Clothes swap Party
So, who made it a New Year’s resolution to declutter? To make or thrift more of their clothes? Maybe to get rid of things they don’t use/need/want any more? I know I did!
Clothes swap (or ‘swishing’) parties can be a great way to encourage yourself (and your friends) to go through your wardrobe and get rid of anything that doesn’t fit, doesn’t suit you, or you’ve never worn (such as those impulse buys that “would be really cute if you just altered the sleeves and took the hem up and got a matching cardigan from somewhere). Lets face it - it can be a bit of a painful process parting with things from our wardrobes. Often we’ve got a bit of emotional attachment to them - things we wore back when we were a different size, things that were our ‘favourite item of clothing’ maybe ten years ago, things with the hope of ‘if I just adjusted this, it would look really cute!’ attached to them. Now imagine that instead of just giving those items to a charity store, they find new homes with your friends, who love them and wear them and get joy out of them. Kinda takes the pain away, doesn’t it? Especially if you happen to get ‘new’ things in return.
So, what is a clothes swapping party? In a nutshell, it’s when you get a group of girls together at someones house. Everyone brings along garments and accessories they don’t want/fit/like anymore, and then you all swap things! Think of it as an afternoon of free, eco-friendly shopping. You get rid of some the garments taking up valuable space in your wardrobe, and get a bunch of ‘new’ things to take home instead (that actually fit you!).
“How many of those garments in your wardrobe never get worn?”
I host a clothes swap party for my friends about every 4 months, and have done for a couple of years now. After that much practice, we’ve got it down to a fine art - how to keep it fair, fast-moving, and fun. Here’s how I run my clothes swap parties.
Ideally, you’ll want to be in someones home for this, as there will be a lot of trying on of clothes. You’ll need a decent amount of space (I have an open-plan living area in my house, and we use the dining room, lounge, and also one of the bedrooms). You’ll also need a fair bit of privacy - kick the men out for the day, or make them promise to stay locked up in their man-caves with their video games (I’ve found a good way to do this is encourage them to have man-dates with their friends. Go bowling, whatever).
Make sure you’ve got at least a couple of decent, preferably full-length, mirrors. The more the better - you’re going to have a lot of girls wanting to see what they look like in clothes!
Some people expect clothes swap parties to only take an hour or so. I can assure you, this is NOT the case! Allow a good 4-5 hours for everything - often you’ll be amazed at how much some of your guests will bring along to swap, and you want to make sure you’ve got time for people to try things on and have catch-ups with friends as well.
The guest list
Anywhere between 3-15 girls is a good number to invite. If there’s only 3-5 of you, it’s best to make sure you’re all similar sizes. If you’re expecting more than 6 girls, don’t worry about the size range of the girls you invite - girls change size over time, and often you’ll find a wide range of sizes in the garments that your guests will bring. Also, even if someone doesn’t find many clothes in their size, you’ll be swapping accessories, so everyone will walk away with something. Don’t invite more than around 15 girls or you swap will take hours.
What should people bring?
Encourage your guests to bring anything they don’t want anymore, as long as it’s in decent condition (no holes, stains, etc). You’ll be surprised at what people are excited to find at a clothes swap! It’s good to encourage people to bring accessories as well - bags, shoes, jewellery. That way, if any of your guests are having trouble finding clothes that fit, they can still find something pretty to take home with them. I usually encourage everyone to bring a plate of something to share for afternoon tea as well, to keep the energy levels up and make it even more of a girls get-together.
How to set up the swapping area
Swapping can take a long time - you want to keep it fast and fun. We’ve found that the best way to do this is by grouping garments based on type and size right at the start - you then work your way through the different sizes, and people know when to pay attention for “their” size.
Garments come in two “types” at swaps - those that fit on the top half (tops and dresses) and those that fit on the bottom half (trousers and skirts). Lets face it - many of us girls are different sizes in top and bottom! Encourage your guests to separate their garments into “top half” and “bottom half” piles before they arrive at the swap - it’ll save you a lot of time on the day.
Set up areas for each type of garment - we usually put “top half” garments in one room, and “bottom half” garments in another. Put size labels in each of these rooms - make sure you’ve got a space in each room for each common size. When your guests arrive, get them to sort their garments into the appropriate sizes in the appropriate space.
Piles of garments, labelled according to size
How to run the swap
This also depends a bit on how many people you have at the swap. If you’ve got 8 or less people, choose a garment type (“top half” fitting or “bottom half” fitting) and work your way through the sizes. If you’ve got more than 8 people there, split up into three groups based on size (once again, you’ll need to choose whether you’re starting with “top half” or “bottom half” garments). Each sub-group will then take the size range that matches them and conduct their own “mini swap”. (We’ve found it works well if you’ve separated garments into 5 different size ranges - lets call them size 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 for simplicity. The three sub-groups will take sizes 1, 3 or 5 for their mini swaps. After each group has gone through their pile, get everyone back together and split into two groups for the size 2 and 4 garments. This keeps everything fair, as often girls can fit two different sizes.)
Make one person in charge of holding up the garments and calling out their details, and another person in charge of drawing tokens for items that more than one person is interested in As each garment is held up, anyone who is interested in it puts up their hand. If only one person is interested, it’s theirs. If no one is interested, it gets put aside to go to a charity shop (or back to it’s original owner if they want it back).
But what happens if more than one person wants an item? One thing we’ve found works really well is to hand everyone a token when they arrive. When more than one person is interested in a particular item, they put their tokens into a container and someone else draws one at random. If your token gets draw, you get the item. It keeps everything fair and means there’s no favouritism.
Tokens given to each person, used to decide who gets a garment
Trying things on
After you’ve gone through the swapping piles, it’s time to try things on! Yay! Lots of fun and laughter follows.
At this point, pretty much everyone will find that something they’ve picked up doesn’t fit or doesn’t suit them. You’ll find that everyone will start giving enthusiastic feedback about what suits or doesn’t suit people, suggesting other things for people to try on, and swapping garments amongst themselves. It’ll be a bit crazy, and quite fun. Just remind people to keep hold of the garments they were wearing when they arrived, as it’s easy to lose them in the chaos!
Everyone is always curious to see what everyone else got. After the trying-on madness is over, it’s nice to bring everyone back together again, have something to drink, and everyone can do a show-and-tell. Then people get to see what new homes their garments have found, and you can see the excitement as people have discovered new favourite items for their wardrobes.
Chances are, you’ll be left with quite a lot of things that no one wanted. Charity shops are a great way to get rid of these to somewhere that will use them and keeps that feel-good feeling going, too.
So there we have it - my tips on how to run a clothes swap party. I encourage you to give it a go - they’re heaps of fun! :-)