Clothing Swap

Did you know? It’s spring! 

You know what is great to do in spring? Exchange clothes you don’t wear for ones you do!

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Have you been to a Clothing Swap before? AKA, Clothing Exchange, Naked Lady Party, and many other things, these things are AMAZING. Here’s the summary: Get some  girlfriends together, clean out your closets of great but rarely warn clothes, get together, and exchange it. I’ve hosted a few of these parties now, and have never been let down.

Here is everything you could need to host your own, and then some:

WHO

All of your lady friends!

It works with a small group of close friends, or a large group of friends of friends of friends. My following advice has been worked well for groups of 20-30, and I think could work well for anywhere from 5-50. Also be sure to invite ladies of ALL sizes. It sucks to be the one stout or petite lady bringing some nice clothes but unable to fit into anything other ladies brought. This is easier with larger groups.

WHAT

Clothing and accessories.

Tops, bottoms, coats, purses, scarves, jewelry, leggings, belts, hair things, shoes, anything you wear on your body! But, make sure they are in good condition. A good rule of thumb I was told is “items in a condition that you’d lend to your friend.”  DO NOT bring: undergarments, and only swimsuits if you dare. They are “personal items” for a reason!
Other ideas: Moms could do a kids clothing swap, toy swap, or maternity clothing swap. Men likely wouldn’t do this on their own, but their significant others might be willing to make it part of their swap. I was recently given the idea to try a book swap with the clothing swap, I’ll let you know how it goes!

WHERE

A Large Space.

I have primarily hosted in a large house. Open concept is helpful, but having separate rooms for each type of clothing isn’t a bad option. Obviously adjust the size of the space for the number of people coming. Other ideas: church common room, community center, coffee shop during closed hours, or make it a yard or garage swap during warm months!

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WHEN

Once or twice a year.

My group of ladies has easily had enough to supply a bi-annual swap. Natural times are Spring and Fall when the season change makes people start digging in new parts of their closet or start wishing for new fresh items. Unless it’s a very large swap, more than twice a year seems like it would fizzle out, but once a year could be a great tradition.

WHY

It saves you green and makes you green!

You get a fresh closet without spending any/much money
You prevent more waste buy getting “new to you” clothes instead of buying more
You get to hang out with your friends and do mini fashion shows
Your get to see your friends look great in clothes you thought were done
You make new friends
It’s just plain fun girl time
Your clothes get more use before going to the trash
All leftover items still go to charity 

HOW

Here we go with the nitty gritty:

There are MANY different ways to make it happen, I will give you what I’ve found best:

Make a minimum item number. If you don’t, people will bring little or nothing and take a lot. I do a 5 item minimum, but 10 items is also common and reasonable. I’ve found even if some people barely bring 5, many people bring far beyond 5 and there is always more than enough items for everyone. 

Organize. I found it most helpful to arrange by type of item: shirts, pants, shorts, bags, jewelry, etc. Your guests will typically have something in mind that they want or need and can go straight there. I also make a room or area for people to put their extra belongings like coats and purses so they don’t accidentally get snatched. Don’t forget to makes space for trying items on if your ladies are a little more shy. Labeling rooms with signs is incredibly helpful for guests and keeps people from asking you questions so you can continue to do your own digging! Create a natural flow in your space and with what display items you have. I use available couches, shelves kitchen tables, in addition to racks, card tables, and  full-length mirrors that friends let me borrow. If you don’t have any racks to borrow, try one your hand at one of these DIY racks, because hanging dresses, coats, and other nice things is really helpful. Small things like containers to keep jewelry from ending up on the floor, extra hangers, and extra shopping bags are great small thoughtful things.

Set the atmosphere. Get some fresh flowers, some fresh (non-greasy) snacks, and refreshments appropriate for the time of day. Make your signs fun and festive, maybe even make some poms or other decorations to keep the mood happy and light, it makes the overall experience that much better! Don’t forget some catchy but fairly calm music. Stressed out women surround by free clothing can get feisty, and the last thing you want is a cat fight. If you take extra steps to keep your guests happy, excited, calm, and most importantly, easygoing and forgiving, you don’t have to make strict rules about when guests pick clothes. 

Make a price. This is optional, I typically make mine free. It’s fun, people enjoy it, and it’s really not that much work for as large of an event as it becomes. If you do want to make a price to make it a fundraiser, $5 or $10 per person is reasonable.  You can go higher if you plan on making it swap limited to high end clothing swap, I prefer to keep mine more accessible.

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Make an arrival time. For the first 1/2 hour or so have ladies lay out their items in the assigned areas. Once they are done they can mingle and start peaking at what they may want to try on. This gives late-arrivers time to unpack their goods without being stressed and overwhelmed, and most of the clothes are out when you start the actual swap.

Restrain chaos. I made a few “rules” sheets and hung them around, included the essential rules in the invitation, and briefly explained them before the actual swap started. Here are my rules:

RulesSome things to note about the rules. They are informative, but lighthearted so people know what to do but keeps the atmosphere upbeat. Use your own humor, and obviously insert your own name as the host. Before it gets started I make sure everyone has a shopping bag of some sort, and explain rule 3 and 4 a little more to the crowd. For the 15 minutes or so people can only have 5 items at a time. This forces them to try things on and prioritize instead of hoarding every cute item they find and not trying it on until half of the crowd is gone. This also helps make sure everyone gets a fair shot at something decent, and keeps the panic down. After 15 minutes, or sooner if you can tell everyone has found their 5 items, announce “open shopping” where ladies can stuff their shopping bags to the brim! As for rule 6, I’ve yet to see anything remotely close to a fight, but it’s good to have a fun contingency plan. I’ve also heard of having both girls try the item on and have the rest of the guests vote on who it looks better on!

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Know where the extra clothes are going. I have found a great local charity that I love give my clothes to. I once scheduled the swap the night before a clothing drive which creates even more appeal to go and give, and sometimes you get donations from people who can’t make it to the actual swap. Don’t forget to bring a couple large trash bags for these clothes and have a few friends help you pack up and clean up.

Success!

I look forward to this event year, and have people asking me about when the next one is all the time. Do your friends a favor and organize a swap asap!