How to host a clothing swap

A few years ago, some lady friends and I initiated a biannual ladies clothing swap. If you haven’t done this with your girlfriends, I strongly suggest it. It’s a way to freshen up your closet both by clearing out old stuff and by adding a few new pieces. It’s also a great excuse for a party. We had our winter 2018 one this past weekend. Here’s how it works:


What it is: Guests bring their used, unwanted clothes and accessories to someone’s house (preferably someone with a few folding tables) for an old-fashioned swap.  

20180220_141306Set up: Lay out folded (hell, semi-folded) clothes on tables and couches. Generally one area per person (i.e. my clothes are all stacked on the couch, another person has the dining room table). We’ve tried to separate by type of clothes before, but there’s just too much and it takes too long. The one thing we do pull out is dresses, which we hang on the back of chairs or doorknobs. We put accessories in a couple of big serving trays (so nothing gets lost). Shoes go in one area of the floor.

You’ll need a big mirror. I just bring my bedroom mirror out to the living room where all the items are. Instruct guests to bring a bag for their take-home items.

Close the curtains! During the next couple of hours, you’ll be trying on clothes left and right. Make sure guests keep track of the clothes/shoes they came in (hide them somewhere – a cabinet or a separate room is a good idea). Let newbies know about the trying on of clothes so they’re not surprised when people start stripping down next to the cheese plate. Speaking of which…

Snacks: We do finger foods for the swap, a mimosa bar, and pretty desserts (usually macarons from a local bakery). Nothing too messy, you don’t want to spill on the sweater you just scored.


The rules:

  • Lay out everything first. No starting until everyone has put out everything!
  • Be respectful – avoid a Black-Friday-style rush.
  • If you have an item you think would look nice on a particular person, feel free to bring it to them instead of putting it out. Limit this to a few pieces.
  • Make sure to leave with less than you brought (I have a particularly hard time with this).
  • Someone who has not hosted should offer to lead the charge bringing the leftovers to the donation place.
  • Participants should not feel bad if an item they took in a clothing swap reappears in any subsequent swaps.


Afterward: Bag up all the unwanted items and take them to your local donation center. We’ve chosen a local women’s center this time, but we’ve definitely just stuffed everything in the donation receptacles around town. Another option would be hosting a group garage sale.

This time we’re ending the evening by dressing up (hopefully in something from the swap) and going out to a fancy dinner as a late galentine’s day celebration.

Happy swapping!

— K

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