clothes swap

A clothing swap is shopping at your friends’ closets

I went to my first ever clothing swap last week. It was hosted at a friend’s house and we were seven ladies exchanging clothes – women’s, men’s and children’s. It was great fun and I left with a few new items.

The idea behind clothing swaps is simple: bring some clothes you don’t wear anymore and share them with your friends. At the same time, your friends will bring their clothes and you can choose some of their items.

Clothing swaps have been around since the late 1990s, apparently, and I remember getting invited to one a few years ago and not having the guts to go. I’ve since changed my shopping behaviour and wearing used clothes is no big deal anymore.

As much fun as a clothing swap can be, there are a few things to keep in mind.


Recipe for success

Gotta love second-hand shopping

As I said, a few years ago I didn’t go to a clothing swap because the idea of wearing used clothing was not appealing to me. With that attitude, a clothing swap wasn’t a good idea for me.

This has changed, I have changed.

However, I still recommend anyone without an aptitude for second-hand shopping to maybe skip the clothing swap as well. It can seem odd to rummage through your friends’ clothing to find something you might like to wear.

If, however, you are a lover of second-hand clothing, clothing swaps are great!


Involve food

A relaxed atmosphere with some good food (and drinks) helps tremendously with the ‘shopping mood’.

The only requirement for food is to keep it away from the clothes. Preferably you’ll have non-greasy food like fruit and raw veggies or crackers. If all participants follow the rule not to touch the clothes directly after eating, however, it should be all fine.

From a hosting perceptive, ask everyone to bring some food to share. This lightens the burden on the host and contributes to the collective experience.


Match sizes and styles

Personally, I find it helpful to somewhat match sizes and tastes in clothing. Although there is nothing wrong with a business suit next to track pants but it could lead to disappointment.

When setting up a clothing swap, it’s a good idea to match participants coming. For example, you can have a clothing swap dedicated to designer fashion, one for evening gowns, and one for everyday clothes. This matching ensures that no participant feels ‘outbid’ by others when their clothes are left behind. Also, you avoid disappointment if expensive items cannot be matched.

Matching the size of participants depends on the number of people at the clothing swap. The fewer people the more important it is to make sure participants wear similar sizes. Just as an example, in a group of five you wouldn’t want to have five different sizes and body shapes because no one could wear any other clothes.


Setting up a clothing swap

Okay, up to this point I was speaking from (limited) experience; setting up a clothing swap I’ve never done. So bear with me and correct me if I’m wrong but the ground rules should be something like this (according to this list):

  1. Get a group of friends together (keeping size and styles in mind).
  2. Organise a room with space to either display the clothing lying down or hanging up. This can be anything from a lounge room to a party room. It needs enough space for people to move around while looking at clothing.
  3. Request your participants to bring clean clothes, in perfect (or at least very good) condition, ready to be passed on. For large groups, you could restrict the number of items per participants.
  4. If desired, organise a changing room with mirrors.
  5. For large groups, it might be a good idea to develop some swapping rules. Maybe each participant is allowed one item per ‘walk through’, or pick straws to determine who goes when, or note down the number of items brought in and don’t allow any more items being brought out of the party.

The most important rule I found is that every participant should only bring items he/she would still wear herself/himself. Don’t bring obvious junk and clutter!

Also, decide if shoes and accessories are part of the clothing swap. If so, set some rules for hygiene purposes. Same goes for underwear, nightgowns, and exercise clothing.


Finishing a clothing swap

Once every item has been assessed and every participant is happy with their choices, it’s time to pack up.

Decide in advance what to do with the leftovers. Most likely you can pack them up and donate them to a local charity. Sometimes clothes can also be used for kids’ costumes, in school theater and sewing projects, or maybe someone outside the clothing swap is interested.

Ultimately, the clothing swap must end in an ‘all gone’ state of affairs. That’s just fair to the host.

Above all the things to think about, don’t forget to have fun at a clothing swap. It’s a chance to freshen up your wardrobe, try out new styles for free, and enjoy other like-minded people’s company.

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