If you realize that your clothes closet needs major purging, your friends and neighbors probably are thinking the same thing about theirs. Then this would be the perfect time to host a clothes swap party!
Invite your friends to swap ’til they drop! Old clothes shouldn’t die. They should find new life with a proud new owner.
What could be better than clearing the clutter from your closets, refreshing your wardrobe and saving money all at the same time? Start by filling a bag with clean, hardly worn tops, skirts, pants, sweaters and jackets that you no longer want (or fit into).
Send out invitations to all of your friends at least. a month in advance. 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. A perfect size group for swapping is 10 to 15 people, although some believe the bigger, the better, because more guests increase the clothes selection. To get enough people in attendance, you will need to invite approximately double the amount of people to the event.
Include on your invitation that all garments should be laundered, ironed and hung up. A good motto is “Don’t donate anything you wouldn’t give to a good, picky friend”–in other words, no stained, torn or outdated clothing.
Be clear on your invite to let everyone know how many garments to bring. Of course, everyone is welcome to bring as many items as they want, but set a minimum. Clothes swaps can be seasonal, but they don’t have to be. You could also hold your swap party at the start of a new season, when you switch your closets.
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.
Be sure to invite women in a wide range of shapes and sizes. It’s no fun to swap clothes if you’re the one size 12 in a roomful of size 6’s. Don’t limit your swaps to clothing, accessories and shoes. Broaden the offerings by having everyone bring household knickknacks, unopened cosmetics, books and unwanted holiday gifts to swap. Or hold a themed swap that features only dressy or vintage attire.
All you really need is a large room or backyard. If you don’t have enough room at home, see if your local community center, school, church or synagogue will host the event if you open it up to the wider community.
Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres are perfect for a swap. Make it more social by asking everyone to bring a potluck dish or a bottle of wine to make it a fun ladies’ day or night out. Keep the offerings light–when you try on several outfits in an evening, you definitely don’t want to be stuffed.
The key to a successful swap is good lighting and a few full-length mirrors so people can try on what they’re thinking of taking. Create a semi-private dressing area with a screen or by hanging a sheet to ensure a little bit of privacy. For those who are modest, make sure there are other rooms available to dress and undress. If this isn’t possible, remind people they can wear a body suit or bathing suit underneath their clothing if they wish. And, just in case, you should suggest to your friends to wear their best underwear.
Have a system planned so everyone doesn’t just dump their stuff on the floor. Get out your clothes rack and/or borrow one from a friend. Supply boxes, tables, hangers and clothing racks labeled Dresses, Tops, Pants, Dresses, etc. Have safety pins, sticky notes and pens for your guests to label items they’ve brought if needed.
Decide whether you want to organize by work wear, formal, casual, color, size, description (top, pants, dress) just pick a format that makes sense to your friends and go with it. Ask guests pre-sort their own items by your chosen system. When your friends arrive, have some helpers work with you to take their clothes and display them as a store would, if you have the space. Make it clear as guests arrive that there will be no swapping until everyone puts their stuff out so it’s not a crazy chaos.
If possible, put each category of items in a different area. The mirrors and clothing racks should be near the clothing. Make sure you have a chair or two near the shoes for folks to sit in while trying on a new pair.
Give everyone an amount of numbers, equal to the amount of clothing items that will be swapped. This is a good idea if some people brought many more items to the swap than others. 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.
Another way to run the swap is to auction off the items. Each person holds up and describes the items she brought, while guests put up their tickets if they want it. If no one is interested, the auctioneer chooses the person she thinks it would suit best and she have to go try it and model it and hopefully take it home.
You can also do actual swapping where guests trade items between themselves. It’s more interactive and good for a larger crowd.
If some of your guests are unsure about whether something looks good on them, just hold an impromptu fashion show where everyone tries on their “iffy” finds. The group’s reaction will let each guest know if something is a keeper. This is a great chance for guests to try whole new looks.
Remind guests that if they have second thoughts about an item they have up for grabs, they should speak up quickly. A simple “Hmm, I’m not so sure I’m ready to give that up yet,” should suffice, before someone else gets too attached to it.
So what do you do if two women each have hold of one sleeve of a designer sweater and no one is letting go? Or each claims ownership to a single shoe from the same pair? Keep the peace by having them take turns modeling the item, and let the group decide who wears it best (do this only if you’re sure there won’t be hard feelings). Or you can settle the dual claims with a coin toss or the classic “rock, paper, scissors.”
As an extra party 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.
Arrange in advance to have a charity pick up any unclaimed items after the swap, or contact a homeless shelter, thrift shop or similar nonprofit to make sure they accept donations. You can also plan for your next swap or charitable donation by making it a habit to keep a shopping bag right next to your closet for any clothes you try on that don’t
Be prepared – for a good time! You’ll be surprised how much fun you’ll have with a group of women trying on clothing. Enjoy!