A clothing swap is hands-down my favorite kind of thrifty event. The basic rule of a swap is this: bring at least one item and take as much as you want, because everything is FREE. I can’t even begin to list all the amazing things I’ve found at clothing swaps, and it’s so great to be able to clean out my closet frequently and skip the experience of dealing with buyers at consignment stores altogether.
If you are lucky enough to get invited to a clothing swap, here are some tips for maximizing your experience:
Make a list of what you actually need. Making a list before you go shopping is a good a way to stick to your budget, but since clothing swaps are completely free, it can be tempting to shovel a bunch of items into your bag without considering how they fit into your closet. Think about what events you might wear a piece of clothing to, how you would pair it with something you already own, or if the item is different than anything you already have.
Don’t bring things that you would pass on for quality reasons. If it’s ripped or has stains, just throw it away.
Sort your clothes into categories before arriving. Generally, clothes at clothing swaps are loosely organized with areas for pants, shirts, dresses, etc. To avoid complete chaos, hosts often ask that you put down all your clothing before you start looking for new things. If you pre-sort your clothing beforehand, you’ll be able to start swapping within minutes of your arrival.
Practice good swap etiquette. When you arrive, put down what you’ve brought before looking for new things. Treat the items you don’t want with care, because someone else might want them. Refrain from making negative remarks about a piece of clothing – the person that brought it might be right beside you! Help keep things organized; if you see a piece of miscategorized clothing or something lying on the ground, pick it up and put it back in its place. Before you leave, find the host and thank them.
Strike up a conversation with other swappers. This is a surefire way to get invited to more swaps, or at the very least, meet someone new who shares your thrifty sensibilities
If you want to host a clothing swap, first of all, please invite me! Hosting a swap is actually hard work, and the people that are kind enough do it are basically my personal heroes. A few tips for hosting:
Gather some basic materials. At the very least, you’ll need some paper and markers to create signage for different categories, some blankets to pile clothes on if you’re hosting outside, and large trash bags to pack up leftover clothing. If you have some trees, hanging a clothesline and using clothespins to hang clothes up is even better. Mirrors and a changing area are both nice bonuses, but not essential.
Host the swap outside. If you’ve ever hosted a house party, you know that lots of people coming and going means a lot of cleanup in the aftermath. By hosting outside, you’re limiting cleanup to that area only. There’s also no guarantee you’ll personally know everyone attending, and while swappers are generally respectful, limiting access to your home will ensure nothing gets broken or stolen.
Set up a Facebook event page for the swap. An event page helps spread the word about the swap to your friends, but more importantly, friends of friends. When it comes to a swap, the more the merrier.
Communicate basic swap rules and etiquette to your guests. You can do this while greeting guests at the door and on the swap’s event page. If someone is being a jerk by violating these rules, you have the right to ask them to leave.
Ask for volunteers to help with setup and cleanup. Hosting a swap is hard work, and you don’t have to do it alone! Post on the events page or make an announcement right before the swap ends. Volunteers can help with hanging clothesline, making signs, packing up leftover clothing, transporting clothing to a donation center, or picking up trash.
Donate leftover clothing to a reputable organization. Rather than dumping leftover clothing at your local Goodwill, look for some local organizations or nonprofits who might benefit from a clothing donation. If you’re in Austin, please consider Treasure City, Dress for Success, or Safeplace.
Happy swapping, y’all!