Host An EPIC Clothing Swap

I first learned about clothing swaps when I was a kid, from a book filled with “super fun slumber party ideas”. The rules were simple – clean out your closet, invite some friends over, look through one another’s clothing piles and trade your items for their items. It sounded so fun (and it is) but I imagined being even better on a slightly larger scale. The issue is, not everyone has the same amount of stuff, not everyone wants to make a direct trade with you. Whoever lays eyes on an item would get it first – and for young ladies this could spell trouble. When I actually held my first Clothing Trade I organized it a bit differently. I am now approaching my 27th birthday and I am proud to say that I have hosted a clothing trade at least once a year, every year since I was 10 years old. Now I am here to share with you the most effective (and fun!) clothing trade ideas.


When you first arrive at my Clothing Trade you are assigned a store space. This will be one of the rooms in my house. (If your trade is in a smaller space, like an apartment, you can allocate corners/pieces of furniture to each person. Ex. Your shop is on the couch, my shop is on the dinner table, etc) You can merchandise your shop however you’d like. Lay your items out in an appealing way so that all of the party guests can see your goods without digging through bags or missing a gem. You can name your shop and even make a sign to post at the door. This is a great addition to a party where guests don’t know one another well. Sitting down to decorate a sign can be a great ice-breaker (and a great time to eat some snacks or – for the 21+ crowd- enjoy a cocktail)


Sometimes guests arrive with 15 items and sometimes they arrive with 350. It can be nearly impossible to lay out 350 items at once, so for this reason I have divided the evening into 3 separate “sessions” of shopping. Each guest divides their goods into 3 groups and only lays out one group of merchandise at a time. This makes it possible to take in all of the sweet items everyone has bought and eliminates digging through piles.

“Money and Sticky Notes”

Upon entry to the trade, I will hand you an envelope full of Clothing Trade Currency. It is brightly colored money that I printed out on my computer many years ago and continue to use every year for the Trade. You will also receive a stack of thin (bookmarking) sticky notes. Once the first session starts, everyone goes from store to store and puts sticky notes on the items that they want to buy. During this portion of the trade no actual purchases are made. This gives everyone a chance to see everyone else’s goods rather than rushing wildly around trying to buy things before anyone else gets there. It makes for a relaxed atmosphere and doesn’t result in hard feelings of one friend’s shop always being the last to be visited. Once everyone has taken a look in everyone else’s shop, it’s time to make purchases. Each shop owner will set aside any item with multiple stickies on it for The Auction at the end of the party. All items only wanted by one guest can be purchased. Cost of items is determined by the individual shop owner. People with tons of items usually charge lower prices, such as ‘$1″ or “$2” per item where as people who only brought a few items may charge up to “$5” or “$6” per item. This can be a great way for girls and teens to learn about economic structure – all under the guise of shopping. The amount of money given to each guest is completely up to the host. The more guests you have, the more money they need at the beginning in order to shop the entire time even if they never make a sale themselves. With 5 people at a Clothing Trade, I would give each person “$150”.

“The Auction”

Perhaps the most exciting phase of the Clothing Trade is the auction. After you have completed 3 sessions (or however many you decide to have) of browsing and shopping, it’s time to bring out the big ticket items. All of the items with multiple potential buyers (that had multiple sticky notes on them during the browsing phases) are played out in a common area (at my event we all gather around the table so that everyone has a seat). Be sure to allow guests time to try on items before the auction actually starts, to make sure they would fit properly. After everyone has determined which items they are most interested in, the auction begins! Each person takes a turn auctioning off one of their popular items. Guests bid, in true auction fashion until a winning bid takes the item and the money is exchanged. This continues until every item has been auctioned off. Then everyone gathers up their new goods and happily goes home!


– It’s often surprising which items are popular items. Sometimes friends will buy something for sentimental reasons, or because they think it’s funny. You never know who might have a use for that useless item you own. Don’t restrict yourself by trying to only bring “good” items. One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure!

– Not surprisingly, books, movies, housewares, recreation items and other size-less items tend to be popular. My friends vary in size from a size 4 to a size 16, but everyone has a fantastic time.

– It’s a great way to get needed items without feeling like a moocher. You always loved that blouse? Now it’s yours. You’re having a baby soon? Take all of your friends old baby clothes. No real money needs to be exchanged and you don’t feel like you’re stealing from a pal.

– Younger girls will have fun including other elements to the trade as well – we used to play that it was a town and we would create laws to follow for the night.

– Ladies may also want to bring husbands along as well. We have some fellows who attend and enjoy the experience as well. Be sure to lay out some food for them and they will chat with each other, buy a few items and bid really high on books and DVDs during the auction portion!

– By structuring the event as I played out above, it allows guests to arrive late and leave as needed without showing up to a picked-over mess.

– People become fast friends because it’s such a structured event. It removed the awkwardness of a first meeting because you are both actively engaged in the activity.

– Less clothing ends up in landfills – and you end up with new items without spending a real dollar.

– You can structure your event however you’d like to fit your tastes! If you’re short on time, or only have a couple guests, consider skipping straight to The Auction. It’s a lot more fun than sifting through bags!

– An added bonus is hearing people’s stories behind the items they are giving away, it can be fun to know where the item came from and why they have decided to part with it. It’s a great bonding experience between friends as well.

No go forth and host a Clothing Trade!

Host a Clothing Swap Party

If you have a closet full of clothes that you no longer wear, there is a good chance that your friends do as well. A great way to get rid of some of your clothes and get some new items in your closet is to host a clothing swap party. A clothing swap party is where you invite a group of people to come to your home, bringing a selected amount of used clothing items to swap.

To start, choose a date and a time to host your party. The best dates for these kinds of events will be on the weekend and in the afternoon. Try to choose a date that is not near a holiday so that you are not competing with other vacation or travel plans and so that you get a good turn out. You will want to have a sizable group so that the event goes over smoothly; between 8-20 people in attendance. To get this amount of people in attendance, you will need to invite approximately double the amount of people to the event.

Before you choose an invitation, you should give some thought to the format. How many clothing items do you want each person to bring and exchange? Are you inviting people that are similar clothing styles? What types of clothing do you want people to bring- pants, shirts, skits or accessories? Once you have selected the format for the party and who you will be inviting, you can select the invitations. Send out the invitations approximately 2-3 weeks prior to the event.

It is important to follow up with people to ensure that they understand the concept, that they understand what to bring and that they are excited about the event. Each person will show up to the event with the used clothing items that they are ready to trade. To make sure that everyone has a great time, serve food and drinks and have some background music. Clear an area out in your home where people can display their clothing. If possible, have the clothing on hangers so that it is easy to view for all of the guests. Give everyone an amount of numbers, equal to the amount of clothing items that will be swapped.

When everyone is ready to start trading, draw numbers one by one. The number that is chosen is the first person that gets to swap a piece of clothing. They can choose anything in the room to trade for one of their items. This process continues until everyone has completed their swaps. When the group leaves, they will take with them the same number of used clothing items that they brought to the party.

For an extra feature, you may want to hold a clothing drive for the all of the used clothing that people do not want in their closets. Offer to take it in to the selected charity for them and help a great cause while you are having fun.

Tips for Hosting a Clothes Swap Party

Many of us have heard of the 80/20 rule when it comes to our wardrobe. “You wear 20 percent of your clothes 80 percent of the time.”, which leaves us with an almighty large quantity of unworn wardrobe pieces.

What should we do with our unworn pieces? A solution might be to host a clothes swapping party, giving your unworn clothes a chance to be worn again.

The idea incorporates a bit of fun with friends and family, whilst getting rid of items from your wardrobe, at the same time obtaining new garments at zero cost. The concept promotes recycled fashion within a social event.

Here are some tips and advice on ways to host a clothes swapping party of your own:

* Find an appropriate venue.

Tracy hosted her party at her friend’s house. Other ideas might be to contact a local school, kindergarten, or childcare facility. Ask if they’d prepared to let you use one of their rooms in exchange for a perhaps small donation from each attendee, which would go toward fundraiser the facility. This would probably be easier to organize if you have a child, niece or nephew that attends any of the above. Alternatively, a local community hall, or center might help?

* Organise

So you’ve found a venue, when would be best to host your party? Week day evenings might be best, as weekends are usually too busy for some, 7/7.30pm suit most. Tracy’s idea of baking cakes is great, you could suggest to swapee’s to bring a plate, a cake, or a bottle of wine? Emphasis on the party of the clothes swap party! Do you have or can you borrow a portable clothing rack or two? Browsing garments on a clothing rack is certainly much easier than sifting through a pile on the floor.

* Invite

You have a venue, a date and time. Start emailing, calling, and SMS your friends and family, tell them to invite their friends too, and create an event on Facebook. If you feel confident, and are running the event as a fundraiser, you could print up a small flyer and pin it on supermarket, library, and local community noticeboards.

* On the night

Depending on your intended party size, on a clothes swapping party I once attended at a school, we were given tickets in exchange for the amount of clothing pieces we’d given to swap. We’d use our tickets as currency to pick out garments we’d like to take home. A similar set up is arranged with larger scale organized clothes swap events where instead of tickets, buttons are given as swapping currency.

*Left over clothing

There will always be leftover pieces, what should be done with them? The easiest option would be to drop off at your local thrift/charity store. Alternatively, the leftover garments could be sold on eBay or at a flea market as fundraising for a charity or center that was used to hold the event.

Have you hosted a clothes swap party before? Would you like to?

Have you been to a clothes swapping event? If so, how was it?