Are you Marie Kondo-ing your life right now? Then you must have bags of clothes and things to say a kind farewell to as it once sparked joy, but alas, the spark is gone.
This is the perfect time to try your hand at a clothing swap! This trending party concept has legs because one woman’s trash is another woman’s new shirt.
I share how to throw a swap party on Seattle’s New Day Northwest with Margaret Larsen. From how to invite folks to how to throw the darn thing, I guide you through the steps I take when hosting a Clothing Swap Party.
What is a Clothing Swap Party?
The idea is that you and your friends bring your gently used clothes to give away in exchange for shopping through their discards. It’s like shopping in your friends closet.
What if you and your friends have different body types?
Turn this into a clothing, decor and or kids clothing swap. This broader categories allow for more inclusivity.
Where do you host this?
Your home or apartment is common. Clothing is usually set on tables and chairs and everywhere. Don’t fret about space and perfect layout. It’s a party to get a free new wardrobe. People won’t mind.
Who do you invite?
You can start with friends. You can also use this as a chance to meet your neighbors or people from work or church. If you do this party with strangers, open up the swap categories beyond clothes so people don’t feel intimidated.
The Rules to Participate
Yours can fluctuate, but these are common best practices for a group of 10+:
- Guests are to bring a minimum of 5 items (make it a larger minimum if you are invited fewer people).
- Guests should bring hangers for shirts if you’re planning on providing space to hang things.
- Have your clothing stain and rip free. Also, pre-wash items.
- If shoes are allowed, ask that they are cleaned up.
- Is jewelry allowed? Kids toys? Etc.
- Bring items in a tote that can be donated (box, bag, etc) so that leftovers can be easily taken to your local thrift shop.
- If you’re not allowing people to leave their unclaimed items, indicate this.
- Determine your decor perimeters. Are you allowing furniture? Does it have to fit a certain size? etc.
- Determine if you want this to be potluck style refreshments.
- Optional rule, but I’ve seen some people say you can only take the number of items you brought. For example, if you brought 10 things, you can only take 10 things. I’ve heard other hosts say this rule didn’t feel necessary.
It’s true what they say that it’s all about how you present or package something. Take books for example. People might care about 1 title in a sea of 20. However, present it by color blocking, you’ve reframed the book as a decorative concept and someone might nab 10 of your 20. Here’s a good example:
- Suggest guests to mark their hangers with washi tape so they know what to take home at the end.
- Jewelry can be presented on cork boards with push pins. I adhered the cork to my walls using 3M no-damage velcro.
- Risers. Risers. Risers. Anything looks cooler on risers. Caterers use them. Retail stores use them. Online shops use them. Creating dimension creates interest. An easy way to do this is flipping over shoes boxes or tubs you have at home. You could also stack books or large canned foods, then cover these objects with a linen or sheet. General Tip: check out sheets and pillowcases at a thrift shop for vintage patterns or textures to use for your table coverings.
- Look at your favorite online retailers to see how they style trinkets. Etsy is a great spot for this.
Here are some of the ideas I presented on New Day Northwest
Food & Beverage
As with any gathering, it’s nice to have food and drink available for guests. Particularly as there will be chunks of time where people are waiting around (you’ll see why) and to have nibbles and conversation is nice.
That said, you don’t want greasy fingers or spilled drinks on the merchandise, so help your guests keep themselves, and the goods, clean by setting up “no food and drink” zones as well as convenient ways to stay tidy.
- If you keep the food and drinks in the kitchen, put up signs on the entrances/exits that say “No food or drink beyond this room.”
- Put up a TV tray or other table to set out handy wipes for guests to quickly clean their hands after eating.
- Make coasters with heavy paper (card stock or index cards) where a guest can set her glass down and put the coaster on top of the glass indicating that she’s not done and will be right back.
- If you don’t want to confine the drinks and food (or simply can’t because of space), serve clear liquids and non-greasy finger foods.
Time to shop!
The question of how to manage a huge onslaught of shoppers maniacally looking for the “best thing” plagued me until I read some tips from other swap hosts and this method seems to feel the most fair. This tip is assuming you have 20 guests. Adjust if you need to.
- Create raffle tickets for shopping “rounds” that last 15 minutes. i.e. 9-9:15, 9:15-9:30, 9:30-9:45, 9:45-10.
- Allow 5 people per round.
- During this exclusive round, the shopper may select a max of 2-3 items (gauge based on how much is brought).
- Optional is to continue this style of shopping for another round. Keep in mind that would be another hour of time.
- Otherwise, after everyone has their 1 round of shopping, the doors open and it’s a free for all. The perk of the rounds is that people pick their very favorite item and still have a chance to see what else is up for grabs. When the doors open for the free for all, they know where to head.
- During the free-for-all, put a max number of items one can carry. This will help with people getting a little greedy and calling dibs on things they’re not even sure they want. The shopper must take their five items to try on, or claim in their bag before going back to shop for more.
- Consider providing shopping bags and sharpies for people to put their goods.
- Create a fun (but totally serious) set of House Rules. It will set the correct expectations.
And of course, you can watch the segment here!
Have you hosted a swap before? Have any pro tips to share? We’re all ears!