How to Host a Clothing Swap Party

Jonny Hector

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Odds are you’ve heard about clothing swap parties. They’re the kind of event that groups of girlfriends discuss frequently but seldom bring to fruition. If you’re curious about swaps but not sure how to get one going, here are some simple guidelines for hosting an event that will be relatively easy to pull together, comfortable for all attendees, and rewarding for all swappers.

Think about your guest list

Here’s the harsh truth: You probably shouldn’t invite ALL of your friends to a clothing swap party. Imagine showing up to a similar event and discovering that every single garment – except for the ones you brought from your own closet – was too small/bit/short/long to fit you. You’d feel excluded and uncomfortable, right? So do your friends the favor of making sure that everyone will have at least one other swap contributor in her size range. Women who wear regular sizes from about size 6 to size 12 can generally fit into some of the same items, depending on proportions. But women who wear plus or petite sizes will have more fit challenges. 

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Are all of your friends extremely different in the build? Consider an accessory and shoe exchange instead, or in addition to the clothing portion of the party.

Create and distribute the ground rules

This is a party, yes, but it’s also an event where potentially covetable items are going to change hands. It’s unlikely that you’ll end up with a sample sale-style frenzy on your hands, but it definitely helps to create some rules for the swap and make sure all attendees are aware of them.

Some typical rules include:

  • Outline¬†how refreshments will be handled. Potluck is perfectly acceptable and can be as simple as snacks and beverages.
  • Make sure items are clean and in good shape (seems obvious, but bears mentioning).
  • Ask each attendee to bring at least 6 pieces and leave with no more than 10. It can also help to set a limit of items brought in case people are wont to haul trash bags of castoffs to the party and expect to leave with only a handful of new items.
  • Be prepared to rotate in selecting items from the pile. You can have two or three people selecting at a time, but try to avoid confusing free-for-alls.
  • Agree on a method for tie-breaking in the event that two people want the same item. Flipping a coin always works.
  • If a large number of items remain unclaimed, ask for help getting them to charity donation sites.
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Set up the space

Make sure you have one or more large tables where up-for-grabs items will be placed. If you have enough room, it’s helpful to designate a table or part of a table for tops, skirts, pants, dresses, jackets, etc. Keeps mayhem to a minimum.

Make sure multiple mirrors are available, ideally more than one full-length so participants can see their selections in action. Create private areas for the shy, including bathrooms, bedrooms, or partitioned-off areas of the main party space.

And be sure to close the blinds in case you’ll be changing in an out of clothes in full view of the neighbors!

Document and clean up

It can be fun to designate a photographer for your swap event, especially if participants like to see multiple views. (Clothes always look different in photos than they do in the mirror.) This will also allow you to spread the word over social media to drum up interest for your next swap. 

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Ask for help cleaning up and packaging anything that remains for donation. Have large bags on-hand so items can be easily transported from your home to thrift or charity shops.

And have a post-swap conversation about everyone’s experiences. What went well? What was frustrating? Would someone else in the group be willing to host another event? Tweak your formula, and get a date set for your next clothing swap!

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