How to Host a Clothing Swap

Is sustainable fashion on your radar after Fashion Revolution Week?  Maybe you like new clothes just as much as the next mom?  Either way, a clothing swap is a fantastic way to promote sustainable fashion and get new clothes FOR FREE, and it’s not at all hard to host one.  Here’s how!

There are two main kinds of clothing swaps:: the clothing swap party and the open house boutique.  I have participated in both in the past and recently hosted my own clothing swap party in order to conduct field research {had nothing to do with wanting some new pieces, nothing at all}.  Both are fun, but one or the other may be more suited to what you’re looking for…

The Clothing Swap Party

How to Host a Clothing Swap | Houston Moms Blog

A clothing swap party is a good option for beginner swappers.  All you need is a handful of friends looking to clean out their closets, a night when you’re all free, and some wine and snacks for good measure!  Specifically ::

  1. Chat with a few friends to ensure they’re on board and you’ll have a base of items to swap.
  2. Create an invitation with clear instructions and share it far and wide!  Aim to have between 10 – 15 participants depending on your space.  I created a Facebook event and allowed guests to invite their friends – see below for a sample invitation.
  3. DO have an ulterior motive!  Most of the clothing swaps I’ve attended have been an event within an event – for example, a swap during book club.  At my latest party, my friend and I hosted a Scout & Cellar wine tasting along with the swap.  Just be sure to chat with the other people involved to ensure you all agree how things will run.
  4. Capitalize on times of the year when people are more likely to be cleaning out their closets and looking for some new pieces.  I’m looking at you, Spring and Fall!  Plan at least 3-4 weeks in advance to give your guests time to clean out their closets and gather pieces to swap.
  5. DON’T think that you can only invite friends of a similar size or style.  We all have pieces in our closet that don’t fit properly – our bodies or our personal style – but very well might work for someone else.  Ask participants to bring not only clothing but also shoes, bags, scarves and accessories.  My friend Lisa brought household items she had bought but never used and they were snatched right up!  Brilliant!
  6. Be prepared to facilitate the party.  You can either set everything out and let guests visit and browse, OR my recommended approach is to take turns showing the crowd what you brought to swap.  As you do, guests call out and “claim” pieces to try on once everyone has had a turn showing their wares.  Anything that doesn’t work goes back up for grabs.  Don’t take it personally if no one claims your pieces and don’t be shy about claiming what you like!  Most girlfriends will watch out for each other and make sure everyone gets something they love!
  7. Plan to donate any unclaimed pieces to a local charity shop or group.  

Seasoned swappers like my friend Adina go the extra mile and create a theme for the swap – think garden party, Alice in Wonderland, etc.  The possibilities are as endless as the time you could spend on Pinterest gathering ideas!   

How to Host a Clothing Swap | Houston Moms Blog

Nothing wrong with these shoes but the original owner now has to wear orthotics! That’s good news for a size 7 sister!

 

How to Host a Clothing Swap | Houston Moms Blog

Yes ma’am, someone did bring a Coach bag to swap. You know how it is! You just get tired of your bags – why not pass them on?!

 

How to Host a Clothing Swap | Houston Moms Blog

I loved that Lisa brought cute household things! The whole point is to RE-USE!

 

Sample invitation – feel free to cut and paste!

The Open House Boutique

How to Host a Clothing Swap | Houston Moms Blog

There are advantages and disadvantages of the open house clothing swap.  You may end up with a wider variety of pieces and may have more participants but you may lose that ‘girl’s night out’ vibe.  Many communities or sustainable interest groups run big clothing swaps which is a whole other endeavour!  For example, back in my native Edmonton, Fashion Revolution Canada organizes an annual event called Change of Clothes which includes a clothing swap, repair-a-thon, and guest speakers.  I also attended a large boutique swap hosted by Sustain SU, a University of Alberta group.  For tips on how to organize an event of that nature, check out this post over on the Spirited Thrifter, but for now, let’s focus on hosting at home!

  1. Decide on the parameters or rules for your open house clothing swap then include them in your invitation AND post them at the swap.  Some things to consider ::
    • Will you set a limit on how much people can bring or take?  You may use some kind of token system – e.g., participants get one token per piece that they contribute to the swap and can then use the tokens to take as many pieces home with them.  If you want to get technical, you could even attribute different values for different pieces – e.g., contributing a necklace gives you one token but a designer bag gives you four tokens.  However you decide to work it is fine as long as you’re consistent throughout the swap!
    • Will you have portable racks available or encourage people to bring their own?  {an ironing board makes a great improvised rack!}  If you’re using racks of any kind, participants should bring their own hangers!
    • Will you set up the clothes by type, size or participant?  Regardless, encourage participants to set out their pieces before they start shopping or leave!  Which leads to…
    • Will you expect participants to stay the whole time?  If not, ensure you have agreed what will happen with their unclaimed pieces at the conclusion of the swap.
  2. Wine and snacks are always a good idea!  You could even have a potluck open house which is #winning across the board!
  3. As with a clothing swap party, plan to donate any unclaimed items to a local charity shop or group.

How to Host a Clothing Swap | Houston Moms Blog

Both the clothing swap party and the open house boutique clothing swap would work for a kids’ swap… I mean kids’ clothing or toy swap!  No matter how you do it, clothing swaps put you squarely in the middle of the Buyerarchy of Needs which is a step in a sustainable direction!How to Host a Clothing Swap | Houston Moms BlogThe very last step for any clothing swap is to head out in your “new” FREE pieces and tell everyone all about it!   

How to Host a Clothing Swap | Houston Moms Blog

I scored this Lula Roe skirt WITH POCKETS for FREE!

None of my guest had ever attended a clothing swap before, but they all had a great time and are already asking when the next one will be!  Hopefully this gives you enough info to host your own clothing swap and discover for yourself how awesome they can be!

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2 Responses to How to Host a Clothing Swap

  1. Jessica Yeo May 9, 2018 at 5:29 am #

    Awesome inspiration here! I’ve been to one clothing swap and I left with three items but have only worn one (to death) so I feel like I need to do it again and be more choosey…

    • Nicole E
      Nicole E May 9, 2018 at 10:12 pm #

      That’s great!! Getting more wear out of our clothing – wherever they come from – is another great step towards sustainability in the garment industry. Not every piece will be a winner but the more you swap/thrift, the better you get at choosing the pieces that truly work for your style! Thanks for the comment! -Nicole

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