Earlier this week I had a clothes swap evening with friends and it was so much fun. Swapping clothes with friends is an easy, fun and cheap (or in this case, free) way to get lovely new items into your wardrobe.
If someone is unfamiliar with the concept of a clothes swap, it’s really quite simple: people get together, bring their old clothes, and swap those clothes with each other. There are plenty of ways to organise a clothes swap, and how you want to do it depends on who you invite and how many people you plan to invite. Some clothes swaps focus more on quality than quantity, at some all the stuff is free, at some (mostly organised for the benefit of a charity) you might pay a small entrance fee, and at some the number of items you bring or take is restricted. I’ve had a couple of clothes swaps and they’ve always been with a small group of friends – so the evenings have mostly been hanging out, eating, and checking out each other’s clothes, and almost all of the stuff has always been free to take. The main thing to remember is to make sure everyone knows what sort of clothes swap it is.
1. Separate the clothes that people want to sell from the ones people want to give away.
Often people bring clothes, shoes or accessories that have been a bit more pricey, and they aren’t prepared to give them away for free. If this is the case, it’s good to put those items in a separate pile, so if someone wants it, they know that they have to give something in return. At all the clothes swaps I’ve been to, people mostly want to just give away their stuff, so most of the other stuff is just up for grabs.
2. If you want quality over quantity, restrict the number of items people bring.
Many clothes swaps are organised so that people only bring a couple of items, and they bring as many as they take. That way, people often bring the best clothes that they don’t use anymore, instead of just bringing anything and everything from the back of their closets. I’m more for the quantity approach – what someone might think is worthless might be someone else’s treasure, so I don’t think restricting is necessary.
3. Make sure there’s enough space for the clothes or have clothes racks.
Especially if there is a lot of stuff, it can be tedious to try look through it if it’s all just in a big pile. At our clothes swap this week we had exactly that – a big pile of clothes in the middle of the floor – but it worked well, because everyone could just rummage through it and at the end when we packed the clothes away, we went through them one by one so no gems were lost. If everybody only has a couple of items, it might be a good idea to let everyone show one by one what they brought, so that the luck factor from finding an item first is taken away, so everyone has an equal chance to get the items they like most.
4. Also make sure there is enough space to try the clothes on, and have plenty of mirrors.
If you’re having a clothes swap that isn’t only with friends, or you’re uncomfortable changing in front of others, make sure there’s a place for people to try on clothes without everyone else seeing. Maybe have one room with the clothes, and one room for changing. Long mirrors are also a must-have, except if you trust your friends enough to just take their word for a piece looking good on you.
5. Keep calm and swap on.
Clothes swaps usually operate with a finders keepers mentality. If there are items that many people want, you’ve just got to let the first person that grabs hold of it have it. Often with friends it’s easy to determine whose style the piece most represents, so this isn’t really usually an issue. You can also tell your friends that they can give the item to you once they get tired of it, or you can ask to borrow it sometime, so you might get a chance to have the item at some point anyway. In second hand shopping generally there’s only one of each item, so if you’re used to thrifting with friends, this is nothing new to you.
6. Don’t be afraid to invite people of different sizes or with different styles.
You never know what you will find in another person’s closet. Most of us have clothes that are too small or too big for us, so they might fit our friends of different sizes. Also, even minor adjustments can make big differences in the fit of clothes, so you can’t judge clothes only by their size. Friends with different styles may broaden your sense of style, or you may be surprised to find pieces of theirs that suit you well anyway. Especially if you’re organising a clothes swap with friends, it would be unfair to leave some people out just because of their size or their style. If they don’t find any pieces, or nobody can benefit from their pieces, at least they can have a nice evening hanging out with friends. Also, accessories like bags or scarves fit anyone, so nobody has to leave empty handed.
7. Have somebody take the leftover items to a charity shop.
Once somebody has made the decision to give away their clothes, they don’t want to take them back home. At the end of the swap it’s easy to gather all the unwanted clothes together and to have one (or two, as in this our case was necessary due to the huge amount of clothes left over…) people take the leftovers to a charity shop.
I think one of the best things about clothes swaps is that you see where your old clothes go – it’s fun to see your friends wearing your old stuff, and you can be sure that your clothes have found a good new home. If you’ve been considering having a clothes swap, I definitely recommend going for it! Organising a clothes swap can be as simple as asking friends over, and asking them to take a couple of items of old clothes with them.