How to organise a clothes swap in 9 easy steps

April 26, 2023

Wondering how to organise a clothes swap? This guide will give you 9 easy steps to make your next clothes swap a success. 

A clothes swap is a great way to spice up your wardrobe for free! What's more, you can feel like you are doing your bit for the plant and saving clothes from being binned. 

Here are the 9 easy steps you will need to follow to organise a clothes swap:

  1. Set parameters and determine your “why”
  2. Choose a venue
  3. Promote your clothes swap
  4. Tell people what to bring
  5. Set up the event space
  6. Bring music
  7. Hand out tokens
  8. Encourage browsing
  9. Consider donating leftover items

Sounds interesting? Read all you need to know to organise a successful clothes swap below.

How to organise a clothes swap

What is a clothing swap event?

Clothes swaps are a fun and easy way to level up your wardrobe for free whilst also saving clothes from going to landfill

Simply put, you bring your old and unwanted clothes to an event where you can swap them for something new and exciting. 

Usually this event is with a group of friends, but it’s best if you can invite others along too and make it a bigger and better swap with more variety. 

A full scale swap can have a party vibe and might need tickets or tokens. You’ll need to market the event to help get the word out. 

We all know that the fast fashion industry is one of the most polluting. The most sustainable thing we can do is not to buy new clothes and instead reuse our old clothes. A clothes swap will mean you can give your old and unloved clothes a new life. 

Sound exciting? Read on to find out how to organise a clothes swap in 9 easy steps. If you're serious about hosting a clothes swap, make sure you read this guide to the end. 

organising a clothes swap

How to organise a clothes swap in 9 easy steps:

To organise a clothes swap, it’s best to think about the process in 3 phases: the planning phase, on the day preparation, and during the event. 

Whether you are running your first swap, a large event, or hosting a swap for kids clothing, here are the 9 simple steps to follow to create a successful clothes swap: 

Planning stage:

1. Set parameters and determine your “why”

Before you even start, it can be useful to discuss with friends exactly why you want to organise a clothes swap. 

Is it to raise awareness about sustainability, or is it just for fun? This will help you decide on the theme and tone of the event.

Naturally there will be some core themes that will appeal to all: a chance to spend time with friends, a good opportunity to declutter, to save money or simply add some new life to your wardrobe. 

Making the ‘why’ clear will help you recruit swappers to your clothes swap event. 

Rules of a clothes swap

2. Choose a venue

Choose a location for the event. This is arguably one of the most important tasks, as it will determine who comes and how many people can make it. 

This could be a community centre, a school, or even someone's living room. Make sure the location has enough space for people to move around and try on clothes. A changing area is a must. If you are booking a community centre, make sure you book it for enough time for you to set up and pack away.

3. Promote your clothes swap

Invite people to participate in the event. You can do this through social media, email, or word of mouth. Make sure to clearly communicate the details of the event, including the date, time, and location. A facebook event is an easy way to get the message out.

Don’t worry about it being too small. Even a small clothes swap is great fun and can really benefit you and those who join. But if there are more people, that means more choice of clothes. 

Pro tip: ask each friend to bring along two other friends to boost your numbers.

Promote your clothes swap  

4. Tell people what to bring

Tell people what to bring (and also what not to bring if you feel relevant - you might want to exclude shoes, textiles or other items). 

Make sure all clothes brought are clean, dry and in good condition. This is where it could be a good idea to create guidelines. 

A digital poster or social media post outlining the guidelines will make it clear what is expected. For example, specify if there are a certain number of items each person must bring, whether there is an entry fee or guest list, and if cash is needed or card payments can be taken. It's also a good idea to remind everyone to bring their own shopping bag.

Pro tip: ask people to bring their clothes on hangers. This will mean you are not responsible for buying hundreds, and each clothing item can be displayed nicely. If you need more clothes rails, make sure to organise this ahead of schedule. 

On the day preparation:

5. Set up the event space

You'll need rails to hang clothes on or tables to create displays. Don’t forget a sign to find the changing room, and ideally a full-length mirror. 

You may also want to provide refreshments or snacks. This can be a great way to make extra money for your charity or cause. 

6. Bring music

You never walk into a shop without background music playing. It might be a small point, but it helps create a great atmosphere. 

Clothes swapping tips

During the event:

7. Hand out tokens

If your clothes swap is large enough (more than just your close friends) you may wish to hand out tokens. These can be given out at the door according to the number of garments brought. Each piece of clothing is swapped for 1 token. 

8. Encourage browsing

Now for the fun part. During the event, encourage people to browse the clothes and try on items that catch their eye. People can be nervous at first, but once they start trying items they quickly get into the spirit of the swap. 

After the swap:

9. Consider donating leftover items

At the end of the event, consider donating any leftover clothes to a thrift store or a favourite local charity. This can be helpful to set up ahead of the event so you know what to do with unwanted items. 

By following these 9 easy steps, you can successfully organise a fun and sustainable clothes swap event.

How to make a clothes swap fun

What are the rules of a clothing swap?

The rules of a clothing swap will depend on the size. For smaller swaps with your closest friends, it may be a trust based system where you simply trade the items you have brought with those you like. In essence a free for all. Great fun, but a little chaotic at times!

As soon as your swap starts getting bigger or you introduce an entry fee, you may wish to incorporate tokens to create a clear swapping system. Here are the rules to follow for a bigger clothes swap:

  1. Hand out tokens according to the number of items brought. Each token can then be exchanged for 1 item of clothing. This prevents people leaving with more than they entered with. 
  2. Encourage quality over quantity: It’s best if there is an item limit. I personally recommend less than 4, as it's a good rule of thumb that ensures quality over quantity. This also means you won’t be left with bags of clothes at the end. 
  3. Coloured tokens: A more sophisticated swap may need coloured tokens based on value. Poker chips can work well. This can help you distinguish between higher value items or items of more weight. It will prevent people swapping a light top for a heavy coat. 
  4. Someone at the door: If your event is big enough, you may want to have someone standing at the door to check in items. This isn’t so much of a quality check (although you can of course do this). The focus is on handing out the appropriate number or colour tokens. However do warn your guests that you will be doing this, just so they are expecting it. 

Finally, I’m sure you won’t need to but do remind swapper’s of the spirit of the event. Whatever the purpose, the event is being held for a good cause. 

Advantages of a clothes swap

What are the advantages of swapping clothes?

Clothes swaps are a great idea and loved by all who attend. There are many benefits of a clothing swap party, here are the main advantages to swapping clothes:

  • Clothes swaps spice up your wardrobe with new outfits
  • They are a affordable way to get your hands on different clothes
  • A clothes swap prevents unloved and unwanted clothes from being landfilled, reducing your environmental impact
  • Most importantly, you will have a great time with friends and possibly make new ones

How to organise a clothes swap for kids?

A kids' clothing swap can be a fun way to find new clothes and different sizes for your little ones for free. The guidelines discussed so far apply and will help you create a successful swap party that everyone can enjoy.

When it comes to kid's items, there are a few extra things to remember. Here's how to make a successful kids clothes swap:

  • Send out an invitation at least a month in advance: all parents are busy, so make sure you give lots of warning.
  • Set guidelines and create a clear age range for the clothes you are swapping: especially important when looking for similar sizes. New finds will be hard if you are having to look through a range of ages.
  • When inviting parents, ask them to bring enough snacks to share. You may wish to have a glass of wine for the parents. This will great a sense of community.
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