Host a Clothing Swap – How to Get New Clothes for Free

Is your closet full of items you no longer wear? Do you want some new clothes without spending a fortune?   A clothing swap is a great way to get new clothes for free while passing on the clothes you don’t wear to someone else.

The way it works is people bring clothing to the swap that they don’t want and pick out new items from other people’s castoffs.  If the idea of a clothing swap appeals to you, check or local churches to see if annual swaps are already ongoing in your area. If you can’t find one to join, you can easily start your own.

Find a Group to Swap With

Many swaps start with groups of people that already get together, such as a Sunday School class, book club or neighbors.  Ask around your social circle and see if anyone is interested in starting a clothing swap.

Lori Del Genis, director and dressmaker with Conscious Elegance Handmade Eco Wedding Dresses has been so successful at hosting and attending clothing swaps over the years that she buys very few new clothes for herself.  “Try to have a large group of people, such as more than 10, participating. The more people means more clothing, and a better the selection and the more good done,” said Del Genis. She also recommends announcing the swap a few months ahead of time so that people have time to go through their closets.

Set the Guidelines

Decide what items will be included in the swap, such as only women’s clothing or both women and children’s clothes. Be sure to encourage accessories, since shoes, purses and jewelry are great fun to share. Most importantly, let everyone know that they should only bring clothes that they would wear themselves and not to bring items with stains or rips.

Decide if you will require a minimum number of donated items to participate or if there will be a maximum number of items you are allowed to select. Some swaps give swappers tickets for each item that they donate to redeem for a “new to them item” while other swaps go more on the honor system.

Before the Swap

Del Genis recommends letting people drop off clothing the week before. “This not only lets people contribute even if they cannot attend, but allows the hosts/organizers to have time before the swap to start sorting the clothes into piles,” said Del Genis. She also suggests recruiting people to help the host sort through the clothes and also bag up the clothes afterward.

Designate different areas for different types of clothing and make simple signs to help aid the swap. Be sure to allow room for people to stand and easily move through the clothing. Make a place for people to try on clothes and also another area for people to socialize. Set the mood to make it a fun evening by inviting the swappers to bring a snack to share and put on some fun music.

During the Swap

When people arrive, make sure everyone waits until the start time to begin shopping. “Have a clear place for people to put their things/clothing they’ve claimed. Otherwise, one runs the risk of having their clothes swapped when they don’t mean to,” said Del Genis.

Most hosts have found that people are very considerate at the swaps and only take an appropriate amount of clothing. If you find that anyone is not playing fair, then you may consider setting more guidelines for the next swap or not inviting the person back. Encourage your guests to have fun and find fabulous new clothes. 

Donate Leftover Items

Many swaps donate leftover clothing to a local charity. Research the charities in your area and find the one that your group wants to help. Since most swaps are done in the evening or weekend, you will most likely have to store the clothes overnight and take them the next day.

After your swap, figure out what worked well and what things can be tweaked for next time. And hopefully, this will be the first of many clothes swaps. Just think, new clothes for free.