One Man's Trash: How to Host a Clothing Swap Party

Sunday, October 16, 2016

If you've never heard of a clothing swap party, then you're missing out. The idea is that you clean out your closet, pull any gently used (and sometimes new with tags/never used) items that you no longer want, and then get together with a bunch of your girlfriends to swap till you drop!

Not only is this a fun get-together with your friends, it's an opportunity for you to clean out your closet while also scoring some new-to-you clothes, shoes, and accessories for free! It really does not get any better than this.

We Harris Sisters have been doing this among ourselves for many years.

Swap Till You Drop - How to Host a Clothes Swap Party

Tips for Hosting a Clothing Swap Party


  1. Guests: Decide how large of a party you'd like to host. Remember, the more people you invite, the more items you're group will have to choose from. But, the larger the group, the longer the party will last. Then invite family and friends of all shapes and sizes. Make sure that for each size person you invite, that person has at least one or two other people to be matched with size-wise. For example, do not invite only one size 2 person to your party because she will not have any clothing items to swap with anyone.
  2. Space: Find a space. If you’re hosting a small event, your living room will probably suffice. If you're hosting a larger party, check to see if your local community center or church has a large room available.
  3. Theme: Will your swap have a theme? If you want to limit the types of items that people bring, make sure to include the theme on your invitations. Some types of themes you might want to consider are formal dress (including clothing, shoes, purses), kids clothes and toys, seasonal (specify the season), accessories only, the list goes on.
  4. Announcements: Give people a few weeks' notice before a clothing swap. This will give them time to clean out their closets and make sure they are available for the date you've chosen.
  5. Collect Donations: Have guests drop off their donations a few days in advance if possible so that you can sort clothing before the party. Alternately, you can extend the hours of your party to accommodate time for each guest to help sort her clothes as she arrives.
  6. Sort Donations: Sort clothes, accessories, and shoes into based on type. This will make it easier for people to find what they're looking for and will also make it easier to sort the donations as they come in.
  7. Rules of Play: Make sure people know what they should bring and what should go straight in the Goodwill donation bin. Here are some guidelines:
  • No holey, ripped, stained, pilled, scuffed, or otherwise shabby clothes or accessories. All clothing, shoes, and accessories to be swapped must be in good clean condition similar to what you would find in an upscale consignment store. If someone wouldn't pay you money for it, don't bring it.
  • Unmentionables are called that for a reason. If you have any underthings that are unworn and new with tags, you may bring them to swap with the understanding that you may be openly mocked for doing so. Mocking will be allowed and encouraged. Your NWT drawers may be modeled for others' amusement purposes.
  • When scouring your closet, please follow the Frozen rule. If you haven't worn it in a year, it's time to "Let it go!"
Hanging Rack of Clothing: Dresses and Furs

Make Sure Your Party Goes Off Without a Hitch


  1. Designate one area for guests to leave their personal shoes, coats, and purses so they don’t accidentally become part of the swap. You don't want anyone driving home barefoot!
  2. If you want to let guests try on clothes before taking them home, then make sure to have a separate changing area or room with mirrors. Let guests know that you will have this area so that they can choose to wear leggings and/or camisoles to make changing in a large group of ladies more comfortable. The benefits of providing a changing area is that guests won't leave with a piece that doesn't fit and that they may also need to get rid of at the next swap (one that might have been right for someone else). To up the "fun quotient", if a guest tries on an item and looks awesome in it, make sure you give her the opportunity to "stomp the runway" and show it off to the other guests. You better work!
  3. Make sure each guest brings a large empty tote bag or shopping bag to store the clothes she arrived wearing as she tries on new items (and to also hold swap items she will go home with).
  4. Play fair. If you know that you can't squeeze your feet into those killer shoes, don't be tempted to take them just because they're gorgeous. You won't be able to hobble around in them anyway. Let the lady next to you (who actually fits them) take them home. There will be plenty of swap items that will actually be the perfect fit and style for you and if everybody plays by these rules, it will be a much more enjoyable experience.


Little Extras to Make the Party Super-Special


Have your guests bring an appetizer or wine along with their donations. Then you've got a real party on your hands! If you're hosting your party in the morning, consider serving mimosas instead of wine. If you're hosting a seasonal party, consider serving a champagne punch or wassail. Or mix up a batch of margaritas, sangria, or Caribbean rum punch for a summer themed swap. Give your guests a chance to mix and mingle a bit after they've sorted their clothes and then get down to the business of swapping. You'll have a blast!

Wine and Appetizers

You may want to have hanging racks handy so that you can hang clothes as they come in. This method is optimal if you're inviting a large group of people because they can browse the racks by themselves. If you're inviting a small group of people, it's fun to have each person go through the items that she brought, model it, and "sell" it to the other shoppers. For example, if you know the designer, you would mention that, the size of the item, and any additional features. This is the method that The Harris Sisters use. However, we are very silly about it and often mention things like "this is a pair of shoes; there are TWO of them." Maybe we drink too much wine at these parties? Here's Harris Sister Deanna modeling a dress and showing off that it has pockets, which is an actual feature that you would want to highlight. (I assume that it has TWO pockets).

Clothing Swap Modeling Clothes

If you use the method of each person modeling and "selling" her own clothes, it's also fun to "vote" on them. You can either make paddles that say 1-10 to be very professional about this. But, since we Harris Sisters are silly (have you caught on to this by now?), we use the good old-fashioned thumbs-up and thumbs-down. This part of the party will only work if you have invited a very close-knit group of people who will not be offended if people dislike/thumbs-down something that they brought. Here are Harris Sister Misty and Niece Charlotte giving a big thumbs-down to something they both disliked.

Two Girls Dislike Clothing Swap Items

Take candid photos at your party! You might not think that this is the optimal party for photos (after all, people will be digging through clothing racks, trying things on, trying to sell you items, and evidently liking or disliking what you're selling), but just like any other party with your girlfriends, this will be an opportunity to snap some candid shots. Don't focus on photos the whole night, but do make a point to snap a few pics to commemorate the occasion. You'll be glad that you did.

Don't Forget to Look for Halloween Costumes!


Before everyone heads home with their finds, make sure that everyone takes one last pass at the "No Pile" for any possible items that could easily be repurposed into Halloween costumes. These are some items that we set aside for the Halloween closet this year.

This is a Free People beaded Bohemian style dress.

Beaded Bohemian Dress

When it was passed up, we added it to the Halloween closet because we thought it would make the perfect Hippie/Flower Child costume if paired with some long beaded necklaces and some wide legged jeans.

Hippie Costume

This is a black 3/4 length sleeve Old Navy maxi dress.

Black Maxi Dress

When accessorized with a pair of square toed boots (also from the "No Pile"), some owl jewelry, and a cape and witch's hat from the Halloween closet, you've got the perfect Witch's costume.

Witch Costume Collage

This is a short-sleeved, knee-length red dress with white trim.

Red Dress with White Trim

Harris Sister Misty was quick to make this costume connection, and I'm so glad she did. This would make the perfect Little Orphan Annie costume if paired with some black flats, a red wig, and a heart pendant. I've also shown it here with my original 1982 Little Orphan Annie necklace. I think I would have a hard time deciding whether to wear that one or the heart pendant!

Little Orphan Annie Costume Collage

Bonus points if you have a scruffy little dog named Smitty that could be your Sandy for the night:

Tibetan Terrier

When It's All Said and Done


When you've filled your bags and scoured the "No Pile" for Halloween costumes, make sure you collect all of the leftovers and donate them to a local charity.

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