How to host a clothes swap party

I consider myself somewhat of a pioneer in the clothes swap party area. I’ve been hosting them for years and years – since my early uni days – but it’s only been in more recent times that they’ve become  a big ‘thing’. I’ve even had to go from an open-door policy to limiting numbers – too many people trying to squish into my little housie! In case you’re not familiar with the idea, let me tell you a little more about it.

What is a clothes swap party?

Clothes swaps – or as I now call them, junk swaps (so much more than just clothes), are get togethers where everybody brings their old ‘stuff’ – clothes shoes, handbags, jewels, makeup, scarfs, books, kitchen utensils, you-name-it – and we play a sort of game going through it all and searching for treasures.

What I like about clothes swaps

There are several reasons I this clothes swap parties are such an utterly amazing thing.

1. First off, it’s a regular prompt to go through your cupboards and get rid of your old crap. I keep a bag at the back of my closet, and every time I try something on and it doesn’t fit, or I don’t feel good in it, I chuck it in the bag. Seeing someone completely light up and look fabulous in something you haven’t worn in 5 years makes it a whole lot easier to get rid of the clutter weighing you down.

2. You come home feeling like you’ve shopped up an epic storm, and you haven’t spent a cent. It’s that same sort of feeling when you find a thrift-shop score – like it’s one-of-a-kind and it was meant just for you. And you wouldn’t believe the interesting things that come out of the woodwork!

3. All the leftovers (and you wouldn’t believe how much there is!) go to charity. I’m in touch with a few different charities and keep things for specific places that I know might need, but any charity shop would be thrilled with the leftovers from one of these parties. If it’s a ton, places like St Luke’s Hospice even collect!

How to organise your clothes swap party

1. Start by figuring out how many people you can fit in your living area. I have a pretty small space, but manage to squish quite a few people in. I find 12 – 16 people a nice number. Get friends to invite their friends so you can have a nice mix of people.

Heaps of friends and piles of clothes.
Heaps of friends and piles of clothes.


2. Set a date. I used to host these on weekday evenings, but to be honest they can go on for ages and it would get quite late, and a lot of my friends these days have kiddiwinkles etc. Most recently I’ve been hosting the parties on a quiet weekend morning or afternoon. We do a clothes swap four times a year, or every three months, with the changing of the season.

3. Ask everyone to bring a bite to nibble on. Snacks are always a big part of the festivities, and you’ll need your sustenance!

Delicious nibbles to keep your strength up.

4. Let the games begin! Over the years we’ve developed our own unique ‘proceedings’ for the event, which works well for us. I’ve been to other events where there are equitable bartering systems (one for one) or your donations are given a value and you’re allowed to take something of an equal value, but those systems aren’t for us. Neither is making a whopper of a pile, and digging in. Instead, I’ve turned it into a game.

  • Everybody is randomly given a playing card. This is their trump card. They hold on to this for the right moment.
  • I methodically go through the pile of stuff, holding things up for everybody to see, and reading out size and label if I can find it. If only one person is interested, the item is theirs. If more than one person is interested, my trusty assistant will flip cards from a deck, and whoever gets the highest card wins the item.
  • If a player didn’t win the item on the card flop and still really, really wants it, and their trump card is of a higher value than the winner’s card, they can trump for the item. They can play their trump card only once per event, and they don’t get another one once it’s spent.
  • Anything unwanted get tossed into a big pile in the middle of the room. Once in the middle pile, all items are open game for anybody who wants them.
  • Once everyone’s got their piles of ‘winnings’, we take regular breaks for everybody to stop and try things on. I try to have tons of mirrors out around my house! The rule is you have to try it on before you leave. If it doesn’t fit you and someone else really wanted it, it goes to the next in line to try. You’re allowed to take things for friends and family, but only if no one else present wants it. It might sounds a little involved if it’s the first time you’re hearing it all, but we’ve been doing this for years and find it to be really fair and fun!

5. The last – and most important – rule is: invite me! I frikken love these things, and if you live near me, I’d love to attend and help you host 🙂

Some of my recent scores from a clothes swap party
Some of my recent scores from a clothes swap party

While I’ve scored soooooo many fabulous outfits, jangles, doomahickies and bits and bobs from clothes swaps, I also really love the utterly bizarre stuff that comes up – and finds another loving home! Most recently, there was a fruit bowl with a tiger on its back as the base. Previously I scored an entire zoo – that could fit in a matchbox.
The treasures are limitless.

So go on, host one, and let me know how it goes!

7 Comments on How to host a clothes swap party

  1. Aw man! A zoo in a matchbox! This sounds like fun. Curse these superstitions we grew up with. I really want to try this but I’m in too deep! But I’m so going to try this with maybe books and accessories and stuff as soon as I find willing candidates.

    Mvumikazi. | Urban Mnguni

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