Hosting a Clothes Swap in 10 easy steps | FAQ

This is another question I'm asked frequently so to fully inform this blog post, I decided to host a clothes swap myself this week and report back. I had one about 7 years ago but I couldn't remember how well or otherwise it had gone...I blame the kids for this medium term memory fug.

So I'm going to do this in a simple 10 step format...I hope you find it useful and do please let me know if you host one yourself on the back of this blog post.

But before I start - What is a Clothes Swap? Very simply, it's where you go to someone's home or to another venue (hotel/church hall), bring some clothes you're not really wearing anymore or that don't fit and swap them out for someone else's clothes. Typically, you take as many items away as you brought with you. Additional items can be bought for a donation or a fee, depending on the set up. Generally, you take your items back home if they don't find another home. If you leave them behind, they are donated to charity.

So you like the idea and want to host one...what next?

1. Set a Date & Time
This is always a challenge for friend groups. Because the idea to do the swap came from my school mum friends, I picked two dates that suited me and asked this group which they preferred. That helped narrow it down to one night that I could then tell others about.

You can do a swap in the evening or during the day. The latter might suit if many of your friends are home in the day with young children. My friends are mostly working now so we opted for an evening.

2. Send out the Invites with full information
Most people won't have been to a clothes swap before and might not know what to expect so you'll need to explain what it is and set the parameters:

  • How many items to bring
  • What items to bring - clothes/accessories/shoes or a mix of everything. I've heard of accessory only swaps and a nice idea is to host a formal wear swap coming up to prom season or Christmas/New Year.
  • Cost - most home-based swaps won't charge as they're a social event. It's a nice idea to have a donation box for charity though as many people going along will be happy to throw in a few pounds. A donation box is also a good idea if people want to take more items than they brought.

3. What should people bring?
This is not a chance to offload your tired well-worn items onto someone else. What you bring to the party needs to be something that you've got in your wardrobe but are reluctant to give away - something you'd be willing to give to a friend if they wanted it. It might be something that doesn't fit anymore or that you realise doesn't suit you colour or shape-wise. Be ruthless when you chose what you bring and don't bring anything you'd not wear yourself now happily (if it fitted/suited you/you didn't have multiple items)

Brands don't really matter as much as condition - items need to have plenty of life left in them.

4. Manage Expectations
You'll want to emphasise that it's a social occasion first and foremost and then a chance to refresh your wardrobe for free. Some people will find loads they love and others won't so you need to set expectations at the invitation stage.

I was very honest in my invitation - I explained that people should be prepared to possibly not find 3 items to replace the 3 they brought but that they hopefully would! I also explained that they shouldn't take it personally if nobody wants to take their items. One of my items was left after the other night - it's not about whether it's nice or not, it has to suit someone else and they have to be able to see themselves wearing it.

5. Set up
I set up 3 clothes rails in my lounge (borrowed one and had two in the attic...ask around if you don't have any) and set up the drinks and snacks in my kitchen. I dragged down a couple of large mirrors from the bedrooms and set up one in the hall and one in the lounge. I used a shoebox for the donations!

6. Food/Drink
I kept things simple as it was starting at 8pm and everyone would have had their dinner already. I bought a few bottles of prosecco & wine, some crisps and lots of soft drinks. I also did a small cheese board though not many people ate or drank anything actually - many people were driving on the evening. If it was daytime, all you'd need is coffee and some tray bakes.

7. On the night
I recruited the kids to take the bags from each person arriving. This meant that no-one knew what anyone else brought. I think this is the best way to do it but if you don't have anyone to help, people can hang their own items up themselves.

Once everyone had arrived, I checked that everything was good to go in the lounge and then invited the group in to start browsing. Within an hour, people had found what they wanted and people came back into the kitchen to resume the chats and to top up their glasses.

8. Trying on
It's great if you have a space for people to try on - I don't so in retrospect, I should have used a screen to block off a corner of the lounge. Some of the girls used the downstairs loo but it meant only one person could try on at once. A learning for next time. I could have sent people upstairs if I'd actually made space up truth upstairs was such a mess so I couldn't!!!

9. Keeping it fair
It's difficult to keep it fair really - some people will bring more expensive or less worn things than others. I did ask that everyone got 3 items before looking further. Then once everyone was happy, anyone who had their eye on something else could go take it and add a donation to the box. One thing to watch is that no-one swaps before arriving at your house - at my last swap, the girls were swapping in the taxi on the way up!!

10. Clearing up afterwards.....
It took me about an hour to clear up but that's no more than it would take me to clear up after bookclub. The only extra job was to bag up what was left for charity and in my case I made up a package for a friend who has recently moved abroad and couldn't come. There were two items left at the end that I knew she'd love so I decided to send her a surprise parcel! The charity shop were delighted with the donation so it's a real win/win from that perspective!

And there you go....a clothes swap in 10 steps...please ask if you have any more questions after reading this and please let me know if you have other ideas I've not thought of or have done a clothes swap a different way that's worked really well for you.

Thanks for reading...happy swishing!



  1. What a great idea and really quite simple to do. I have my pencil at the ready planning!

  2. What an intriguing idea! How many people did you invite/turned up, Avril?

    1. Sorry for the delay replying! I'm so behind in my comments. I invited about 15 and I had 10 on the night x


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