Last updated: February 20, 2023
When you host a clothing swap, you’ll help your friends find cool new stuff to wear, recycle their old clothes, and maybe even support the environment.
I’ll show you exactly how to host a clothing swap. You’ll learn:
- How and who to invite,
- What supplies you need (hint: hangers!),
- What to do with all the clothes,
- How to ensure that your guests actually show up,
- How to arrange the room to feature different clothing,
- What part of the clothing swap usually goes wrong (perhaps not what you think!), and
- How to help everyone meet new friends and mingle.
Why you should trust me: My friend Courtney recently organized a HUGE clothing swap for 35 of her friends. I attended it and then interviewed her about it afterwards. I’ve personally hosted hundreds of networking events and cocktail parties. New York Magazine once called me a host of “culturally significant” parties. But don’t just take their word for it. Keep reading to see my clothing swap party tips.
What is a Clothing Swap?
A clothing swap is a get-together or party you can host. Everyone brings their “old” clothes to trade for other clothes.
Rather than donate or throw away the stuff you don’t wear, a clothing swap creates an opportunity for exchanging your unused or unwanted items. You’ll also get to update your own closet.
It is fun! You should host a clothing swap. I’ll show you exactly how to do it.
How to Host a Clothing Swap Video
Here’s a video that I made when I attended a large women’s clothing swap recently.
Benefits of Hosting a Clothing Swap
You should host a clothing swap because:
- Everyone has clothes to donate,
- Everyone wants new clothes
Trust me, people LOVE clothing swaps. It is an easy-ish event that you can host, usually for free, which many people will be interested in attending.
A clothing swap is also one of the best ways to fight waste created by fast fashion trends. This seems to be popular with “the youths.”
Clothing swaps are kind to your wallet, too! You and your friends will save money.
Top 5 Clothing Swap Pro-Tips
Here are five key pieces of advice if you’re going to host a clothing swap:
- Ask attendees to send their clothes through the dryer beforehand to freshen them up.
- Have full-length mirrors available, and try setting up a “privacy area” for trying things on.
- Bring lots of hangers. Ask if anyone has collapsible garment racks (or buy a few cheap ones).
- Plan for how you will dispose of the extra clothes afterwards. Many people like to take them to a nearby donation center.
- Think about fairness: you might have someone show up who does not have any clothes to swap, but they grab some of the best pieces right away. Keep that in mind for how you might want to handle it. Some people use a token or ticket system for the first 30 minutes, only allowing each person to pick three to five items to give everyone an equal chance for browsing.
The invitation to your clothing swap can be sent by text, email, DM, etc. A simple text message could say:
Hi! I’m getting some girls together to host a clothing swap in two weeks. Can I send you more info? It will be on Tuesday night, Aug 16, from 6-9PM. LMK if you’re free!
The two most important things to do here are to invite people at least 2 weeks in advance (I call this the party runway), and then to collect their RSVPs (to create a commitment and social proof).
I suggest that you use a free online event platform like Paperless Post, Partiful, Mixily, etc to collect RSVPs for your swap. This will help increase your attendance rate, let people know what to expect, and give you a more accurate headcount.
These are the free platforms that I currently like and recommend.
On the event invitation page, let guests know the details and expectations for what to bring.
“New or gently used” is a good way to specify that you’d prefer higher quality items.
If you do not specify what types of clothes you want people to bring, be prepared to get a mixed bag of used clothes. Threadbare bathrobes might appear!
Materials for Clothing Swap
I’ve listed below all the things you need when hosting a clothing swap. These are the essentials and must-haves.
Swap Party Supplies
- Hangers – approx. 100 or 10 per person,
- Name tags,
- Sharpie markers,
- Collapsible garment racks (optional),
- Water bottles,
- Trash bags for clothes to donate afterwards,
- Napkins or Paper towels,
Hangers and Garment Racks
Clothing racks and hangers will make looking for clothes feel much easier. It’ll also make things look more presentable and professional!
Ask if any of your friends have a portable clothing rack. Or, if your budget allows, buy collapsible or portable clothing racks.
I like these collapsible clothing racks on Amazon:
- SimpleHouseware Standard Rod Garment Rack
- Simple Houseware Standard Double Rod Garment Rack
- Simple Trending Standard Clothing Garment Rack
A couple of tables will be useful if you can’t buy a clothing rack. You can easily lay out folded clothes there — no need for hangers! And it’s easy to find one, too.
This can also be used to lay out accessories or things that you can’t hang like shoes, high heels, or sandals.
Changing Room and Mirrors
Your guests will want to try on their new items. Have a changing area or think about where your guests can do this. Foldable room dividers can help create a space for privacy.
Add a few full-length mirrors, too. For obvious reasons: to see how the clothes look and fit.
How to Level Up Your Clothing Swap Party
Courtney and Shauna gained a lot of great feedback from the ladies that attended their swap party. Most of them asked, “When’s your next clothing swap?”
And so, I want to share the secrets behind hosting a great clothing swap party. People will not just leave with new clothes, they’ll have new friends and connections, too!
Pro Tip: Name Tags
At your clothing swap, I suggest you give everyone a name tag. Name tags will help the attendees to make new friends and feel more comfortable speaking to others.
This is a key element for all of the events that I organize. Read about how and why you should use name tags in Chapter 5 of my book, The 2-Hour Cocktail Party. Or check out this article with all the key lessons.
Icebreakers at the Clothing Swap
An icebreaker is a simple way to introduce everyone at the party. It’s also an opportunity to make new friends.
The benefit of an icebreaker is that it will give people an excuse to start a new conversation while they are looking for clothes and making new friends.
You should do two icebreakers at your clothing swap: one at the beginning, and another one an hour later.
The first icebreaker that my friend Courtney did at her clothing swap was:
- Say your name,
- What you do for work, and
- What you like to do for fun.
An hour later, she gathered her group again and had everyone say:
- Their name,
- Show something fun they found at the swap, and
- One more article of clothing that they wanted to find: like a summer dress, a sweater, or a t-shirt.
Pro tip: Hangers!
Don’t forget to buy extra hangers or ask friends to bring some.
You’ll be seen as a more organized host when you use hangers and clothing racks. Your guests will appreciate the time and effort that you took to make it more fun and easy for them to look at clothes.
It’s always a good idea to remind your guests of the event coming up. I’m very passionate about reminder messages 😂 For proof: see my detailed article on party reminder messages.
Here’s a good schedule for sending reminders for your swap party:
- Seven Days Before: Send out a short reminder that includes logistical info plus a fun image attachment that gives a visual preview of some of the clothes you’ll have at the party!
- Three Days Before: Give guests a heads up if there’s anything you asked them to bring (hangers, etc.). If your guests don’t already know each other, this is a great opportunity to provide a guest list with a brief biographical note about each attendee. This is a great hook that helps to ensure excitement and solid attendance.
- Morning of the Party: Send a final reminder. Include any logistical information–like your address and phone number–clearly up top.
Clothing Swap Party Agenda
For a swap that goes from 6:00PM to 9:00PM, you might try this:
- 6:00PM Welcome, name tags, set up, browsing
- 6:30PM Icebreaker: Name, work, hobbies
- 6:40PM Host makes a short intro speech
- 6:45PM Mix and mingle
- 7:25PM Group photo
- 7:30PM Icebreaker: Show 1 piece you found!
- 7:40PM Mix, mingle, browsing clothes
- 8:15PM Announcement about final browsing
- 8:45PM Thank everyone for attending. Begin cleanup & donation pile
- 9:00PM The end
As soon as guests arrive, greet them at the entrance. This is a good time to hand out name tags.
Ask guests to hang up their items on the clothing rack using hangers they brought or other available hangers.
When they’re done, encourage guests to make themselves at home! A refreshments table should be easily visible and accessible.
Once everyone has arrived, the host should introduce everyone and welcome the group. It helps if everyone knows the agenda and what they’re supposed to do. If it’s the vibe you want, tell everyone to grab a beverage and peruse the clothing freely.
If there is a maximum number of items you’d like guests to be able to take, make that clear. Usually, there’s more than enough clothes for everyone!
When you host a clothing swap, you will:
- Help your friends find new clothes,
- Help your friends donate their old clothes,
- Help your friends make new friends, and
- Support sustainable fashion.
A clothing swap is the perfect way to give new life to all those clothes in the back of your closet that you never wear. You can also help people make new friends! I think that everyone can make new friends these days.
You and your friends can get a lot out of the experience.
But clothing swaps are just one way to gather. I wrote a book about how you can host small events like these to build big relationships, make new friends and even boost your career. The name of my book is The 2-Hour Cocktail Party. Check it out here or take a look at the reviews on Amazon.
Have you ever hosted a clothing swap? What did you do that made it work great? Send me an email with your suggestions and I will update this article.