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How to Organise a Clothes Swap


Are you tired of staring at a closet full of clothes but feeling like you have nothing to wear? If so, it’s time to update your closet. And no, we’re not talking about buying new clothes, throwing old ones in the bin, and contributing to the UK being the fourth largest producer of clothing waste in Europe.

There’s a much more sustainable, free, and fun way to refresh your wardrobe—organise a clothes swap. It’s an exciting event where people exchange clothing they no longer wear, rock different attire without spending a fortune, promote sustainable fashion, and have a blast. Trust us, it’s a win-win situation for everyone, including the environment.

Can’t find clothing swaps near you? The perfect solution might be to host a clothing swap of your own. What better way to appreciate and re-use pre-loved items than in the company of your friends or even your community?  

So, if you’re up for the excitement, we will guide you through hosting a successful clothes swap. From setting the groundwork to hosting the actual swap, you’ll find all the tips and tricks you need to make your clothes swap a memorable and enjoyable experience.

What Happens at a Clothing Swap?

Clothes Swap Event

A clothes swap, also known as a clothes swap party or clothing swap event, is an interesting gathering of individuals where they bring clothes and other items and exchange them with each other. Instead of letting those neglected pieces collect dust in your closet, you give them a chance to shine in someone else’s wardrobe.

It’s like practising circularity in fashion at the neighbourhood level. The idea is simply to give your unwanted clothes a new life while discovering new-to-you fashion pieces. And in the process, you save a lot on clothing expenses.

How Do You Organise Charity Clothes Swaps?

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s move on to the steps involved in hosting a clothes swap. We’ll tackle pre-event, the event proper, and post-event items that you need to add to your checklist.

Pre-swap Event

Organize a Clothes Swap

1. Choose your theme.

Deciding on the specific theme of your clothing swap party lets the people know what to prepare and what to expect. Some ideas for clothing swaps are women’s wear only, seasonal clothing, and a swap for the plus-sized—the possibilities are endless.

You can even turn the affair into a full-blown fashion awareness campaign by promoting local or sustainable clothing materials. 

2. Identify the guests and how many of them.

Is it a clothing swap party that is intimate as a small group of friends only? Or is it company-wide, involves the whole community, or is open to the public?

Who you will invite and the number of guests is crucial in determining many other factors in the swapping event you are about to host.

A good rule to follow is to have as many different fashion styles as possible so guests will have a variety of styles and sizes to choose from.

3. Find a venue.

Now, let’s find the ideal space to host your swap party. As we said, the type and number of guests will determine other aspects of the swap and this includes the venue.

For a small clothing swap party, a living room, an outdoor garden, or a cafe would be fine. Or if you’re feeling more generous to open your event to the public, you can book your local community centre or any spacious public area that can accommodate your guests and your clothing railings.

4. Set the date and invite participants.

Choose a suitable date and time for your clothes swap event. Consider factors such as the availability of potential participants and any special occasions that may clash.

Then you can start inviting friends. Create invitations or spread the word about your clothing swap extravaganza by creating a Facebook event or sharing the details in a Facebook group.

Make sure to mention the purpose of the swap and any guidelines participants should be aware of, such as the quality and condition of the clothes and accessories, the type of items that are preferred, and how many items they can swap with. 

5. Determine how you will collect the clothes.

Would you prefer that guests bring their items on the day of the clothing swap party? Or would you rather collect the items a few days before the event?

Taking these into consideration will also let you know the kind of preparations and people (particularly those who will be in charge of sorting out the items) you will need on or before the actual swap party.

If possible, also ask swappers to give information or story or anything interesting about their pre-loved clothes as this may come in handy as conversation starters on the day of the event. Plus, guests can give secondhand items they’re willing to donate.

6. Sort and display the goodies.

Once you’ve gathered all the clothes, it’s time to sort and organise them. You can start sorting based on size, style, and gender (women’s, men’s, or children’s).

Then, arrange the clothing items and other accessories on clothing rails, racks, and tables and organize them in an appealing and accessible manner. Clothes hangers such as coat hangers will make it easy for your guests to browse through and find their next favourite outfit.

You can also create different swapping stations based on categories like tops, bottoms, accessories, and shoes. Participants can take turns visiting each station, allowing for a fair distribution of items and a treasure hunt-like experience. It’s like exploring a fashion wonderland, searching for hidden gems at every turn!

7. Make the clothing swap fair.

To keep things fair and organised, it’s important to have a system for the actual swapping in place. Find a system that works well with your clothing swap or choose among these common swapping systems:

  • Free-for-all event – If the event is small and exclusive for friends, then this no-system system can do the job. It gives a more relaxing vibe and allows anyone to choose as they please, maybe even barter a bit more if someone gets fast enough to pick your bet first.
  • One-to-one swap – This system is pretty basic. For every item of clothing you bring, you get one item as a swap. And if you have two, you get two in exchange, and so on. 
  • Token-based system – For larger events, a more systematised swapping is called for such as the token-based system. Here, every item is assigned a point value according to the type of clothes (from t-shirts to jeans and dresses) or according to the price value (high-end vs mid-range vs high-street clothes). Participants will be given tokens they will use to “shop” for clothes that are equivalent to the type and the value of clothes they exchanged with.

Whatever exchange system you choose, make sure to communicate the rules to participants in advance to avoid any confusion during the event.

Swap Event Proper

Clothes Swap

8. Let the swapping begin.

As your guests arrive, welcome them with excitement and explain the rules of the swap. Encourage them to mingle, try on clothes, and enjoy the swapping experience.

Provide fitting rooms or a designated changing area where participants can try on their selected items. Oh, and don’t forget about mirrors! Install a couple or more full-body mirrors as well as small mirrors throughout the area.

As people arrive, watch the foot traffic increase and witness the joy of discovering new treasures. It’s like a shopping spree without spending a dime!

And, throughout the clothing swap, encourage guests to share their fashion stories and inspire each other with creative outfit tips and ideas. It’s not just about exchanging clothes; it’s about building connections and fostering a slow-fashion community.

9. Personalize the event.

Get creative with your idea of clothing swaps by adding a touch of fun and sophistication. Cue in the music and bring in the appetizers. Invite select guests to talk about their clothes to create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. Open a photo booth so guests will have some photo remembrance with their newfound items or even friends.

Consider also setting up video showings or printing educational posters to put up around the space to raise awareness about our shopping habits, the fast fashion cycle, and other things related to the fashion industry.

Post-swap Event


10. Decide on leftover clothing.

At the end of the event, you may find a few leftover clothes and accessories waiting to be rehomed. To avoid ending up in the bin, save and store those leftovers for the next time you host a clothing swap. Just make sure to give them proper care and packaging so they’ll be nice and ready for future use.

You can also opt to donate those extra clothes to your local charity. 

11. Fashion show and trade, anyone?

After the swapping is complete, organize a mini fashion show where participants can showcase their newly acquired outfits. Not only does this add a fun and engaging element to the event, but it also provides an opportunity for participants to trade items with each other if they find something they love even more. It’s like a fashion trading extravaganza!

What are the Clothing Swap Party Rules?

In a clothing swap, fairness is key! After all, we want everyone to leave the event with a big smile and some fabulous new finds. So, here’s the lowdown on how to make your clothing swaps fair and exciting for everyone involved.

Clothes Swap rules

Bring quality, take quality

Ask participants to bring only items that are in good condition. No one wants to trade their beloved jeans for a ripped t-shirt! So, encourage everyone to bring items they would be proud to pass on to a friend.

First come, first served

To keep things exciting, you can implement a rule that gives priority to the early birds. As guests arrive, they can have first dibs on the most coveted items. This adds an element of excitement and encourages guests to arrive early, eager to snatch up those trendy outfits.

Beat the clock

Put a time limit on the swapping session to make it more fast-paced and thrilling. Set a timer and let participants browse through the items within a specific time frame, say 15 minutes. Once the time is up, everyone has to make their final selections. It adds an adrenaline rush and ensures that participants make quick decisions, creating a dynamic and energetic atmosphere.

Take only what you really love

It’s easy to get carried away when you see a plethora of clothes, accessories, and shoes laid out before you, but it’s important to be mindful of your choices. This rule encourages participants to trust their fashion instincts and select items that genuinely resonate with their personal style and preferences. Most of all, this reduces the chances of clothes ending up as unwanted clothing again. It’s about fostering a mindset of conscious consumption and making the most of each garment.

Eco-friendly packaging only

Encourage participants to use eco-friendly packaging when bringing their clothes to the swap party. Instead of single-use plastic bags, suggest using reusable tote bags or recycled paper bags. This small step reduces waste and aligns with the sustainable theme of the event, making it a truly eco-conscious clothing swap.

Final Note

By organizing clothes swaps, you’re not only refreshing your wardrobe but also promoting sustainable fashion and reducing the waste of valuable natural resources. It’s all about embracing a conscious life, making a positive environmental impact, and making the world a better place one swap of clothes at a time.

So, grab those unwanted clothes, round up your friends and invite people, and start planning your own clothing swap party. With some good vibes, a space for exchanging clothing, and a passion for sustainable fashion, you can create and host an unforgettable free event that brings people together and where swapping becomes the new shopping.

Katie Davies

Katie Davies lives in Gloucestershire with her two young children. Katie juggles working life alongside duties at home but has found an escape through the world of clothing. She thoroughly enjoys sharing her thoughts on the latest in womenswear.

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