6 Steps to Hosting a Successful Clothing Swap

CC BY 2.0. Simon Law

Transform your living room into a free 'store' and pass around the cocktails!

Imagine being able to update your wardrobe without spending a dollar. This seemingly too-good-to-be-true scenario is entirely possible if you host a clothing swap party with friends. It's one of those wonderful things that seems so simple, and yet can fill people with satisfaction, build a sense of community, reduce clutter, improve your outfits, and save a load of money. Here's how to go about doing it.

1. Invite the right number of people (more than 10, less than 20 is considered a good amount). The more who come, the more inventory there will be to choose from.

2. Send out an invitation and give guests at least two weeks to prepare clothing they want to swap. You can set minimum and/or maximum numbers of pieces guests need to bring, if you want. Be clear about what makes a piece swap-worthy, i.e. no stains, washed, ironed. Decide which categories of clothing will be swapped -- women's, children's clothing, outdoor gear, footwear, accessories, etc. Remind guests to bring a bag or box to carry their new finds home and to wear undergarments that facilitate changing.

3. Set up your living room for the swap. It's more fun if the space looks like a store, so group like items with like. Fold jeans in a neat pile, clear a table for accessories, make an impromptu clothing rack using a curtain rod or dowel between two chairs. Establish a change room (it can just be another room) and provide full-length mirrors.

4. Make snacks and cocktails. I recently read about a group of mothers in British Columbia who drink Dirty Momma cocktails while swapping clothing on a regular basis. Whether or not your group has an established drink, it makes the whole experience more fun. And stay away from red wine; you don't want those stains all over your newfound treasures.

5. Have a method for swapping, rather than letting it be a free-for-all. The following ideas come from Real Simple:

  • Take turns shopping. Draw straws to pick who shops first. Limit the number of items to three per turn to keep it fair and moving fast.

Use tokens. The host hands out a poker chip for every item a guest donates. If a person brings 10 items, she gets 10 tokens with which she can purchase 10 new items.

Keep the numbers even. Everybody goes home with the same number of items that they donated.

Other ideas include drawing straws and taking turns shopping, limiting each person to five minutes and one item per round. And when it comes to disputes (via Oprah):

"If two friends have their eye on the same thing, have a model-off and let the group decide who wears it best. If you're afraid of hurt feelings, flip a coin instead."

6. Donate what's left. Pick a local charity and drop off all the remaining clothes the next day.