Simple Living

How to Host a Clothing Swap

Clothing swaps are one of my favourite things. Anything that combines saving money, shopping, and some time with friends is a good thing in my books! A clothing swap is a chance for you to pass on your unused clothes to others who will enjoy them and for you to add some new items to your closet.

We’ve mentioned in our post about sustainable choices saving money that purchasing one less new clothing item a year can save 6-billion pounds of carbon emissions. So clothing swaps are sustainable for your budget and the environment.

In this post I have a “How To” guide on hosting a clothing swap along with some other ways to make sustainable fashion choices.

Sustainable Fashion Choices

This month we’ve been talking about fast fashion vs. slow fashion and highlighting some of our favourite sustainable fashion brands. But buying new from a sustainable brand isn’t the only way to shop fashion sustainably.

Here are a few other sustainable fashion ideas.

Ways to make sustainable fashion choices:

  • Shop second hand and vintage–either online or at a physical store
  • Exchange hand-me-downs with friends and family
  • Borrow or rent a clothing item, especially items for a special occasion
  • Choose not to buy something and use what you already have
  • Learn to mend and repair your clothes to extend their lifespan
  • Host a clothing swap

How to Host a Clothing Swap

A clothing swap is a great chance to get together with friends and a perfect way to shop for free!

The basic idea of a clothing swap is to have a group of people each bring items of clothing they no longer want from their own closet to an event where everyone can “shop” from each others items.

Set a time and date

Give some consideration for what might work best for your group. Perhaps a weekday evening or a weekend afternoon, but also remember that it can be hard to find a time that will work for everyone. Sometimes you just need to choose what works best for you as the host and work from there.

Spread the word

Start letting people know in advance to go through their clothes and start putting items aside. Advance notice is good for two reasons: 1) it can be hard for busy people to do something last minute, and 2) if someone is about to purge their closet, it will give them a chance to save some items for the swap.

Spreading the word can be by word of mouth, group chats, Facebook events, or whatever else your friend group uses.

Give some guidelines

  • Quality
    A good rule of thumb to let people know regarding quality: if you wouldn’t want to receive it, then send it to the recycler. No holes, tears, missing buttons/zippers, or stains.
  • Quantity
    I’m not a fan of setting out rules for the number of items a person has to bring, but that’s up to you. I find there is usually an abundance of items to choose from without a minimum number of items to bring.
  • Type
    Choose whether you want to make this clothes only or a free for all event. It can be fun to allow bags and accessories as these don’t have size restrictions. Shoes are great to allow and, if you have lots of mom friends, a kids section could be useful too.
  • Rules
    Depending on the group, I’ve been to clothing swaps where there was a limit on the number of items you were able to take. I’ve been to others where you labelled the item you wanted with your name and, if there were more than one person interested, a draw was held for the item. Any swap I’ve personally hosted, I’ve just set the expectation that we would all treat each other with respect and would be fair. Some people have different needs than others (a mom going back into the workforce vs a student, for example) and I’m okay with that difference. It truly depends on the group and how well that will work.
  • Snacks
    Let your guests know if you are providing snacks or if they can bring something to contribute.

Set up for the event

This can be as fancy or basic as you want it to be. Some things to consider are:

  • Food and drinks
    Have a food and beverage station set up if you’re providing for your guests.
  • Stations
    Especially if there is a lot of clothing to sort through, it can be helpful to separate the items into types. Have an area for shoes, accessories, tops, dresses, pants, etc. If you don’t have a lot of surfaces to place clothes on, feel free to get creative! Use drying racks, banisters, chairs–it doesn’t have to be fancy to be functional!
  • Changing areas
    Some clothing items can be tried on over other clothes and some people don’t mind changing in front of others, but I suggest having at least one area where people can change and try on clothes. A bathroom will work just fine for this!
  • Mirrors
    Who doesn’t want to see what their new clothes look like on before taking them home? If you have at least one full length mirror, that is great to put out where people can use it.

Choose a charity

There will inevitably be clothing left over after the event, so this is an amazing chance to support a charity you care about. There are many options to explore from thrift stores to homeless shelters and transition houses.

Let your friends participating know that their clothes are making a load of difference–from the environmental and budget benefits to the social benefits. Those are things to celebrate!

Have you ever hosted a clothing swap? What are your tips for hosting one?


What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!

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