"Host a Clothes Swap Party!" by Karen Cline-Tardiff

Did you know that in New York City that 5% of all household waste is clothing? That is a lot of clothing that probably still has a useful life. But what to do when your style is getting tired or you just don't have anything to wear despite having a full closet of clothes. Freshen up your style and have some fun with a Clothes Swap Party!Karen Cline-Tardiff

Clothes Swap Party Christmas is over. And here in South Texas winter is almost over. That means packing up the ugly Christmas sweaters and the cute turtleneck you only get to wear once a year. But it also means you have nothing left to wear! Or do you? But with our Christmas money all spent who can afford to go out and buy a new Spring wardrobe? Maybe you just need a few fresh pieces to update your same old routine. Get ready to have fun at a Clothes Swap Party!!!

You and your friends, co-workers, cousins, neighbors, or whoever you choose to invite get together and “shop” right at home. Everyone agrees to bring a pre-determined amount of clothing AND accessories to the party. You can trade and barter and get some great fresh pieces and fun ideas from your friends. What’s left can be donated to a local charity like Castaway’s. Afraid someone will show up with ripped T-shirts and stained jeans? Maybe someone’s clothes are really out of date and won’t get much attention? Lay out a few ground rules and do a little advance planning so everyone is guaranteed to have fun and not leave empty handed.


If you only have a small group of friends, your living room is probably the best place. If you’re hosting your entire women’s group then maybe you could have the living room as the clothes area and have the party out on the back deck. Perhaps your church would let you use the community room. Or maybe your husband will finally clean out the garage and….never mind. Ask ahead of time to borrow some full length mirrors and have them set up. If you have a friend with a portable clothes rack perhaps you can borrow it. If not, think creatively about how to display those goodies. Bring in emptied end tables and night tables and use them to lay folded clothes on. Put a tension rod in a doorway to hang clothes from. Get creative! Make some cute name tags on string to hang on bags for your guests to take their clothes home in. Choose paper bags at H.E.B. instead of plastic and use markers and stickers to decorate bags with each guests’ name for their new clothes. Or just gather up those plastic bags you’ve been stuffing in a drawer and let guests use them to take home their new wardrobe. Find a box or plastic tub that is clearly marked Donations. At the end of the swap any clothes that are left over will go into the Donation tub. If one of your guests would rather take their own clothes back home, it is not a big deal. Just let your guests know ahead of time so they can discreetly get their items back if they choose not to donate.


Typically you want to invite people who fall into the same general size category. No, don’t only invite all size 12 friends. But if you have a size 2 friend you might want to let her know she should bring some accessory pieces. Or you might even choose to have an accessory only party: scarves, shoes, jewelry, serapes, etc.


You don’t want the first 2 or 3 guests to swap it all out before everyone gets there. And you don’t want anyone to feel excluded. And everyone wants to check it all out. Designate an area for people to lay out what they have brought. Not only does this let everyone window shop before you start, but it doesn’t single out anyone who might have some items that aren’t as popular. If you want there to be any type of theme, such as dress clothes only or casual clothes only, then be very specific. Or perhaps you will exclude workout gear or nightclothes. Otherwise, just let guests know how many pieces they are expected to bring. All clothes should be freshly laundered and in good condition. As your guests arrive, you may want to take a quick second to help them lay out the clothes they brought. If you think something doesn’t fit the guidelines, then quietly let them know you think the item might be better off going straight to the donation bin. If your group of friends if tech savvy, you might post a Facebook Group Event. You can post the rules, guests can ask questions, and you can post pictures of the party afterwards.


Set up a snack area separate from the clothing area. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, finger foods and wine or punch are fine. If you ask your guests to bring clothes AND food, it begins to feel less like a party and more like an obligation. If you do have a guest who would love to come but just doesn’t have any clothes to bring, asking her to help out with snacks would be a great way to get her involved. Make sure the food isn’t messy or drippy, like meatballs or salsa. Nothing could ruin a new top like a new stain! Make sure your bedroom and bathroom are cleaned and ready to be used as “dressing rooms.” Set up the mirrors. Put out the Donation Bin. Choose some light background music if you like. Avoid candles, you don’t want that silk scarf to accidentally be flung around someone’s shoulder and get the flame.

Look at all the pretty clothes and shoes and purses and oh, my! It’s so hard to choose. White elephant is usually the best way to go. Draw numbers, with the first person getting to choose an item. Then the second person can either choose an item or take from the first person, with the first person choosing a different item. But remember, each item can only be stolen twice! Another way would be to have guests shop in couples: team up and select an item for each other! Your friend may choose a fun style you never thought of before. You could also put each guest’s name in a bowl: one slip of paper for each piece they brought. Then draw names. Another alternative is to make people barter. Trade those jeans for that shirt. Then use the shirt to trade for that jacket you had your eye on. If you have a small group of close friends, you might want to have an end of party fashion show! Let everyone try on those new duds and strut their stuff. Give a prize to best new look or most inventive outfit. A digital camera can capture the moments. If you run with a crafty crowd, remind guests that with a little needle and thread they can customize their new finds. As a host, just make sure everyone feels included and that no one is “clothes grabbing.” By setting up ahead of time how many pieces are expected at a minimum no one should be going home empty handed.


Besides the general cleaning up, make sure to follow-up. Get that donation tub over to Castaway’s or wherever you designated. Send out a thank you card to each of your guests for coming and enclose a picture of them from the event. What a fun way to stay connected with your friends! You can also send out an email and ask them what they liked, would change, or would tweak for the next party. Once summer is nearing an end get ready to start planning that Fall Clothing Swap Party!

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