HOW TO: clothing swap

I hosted my first clothing swap three or four years ago. Since I introduced the concept to many of my friends and now assist with a few swaps each year, I’ve become a bit of a local expert.

So, dear internet, I thought I’d share some of my incredible knowledge with you!

Step #1: Find someone to host.

Best-case-scenario, someone enjoys the last clothing swap so much that they volunteer to host one! I’ve found that they’re most successful every 4-6 months, or in transitional seasons.

Step #2: Invite people.

Keep it simple. Keep it light. Tell people what to bring.

Need an example?


Step #3: Have wine. And other delicious snacks.

At a successful swap, people will spend as much – or more – time mingling than trying on clothes, so set up one area to encourage such behavior.

Step #4: Organize the room.

Before anyone arrives, it’s a good idea to designate the following areas:
-tops (usually the largest section)
-Safe Zone, where people put their coats, shoes, and purses that are NOT up for swapping.

Step #5: Greet people and help them sort.

Once you’ve helped the first few guests through this process, they’ll often help new arrivals. Especially when they realize that sorting essentially gives them first dibs on new items!

Some of you might be wondering at this point whether we have any Rules For Swapping. I’ve heard of swaps that have an official starting time, that have an item limit, that tell you not to take more items than you brought, etc. You can make as many rules as you’d like, but remember that you’ll then spend the evening enforcing those rules. I prefer to have as few rules as possible.

Step #6: Encourage people to try things they wouldn’t usually try.

This is, in my opinion, one of the best reasons to swap – you usually take home items that you’d never have considered buying in the store, but which will expand the boundaries of your wardrobe. My first pair of skinny jeans came from a swap!

I also love when one item is passed around the room, from person to person, until we find someone who pulls it off the best. Usually this involves consulting the room on the best ways to layer and accessorize.

Step #7: Make new friends!

You might not believe this, but my strongest networking connections have come out of clothing swaps. Talking to someone about your shared love of sparkly cardigans is the best form of small talk.

Any questions?

8 thoughts on “HOW TO: clothing swap

  1. Great post. So informative. I am having a ridiculous amount of fun telling someone to try on those pants. And yes, you definitely make friends at these. Double win.

  2. Thank you so much for the tips! Everybody writes about swapping clothes these days but nobody actually gives advice how to do so. I’d love to host a swapping party myself as I figured swapping clothes saves me a tremendous amount of money each month. I’m quite happy with (online trading site) though if you prefer online swapping.

  3. We’ve done the same thing with my teacher friends here in Beirut a few times. We do it EXACTLY as you’ve described. (Right down to step #6 where we get everyone to try on some random item.) The swap has been known as a “Naked Ladies Party” which I really hate. I much prefer the simple “Clothing Swap.”

  4. I’m curious about sizing. Do you sort things by size also? I’m just imagining my look of horror if I try this and realize the mini size 1 girl or the plus size woman may not have many choices to take home?? (trying to say that as sensitively as possible but truly want to understand the logistics of that!)

  5. You could sort by size – I’ve been to a swap where this was done – but I find that sizing is so inconsistent from brand to brand that people end up missing out. And, I think most women can pick up something and know if it’s close enough to their size to try.

    Here’s the thing about body issues: every woman has them. I’m too tall to EVER bring home pants from a clothing swap. Another woman would say her boobs are too big/small. I would think that sorting by size actually draws MORE attention to the disparity. If I pick up something fabulous and realize it will not fit me, I make it my mission to find a friend who it WILL fit!

    We’ve also extended our swaps to include accessories (shoes, purses, jewelry, scarves) to accommodate women who aren’t looking for clothing.

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