how to host a clothing swap (and why you should)

We all have clothing we are not wearing. As a society, we are buying (and wasting) more clothing than ever before, much more than the resale market can possibly cope with. Buying fewer items (of better quality) is one part of the solution, but making the most of what already exists is another. After all, the most sustainable piece of clothing is the piece you already own.

Have you ever considered swapping clothing with your friends? Clothing swaps are a great way to spend intentional time together, all while fostering the spirit of sharing with your community. And who knows? This could lead to a wider network of sharing and borrowing in your area well beyond clothing. You can do this for kids items too! Before school starts, gather parents in your community and organize clothing in piles by size. Bring older kids with you to get them involved and into this kid of sharing!

Getting ready for a clothing swap has the interesting effect of coaxing those items out of your closet that are “too good/expensive” to donate because you are likely to get something in return. It’s also a great way to be honest with yourself about what you are wearing and what you feel good in. I have found it easier for me to let go of my attachment to an item when I know it could potentially be chosen and loved by someone I care about.

There are a plethora of posts out there about how to host a clothing swap, but here is what I like best about the swaps I have been to and hosted in the past.

Planning Your Swap

  • Invite folks of all sizes and mix your social circles.
  • Send your email invitation well in advance to give guests a chance to minimize their wardrobes.
  • Set a maximum limit of items (10-20 per person, depending on the size of your gathering) to keep from being overwhelmed with items.
  • Ask folks to bring enough hangers for the number of items they are bringing.
  • Suggest guests wear clothing they can easily try on clothing on top of, such as a tank and leggings.
  • Choose a local charity to donate unclaimed items to in advance. Swaps I have been involved in typically donate to women’s shelters or employment groups. Guests should feel welcome to take home their unclaimed items at the end of the events as well.

Setting Up

  • Have a friend or two help you set up! Ask folks who are lending racks to drop them off early.
  • Choose reusable glassware, dishes, and cutlery for any food and beverages you may be offering. If you don’t have enough, borrow these too!
  • Arrange items by general type (pants, dresses, tops, activewear, etc).
  • Transform the space into a store-like set up.
  • Have a full length mirror available.

Swappable Items

A clothing swap can be more than just clothing! Ask your guests to consider bringing the following gently used items to swap:

  • Clothing
  • Shoes/boots
  • Handbags
  • Very gently used and/or unopened makeup, perfume, skin care products.
  • Jewellery
  • Scarves
  • Hats
  • Home decor items

The Best Rules are No Rules

A small swap is a great place for a casual and relaxed approach, so once the swap it set up, encourage folks to simply go shopping! It’s lovely to see people chatting, getting opinions on items, or finding something that would be perfect on someone else. Try not to place restrictions on how many items a person can take – in my experience, folks are very chill about free items in an atmosphere like this, taking only what they really love or need. Keep it light and fun!

A larger event may need a few more rules, such as a lottery system for who shops when and for how long, and tokens for items brought to limit items chosen.

Have you ever been to or hosted a clothing swap?

Share your tips in the comments!

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