Advice for a fun and fulfilling clothing swap party

Perhaps your closet/floor of your bedroom/another entire room in your house is like mine: covered in piles of clothes. It’s true, I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a clothes hoarder. And despite my best (see mediocre) efforts, I regularly add more than I detract from the collection. 

But here’s my silver lining and justification: most of my embarrassing abundance of attire is not purchased; I acquired this collection free of charge through clothing swaps.

My friends and I host two to four clothing swaps a year (we call them Naked Lady Parties), and use it as an opportunity to hang out, clean out our closets, update our looks, admire each other’s excellent tastes, and cull together a huge pile of clothes to donate. 

Want to host your own clothing exchange? Take a few tips and ideas from our years of swapping fun.

Start a Facebook group

We communicate through a facebook group, switching hosting duties, checking in, and scheduling. It’s a pleasant way to stay in touch with friends you haven’t seen in a while and it's also an open and safe space: with clothing exchanges, often potential guests are concerned about what will be available for different body types. 

Within the group space, we can talk about who will be there, share various sizes that will be represented, and strive toward a good diversity. 

If this is your very first time, go ahead and just invite some friends through any kind of invitation service and get a group going after your first successful swap.  

What happens at the swap itself?

I definitely encourage any kind of personalization and deviation in order to accommodate your needs: In the invitation, lay out your guidelines for participation and encourage guests to bring snacks and beverages. 

Here are the guidelines we work with:

  • Bring clothes, accessories, small household items, books, etc that you want to purge.
  • One at a time, a guest goes through their items and other attendees have a chance to claim them.
  • Guests also like to try on items so it's nice to have a full length mirror on hand  and an extra room for those guests who are a little more private. It's also a good idea to host in a large room with curtains for a little privacy.
  • Should more than one person want a single item, the group helps decide who gets it. Do you already have 3 green purses? Well then, Susie, who has zero green purses and whose only purse has a hole in it will get it.
  • All guests go through their items, throw the unwanted items in a central pile, and then we donate anything left!

Maybe it seems like going one by one will take too long but not to worry; I have hosted and attended parties with up to 20 guests and it really goes by quickly. It's also a fairly democratic system, giving everyone an opportunity to speak up and claim that spiffy new sweater. And honestly, it's just a delightful time with friends. 

Naked ladies, new clothes and charity

We call our exchanges Naked Lady parties for a reason: it usually starts with your more uninhibited and outgoing guests. but eventually, about half of the room ends up hanging out for the duration in a state of undress; that's just what happens when there are cool new tops and lots of jeans to try on and you don't want to miss out on what may come out of someone's bag next. 

Due to the, lets call it increasingly relaxed, attire of your clothing exchange guests, ensuring privacy can be helpful. Unless you are braver than me and interested in hosting a mixed-gender clothing exchange, talk to the men of your household and arrange for them to be out of the house for a specific amount of time. 

At the end of the evening, most have imbibed a few drinks and all have bags brimming with new goodies to refresh their closets. And inevitably you have an impressive amount of clothing to donate to your local Goodwill or any other local charity that provides clothes to those in need. We have donated to organizations who provide professional clothing to those seeking jobs but who can't afford a suit, and we have given to organizations that provide clothes to foster kids. 

Feel free to take any or none of what you've learned here and apply it to your own party - make up the rules as you go, do what works best for you and your friends. Happy swapping!

Katy Evans is a writer, community advocate, and Tacoma obsessive. She edits and writes for blog Post Defiance, works as a grantwriter and fundraising professional with Northwest-based nonprofits and agencies,  and is a steering commmitte member for the small business incubator Spaceworks Tacoma. Find more writing at and follow her at @katynicoud.

Posted in clothing swap, fashion, friends, secondhand 8/28/2014 at 8:59pm by Jen Rittenhouse

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Swap Talk

Jen is the co-creator of Swap Meet Mama. She is a copywriter, marketer and trend spotter by trade. She loves to build things that connect with people and believes in the power of thrift store shopping. Her daughter, Stella Mae (aka, Maeby, Mae Mae and Nena) dresses almost exclusively in denim and secondhand duds.

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