Clothing swap parties

Clothing swap parties are an entertaining way for people to get rid of clothing items they no longer want. This practice of swapping clothes with friends is highlighted in a recent Seattle Times article:

Twice a year, more than a dozen women get together to rifle through everything from clothes and shoes to accessories and shampoo — leaving their excess items behind and going home with new treasures.

On a recent Thursday evening, Sherri Randall’s Eagle, Idaho, living room was strewn with boxes, clothing racks and piles of coats, gowns and jeans, some of which still displayed their original store tags. On a table in a back room were nail polish, a Swiffer sweeper, hair products, sunglasses and more.

“I thought we should gather up all this stuff that doesn’t fit or we don’t wear and share it,” Randall said.

I think this is a great idea, especially if the host agrees to take all the non-swapped items to a charity after the party is over.

Have any of our readers participated in such an activity? Please share your experience in the comments.

39 Comments for “Clothing swap parties”

  1. posted by Sarah on

    My friends and I used to do this in grad school, and it was fantastic. However, one word of warning: if you have one or two friends who are a very different size, it seems logical not to invite them since things won’t fit them. But be careful, people’s feelings can really be hurt, and body image issues are hard enough to deal with without that kind of rejection. Otherwise, though, we had a blast, and got all kinds of fantastic clothes by doing this.

  2. posted by Simpler Living on

    I’m a fan. I think they can work really well, and I’m a longtime thrift- and consignment-store shopper, so I have no problem swapping secondhand clothing.

    Size can be an issue, but you could encourage people to bring things like accessories. A lot of jewelry, hats and purses are one-size-fits-all.

    I wrote about clothing swaps recently on my blog.

    How to update your wardrobe for free:

    http://blogs.timesunion.com/simplerliving/?p=5560

    One of my readers said this:

    “My girls and I do at least four closet purges a year, in honor of a ladies night/clothing swap. We are really honest with each other, and don’t let each other take home things that don’t look good. And I am not allowed to bring home anything else brown.”

    I love that.

  3. posted by Amanda on

    I’ve done this informally with girlfriends, en route to the Salvation Army I stopped at a friend’s house. We’re different sizes, but we know it and own it so there is no issue. Plus there’s always shoes, handbags and other accesories.

  4. posted by Jacki Hollywood Brown on

    I’ve been to a few swap parties hosted by a friend and colleague. Most of the invitees are small business owners on limited clothing budgets. I’ve scored some GREAT stuff. Also, we exchange a few business cards, dessert recipes and have lots of fun.

  5. posted by Taylor at Household Management 101 on

    I have never done this with my own clothes, but I have done this with my kids clothes before. I have traded with other moms, such as while my tub of baby clothes is sitting unused I give it to my friend to use for her new baby, and then she gives them back when she is done, and vice-versa.

    I think it might be harder with adult clothing if people’s sizes aren’t similar, such as neck size, waist or hip size, length, etc., but it is pretty easy with kids clothes because they don’t have particularly fitted clothes. Size 2T, for example, is the only option.

  6. posted by Sue on

    I’ve done this with my friends as well, with limited success. The size differences can be challenging, even among those of us similar in size. The range of items donated also varied from stuff that was years out of date or just plain worn-out, to a few gems. Even when we tried to set some ground-rules about the quality of items, we got a lot of stuff that should have gone straight to the dumpster or Goodwill.

    I’m not saying it was awful, just that people need to plan carefully and set some rules in advance.

  7. posted by AJ on

    My bookclub does this twice a year, and it’s so much fun. At the end of the night, we put together outfits from the unwanted items and do a hilarious fashion show.

  8. posted by Heather on

    A retirement community in my home town has a yearly swap for the residents – clothing, accessories, small appliances, books etc. Residents donate goods, and can shop even if a donation is not made. It is very successful swap.

  9. posted by FupDuckTV on

    We’ve done this with Baby Clothes. I’m not sure how well this would work with adult clothes, unless you have friends that are you sizes. It seems like it would be difficult to me.

  10. posted by Cynthia on

    In January, I started a frugal club in Las Vegas, with an online calendar focused on cheap or free events: http://meetup.com/FrugalVegas. One of our first meetings was a clothing swap party, where 18 ladies showed up with mountains of stuff. We had potluck dinner and cocktails, and everyone left giddy with armfuls of treasure. We donated the rest to a local shelter.

    Fast forward two months, now we have over 200 members. Our next swap party is being held at a community center, with 40 RSVP’s so far. I’ve heard other groups having similar parties, even a local night club hosted one for ladies night, focused on club wear and accessories.

    For best results, invite enough people and “friends of friends” so there is a large selection. Emphasize there will be all sizes welcome. We’ve had pairs of size 0 all the way to pairs of size 28 – as long as someone brought something your size, you feel ok.

    But also invite a broad range of items, so someone might find something that’s not size-specific. Clothes, shoes, purses, jewelry, perfume, accessories … but also books, kitchen wares, tech goods, or other “stuff” that could use a new home.

    I bet moms could really benefit from doing a children’s version – as far as clothes, books, and toys!

  11. posted by Salsamama on

    My sister has combined the idea of a clothing exchange with a holiday bazaar. She has several friends who have their own home-based businesses (Pampered Chef, spa products, handbag crafters, jewelry makers, “romance” gifts, etc.) who were constantly hitting her up to host product parties. She finally said, fine, but you all have to come on the SAME night and set up together. The guest list is up to about 175 now and the “price” of admission to this event is a bottle of wine or an appetizer. A few local women who are massage therapists, facialists, tarot readers, etc, also come in to provide their services (guests pay per reading / massage). There are usually 20+ vendors in her home and the party is an open-house set up.

    What does this have to do with a clothing exchange?? Well, one of the main draws of the event is the “Girlfriend’s Closet” that she sets up in her family room. The selection is HUGE because so many women come to this event. After a few glasses of wine, you can guarantee that the guests will start tossing off what they wore to the party and just throw on what they find to check the size and admire their “new” clothes in the many mirrors that are placed in the room. (Which is fine, because it’s a “women ONLY” event. Strictly. NO BOYS.) Whatever clothing is leftover after the party is donated to a local women’s shelter. Win-win for everyone. And SO much fun!

  12. posted by Magchunk on

    I hosted a swap party and wrote about it here: http://magchunk.blogspot.com/2009/03/give-little-get-little.html

    We had the size issue too, and I knew that when making up my invite list. So I kept it open to housewares and books and stuff as well as clothes. And that was the stuff that people took! I got a great H&M sweater out of it though. I took the leftovers to the Goodwill afterwards.

  13. posted by Lisa F. on

    Yes, size is an issue…we focued in on bath and body products, accessories, jewelry, belts, purses, candles, etc. I came home with 2 “new” purses, and a scarf. I left 2 bottle of lotion, 2 purses and 1 belt. We each took home our leftovers, I will take these to Goodwill.

  14. posted by Michelle J. on

    I just hosted one of these this weekend. I called it the “Champagne and Clothing Swap”. Everyone had to bring a bottle of champagne, and I had chocolate covered strawberries, cheese and crackers and the like. It’s true that the bigger girls really didn’t go home many clothing items, and I didn’t even think of that beforehand. We did accessories too, so it worked out in the end (I think!).

  15. posted by Elliott on

    My girlfriend has done this a few times. It’s actually kind of “anti-clutter.” Instead of just getting a bunch of old crap out of the house, you end up coming back with someone else’s old crap. It sometimes defeats the purpose.

  16. posted by Simpler Living on Freeshipping.org - Simpler Living - timesunion.com - Albany NY on

    [...] The post they included is the one I wrote about clothing swaps — a popular subject, especially in this economy. Unclutterer also wrote about clothing swaps today. [...]

  17. posted by Anca on

    I went to one and it was great. I got rid of a bunch of stuff including shoes I no longer liked, and came away with two tops and a pair of jeans that fit perfectly! (That never even happens in a store.)

  18. posted by Anca on

    I went to one and it was great. I got rid of a bunch of stuff including shoes I no longer liked, and came away with two tops and a pair of jeans that fit perfectly! (That never even happens in a store.)
    PS: Forgot to add good post!

  19. posted by Catie on

    When I was in college, I would do this on a small-scale with my 3 roommates, then on a large scale with my sorority. Imagine when 200 girls get together and swap clothes! It was better than Christmas!

    After the clothing swap, we would donate everything to our philanthropy, which was a local shelter for victims of domestic violence. As much as I loved the clothes I found, the women in the shelter were so touched by the hundreds of clothing items we donated. Some of our used clothes were nicer than anything they could ever buy. GREAT IDEA and GREAT POST!!

  20. posted by Kirsten on

    I host two clothing swaps a year. I think they’re a lot of fun. All of my guests have always left with a bag full of new-to-them stuff — clothing, shoes, purses, hats, jewelry. After the event I pack up whatever remains and donate the items to a local charity.

    On a different note, I also host two book swaps per year. Everyone brings any books they’re wanting to pass on. We stack them around my first floor and start “shopping.” It’s a great way to learn about new-to-you authors. Unlike a clothes swap, it’s a good mixed-gender event. And at the end, I donate anything that remains to our local library. I will say, however, book swaps can be very quiet events- — everybody’s busy reading covers!

  21. posted by Marie on

    I would love to do this! Unfortunately I’m about a foot shorter than all my friends.

  22. posted by PowerNana4 on

    My friends and I have swapped for years. We have all been different sizes due to babies born, weight gain, loss, and whatever. From now on we will be donating good unwanted office type stuff to a local charity that helps women start over and go on job interviews. It is so great to know our stuff will help in giving someone the confidence to face and interview along with the coaching they receive from trained counselors. There are many such sights all over the U.S. such as “Back to Work,” etc.

  23. posted by sue on

    I’ve never tried this on a large scale, but as I lost weight, I offered my too-large stuff to a friend who admired my style. Anything she passed on, went to either resale shop or Goodwill.

  24. posted by Jen on

    I’ve never done this with clothes but have with books. We did it sort of silent-auction-style and it was a ton of fun. I’d like to do a kids toys/books/media one too.

  25. posted by Another Deb on

    I spent several years losing weight online with the Weight Watcher’s plan. This clothing swap idea would have gone over extremely well with many people in the forums. They were constantly discussing the wisdom of renewing their wardrobes during the weight loss journey.

    I went through six dress sizes in two years and constantly had to restock and purge the closet. Lots of people have a jumble of sizes in their closetfor this same reason. For years, I depended on Goodwill to swap out my clothes. It was so fun to try new styles and find that I could afford to experiment with the wardrobe, a clothing swap event would do the same!

  26. posted by Nat on

    I did this for my clothes and my baby’s clothes in smaller groups with friends, but found there wasn’t much variety and a lot of size problems. For instance in the kid’s clothes swap, people with the oldest kids were SOL. However, since I live in Portland, OR, I’ve joined the email list for PDXSwap. There are several swap events that happen monthly for several different size groupings (ie. small=0-5, med=6-12, large, etc.) and in different parts of town. There are also kids’ clothing & maternity swap events, an annual stuff swap and an annual gift & toy swap around the holidays. (Because there are hundreds of people on these lists, events are well attended with a good variation of clothing styles. The last swap I went to for medium size women’s clothing must have had at least 60 women there. The annual gift swap I went to had over a 100 people.

  27. posted by Stephanie Cockerl on

    Yes, I do this at least every few months or so with my friends. It has proven to be helpful especially when I lost some weight and I was able to find some “new” professional and personal clothes without spending a bundle.

  28. posted by Tatiana on

    Our Mothers Club does a clothing exchange each year and it’s a really fun event. We have ladies, maternity and kids clothes, and a few men’s and misc items, too. (for those who clean out their husbands closets). I had lots of clothes my son had outgrown to donate and left with a several items for him in larger sizes, plus a few things for myself! Plus, we ordered pizza and had other food, and made it a great social event. The clothing left over (and there was quite a bit) was donated to a local women’s shelter. We’ll definitely be doing this event again, and some even suggested doing a kitchen exchange…gadgets, cookware, serving dishes, etc. which sounds like it would be fun, too.

  29. posted by Clothing swap parties | Unclutterer on

    [...] posted here:  Clothing swap parties | Unclutterer Tags: annual-gift, clothing-swap, good-variation, maternity-swap, online-calendar, our-first, [...]

  30. posted by mdm on

    I’ve done this and it is a great way to have a girls nite in. We do a potluck and send the men out of the house. It is fun to keep including new friends with new and different tastes.

    We once had a clothes swap where something that was swapped earlier in the year, made its way back.

    I once tried to do a cookie swap for Xmas — and since none of my girlfriend turned out to be bakers, we just ended up swapping store bought stuff — which was not the point at all. Never did that one again.. :)

  31. posted by Tiffany on

    My friends and I did this with accessories: jewelry, hats, scarves, shoes, that sort of thing. It was fantastic. I got rid of things that I didn’t want anymore but that were still perfectly good, and came home with a number of things that I love and wear frequently. A couple of guests had even gone to their mothers’ homes and cleaned out THEIR closets. Everything that didn’t get adopted was donated to a charity that provides interview-appropriate outfits for low-income women.

  32. posted by Deja on

    I have participated in these and they work great but only if your friends have similar tastes/sizes and they aren’t attached to the original value of their clothes.

  33. posted by jrochest on

    I held a couple of these in Grad school — much like the first poster. They work wonderfully if the group is large and diverse: it helps to be able to heap through tons of stuff, and it’s easier to be frankly honest if the ‘donor’ is someone from a friend’s sister’s office that you’ll never see again.

    We all had lots of castoffs, we all had no money, we all bought tons of wine and we all had lots and lots of fun.

  34. posted by Kyle on

    A friend of mine recently hosted an “Art Party” clothing swap. There were scissors, pins, needle and thread, and sewing machines, as well as some stencils and fabric paint. All the clothes brought were fair game to be cut up and repurposed. Some people made new articles of clothing, some made bags or other accessories. Everyone had a great time, and a lot of people went home with something they had “made” in exchange for clearing out their closet.

  35. posted by Curious Bunny on

    I’ve been to several swaps organised by the same group of friends and they have been delightful. I’ve always succeeded in (a) getting rid of what was, to me, wardrobe clutter, and (b) acquiring at least a few new-to-me items.

    The sizing issue mentioned by a few people hasn’t been an issue at all: we’ve had people from a UK size 8 (US 4) through UK size 18 (US 22?) and everyone managed to find quite a few things. Remember that many garments stretch or can be altered for length – also, many of us have things in our wardrobes that no longer fit (or possibly never did).

    As for the state of the clothes that people bring, whoever runs the swap is allowed to set the rules in advance and make sure people understand them: this can include the state of clothes everyone brings (e.g. nothing that needs mending or is stained or discoloured). This has worked great so far.

    I’d highly recommend people try this. It’s nice to lay on some food and a little wine so that everyone can chat and loosen up a little before the trying-on starts.

  36. posted by ana on

    Just read about http://www.Bigwardrobe.com in this months edition of Elle magazine (p.83). It’s the world’s biggest clothes swapping website and it’s free!

  37. posted by Ellen on

    My social circle does this about three or four times a year, with different people hosting each time. Mixed-gender (few of us are particularly modest — those who are just hide in a bedroom), tons of clothing, leftovers to Goodwill. Sometimes accessories or non-clothing items (books, housewares) are added, but they tend to make it harder on the organizers, who already have enough to do carting off the leftover clothes.

    You have to have strict guidelines about what’s not appropriate to bring, though — there’s always the clueless git who tries to donate something that smells of mildew or cat vomit. But with enough volunteers to separate out the awful stuff beforehand, it still works.

  38. posted by GIGP Management on

    I love clothing swaps i just got a new project and I am working on the 1st annual Cloth Swap And Pop Charity clothing swap event. there will be giveaways, contest, food,drinks,mini makeovers,massage and some celebrity appearances unclaimed clothing will be donated to Big Bothers Big Sisters and a percentage of the proceeds will be donated to helping kids clinic. It’s going to be a totaly fun girls day out in vegas. if you need an excuse to come party in vegas this is it! You can find out more at http://www.clothswapandpop.com

  39. posted by Cecelia on

    I am seriously thinking about doing this myself. I seen the idea on the local news and the way they did it was they had one person hold up the clothes and the first one that yelled out me..got it. I was thinking of holding a door prize as well, say a bottle of wine and having finger foods too. My problem is, all my friends are smaller then me, being I am a size 20-22. However, they have this website called meetup.com I believe it is and you can advertise on there and see how many people would be interested and have people rsvp..It sounds like a lot of fun, and women get a night out. Maybe even switch it up from month to month, books, to kitchenware..to just a plain girls night out.

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