought over, no doubt about it, but essential for a clothes swap in the home.
  5. Start the Swap. Introduce yourselves, introduce the items of clothing and any sentimental value you hold to them (one girl introduced some of her clothes as clothes that got her lucky LOL.  No, there were no stains on them LOL).  Set out the pile of clothes into dresses, shorts, pants, bags, shoes, tanktops/ tees, dressy clothes.
  6. Ensure Clothes Swap Etiquette is practised. If someone likes something, make sure no one else wants it before you hoard it add it to your stash.  Perhaps the rest of the girls can vote to see who can keep the item (which girl the item of clothing looks best on).  No cat fights!
  7. Ooh and Ahhh. Don’t underestimate the power of how clothing can fit differently on different body types.  It’s often surprising how something that doesn’t look good on you can look so great on someone else with a different body type.  The best thing about clothes swaps (especially small and intimate ones) is that you have an immediate audience, who can give you honest opinions about whether an item of clothing looks good on you or not.  Oftentimes, the opinion of a salesperson at the mall is biased (lol duhhh!).
  8. Clean Up and Donate. Clean up the swap.  For the clothing that hadn’t been chosen, you can either have the people who brought them take it back (perhaps the girl with the sentimental lucky clothing wanted to get lucky again?) or donate it to charity.

Clothes swaps are a win-win-win scenario and I love them.  Good for the environment, good for the closet, good for the soul, good for the budget, good for meeting new people and networking.  It thoroughly quenched my shopping thirst and I got honest feedback to boot.

Readers, have you ever attended a clothes swap?  What was it like for you?  Did you have any bad experiences where people brought some funny items of clothing?


Article comments

Tina Casalino says:

What a great article! I have actually been hosting clothing swaps for two years this month, and usually do them about 10 times a year. I think it is ridiculous that the consignment stores want to pay $5 for a top new with tags that you paid $80 for, so clothing swaps are perfect. I host in my home, and usually have between 25-35 women attend. Since I set a minimum of 15 items to be brought, we usually have between 500-800 items, and it includes clothing in all sizes, jewelry, cosmetics, shoes and purses.

young says:

@Tina Casalino- Yeah, consignment stores used to be better but nowadays, they only take the super designer stuff which I don’t usually buy.

I’ve never heard of cloth swap GTs so this is definitely new to me. Is this a girl’s thing? Are guys also open to the idea?

This sure is another way of recycling and reusing!

young says:

@BeatingTheIndex- Yeah, I think it’s a girl thing (though I don’t want to be generalist and paint everyone with the same brush here). I think guys SHOULD be open to the idea, but I haven’t seen or heard of one guys have organized yet though. I do know that guys send their stuff in to consignment stores, which is another way of recycling and reusing AND getting some $$ back.

Little House says:

What a great idea! I haven’t heard of this but I have some nice dressier pieces hanging in my closet that I haven’t worn in years. (Some still have tags on them and being black, they’re still in fashion). I also know that as I’ve gotten older, my body has changed a bit so I’m not so sure those slim slacks fit in the rear anymore. But would look great on someone smaller. I might have to try this out this summer. Thanks for sharing these tips!

AC says:

This is a great post! I’ve never had or been to a clothes swap before, but I’m definitely thinking about hosting one now! Sounds like a lot of fun and a frugal way to shop 🙂

young says:

@AC- A super frugal way to shop (free way!). Hope it goes well 🙂

Ban Clothing says:

I recently went through my closet and wanted to have a clothing swap. Great tips just in time. I am very tall so lots of my clothes that got purged are too short in the body, arms, or length which will likely fit normal sized people.

young says:

@Ban Clothing- Yeah, I’m not sure why but my shirts have shrunk too and I don’t like it when my navel sticks out (perhaps I’m also getting too old for these) so it’s nice when someone with a shorter torso can use the shirts. I’m sure the clothes swap won’t break the rules of your clothing ban too!

Eddie says:

Is there such thing as a “Male Clothes Swap” …just a thought..lol
Either way, great post and never the less a great idea!!

young says:

@Eddie- I think you and @SavingMentor can start one, and I’m sure there will be no judgment passed 😉

Setting limits is really important … in part because it lets people know what level/quality to expect. People always appreciate knowing what to expect. It’s always unnerving to be too chic, or too grungy, for the situation/the crowd.

young says:

@Paula- That’s so true Paula 🙂 Everyone has different expectations so it is always nice to make sure everyone is on the same playing field.

Annabelle says:

Looove clothes swaps! My friends and I hold one each year in the spring. And even though we’re different sizes, it really can be surprising how much stuff can be worn by a variety of body types. I’m 5’7″ with a long torso and small chest, and a bunch of my stuff looked great on my friend who is 5’2″ with a short torso and large chest. You never know!

young says:

@Annabelle- I know!! That’s exactly what we were saying at the swap I went to. There was a girl with a short torso and large chest (she was 5’3″) who was SURE she wouldn’t find anything for herself, but she found something that fit her PERFECTLY from someone who is 5’10”! I think that is what makes it fun.

Country Girl says:

I love this idea! I’ve always wanted to do a clothing swap because it seems like such a great way to refresh and clean out your wardrobe, but I wasn’t really sure where to start. Thanks so much for posting these hints and tips – I’m going to put them to use!

young says:

@Country Girl- Awesome! I’m so happy this has inspired you- please let me know how it goes 🙂 It’s actually super easy to organize and just a really fun experience.

SavingMentor says:

Sounds like a great idea, especially for women. I can’t really imagine a bunch of men getting together and doing this. Maybe I should call some of my friends and see what they think of the idea 🙂

On second thought, I might be ostracized if I do that!

young says:

@SavingMentor- haha, I can’t imagine a bunch of men getting together to do such things either… there definitely won’t be the “oh you look really good it that, it makes your butt look really good” if men were to have a clothes swap.

Amy Saves says:

I went to a dress swap once and came back with a new dress! very cool idea. i want to organize one with friends.

young says:

@Amy Saves- Ooh a dress swap eh? That’s an even better idea because I love dresses.. and especially for dresses that you wear to weddings (and only wear once or twice), a dress swap is a great idea.

Juan says:

Clothes swapping is such an efficient way to get a new look. When it comes to smart ways to save, I think this is defiantly up there with the best.

young says:

@Juan- Cool- glad you think so too. What’s your favourite item of clothing you got from a clothes swap?

Thanks for the great post. I have been considering hosting one of these for a while but haven’t yet gotten around to it. I think the one problem is that my friends and I are all different sizes. It still sounds like fun though.

young says:

@Miss T- You’re welcome! 🙂 That’s definitely not a problem (your friends and you are different sizes), honestly, I was SO surprised at how everything fit each of us different (the girls at the recent clothes swap i went to ranged from a size 2 (lol that wasn’t me) to a size 14 and we all fit each other clothes nicely).