Earlier this month, I hosted my … 3rd clothing swap? I’ve also participated in quite a few. So I’ve learned a thing or two. If you’d like to host one, here are my tips…

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Invite lots of women. Of all sizes and styles. The more attendees, the more clothing, and the more variety of sizes. I’d recommend at least five women in attendance for a successful swap. My most recent one had 11 women. I’ve been to larger swaps at my sis-in-law’s dance studio that probably had 20 or so, but there were a lot of teenagers. Encourage anyone to attend, even if they have little or no stuff to swap. Believe me … there will be more than enough.

Swap more than just clothes. Obivously shoes and accessories are also good to swap, but encourage yours guests to bring books, nail polish, unused make-up, hair products, and housewares.

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Emily and Katie

Wear “base layers.” I find it easiest to wear leggings and a tank top, that way I can try on things without stripping down to my skivvies. I’ve also been known to wear the clothes I plan to keep, layered all at once, while going through all the piles of clothes. It’s just quicker, and I don’t lose track of the stuff I’m keeping.

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With Erin. Photo from Erica.

At my last swap, some guests brought their clothes in a suitcase, which they used to take home the stuff they were keeping. Others brought smaller bags (duffle bags, weekend bags, reusable grocery bags). But keep additional grocery bags on hand for guests who need them. (Trader Joe’s bags are great.)

Provide some snacks. You should always do this if you invite guests over. But make sure to keep the food in the kitchen, to leave ample space for the clothes.

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I promise there was more than just cupcakes. There was sangria too. And cheese fondue. Gotta use that wedding gift! And we all learned that Jewel makes good guacamole. 

Make room for lots of clothes, and plan a layout. Our apartment has a large living & dining room, which works well for hosting lots of stuff (and a big reason we picked this apartment). At my last party, the coffee table was for bottoms (jeans, shorts, skirts), the loveseat was for coats/jackets and dresses, the bigger couch was for tops, the dining room table was for accessories and a chair for scarves, the desk was for workout clothes, and the floor by the desk for shoes.

Make sure guests know where to put things that aren’t for swapping. You don’t want someone to accidentally walk off with someone else’s coat or shoes that they need to wear home.

Have a mirror set out in the swap area for quick try-ons, and an additional mirror in a private spot.

Wait until everyone has set out their clothes before you dive in and begin swapping. Go eat the snacks and chat while you wait.

Once all the clothes are laid out … dive in. It’s basically a free-for-all.

Don’t be shy. The price is right (free) and whatever doesn’t go home with anyone goes to resale stores. But you also want to be polite and not grab all the good stuff right away. My plan of attack is usually: Round 1 – go for the pieces I’m the most interested in. Then when everyone seems to be done going through the stuff, I go in for Round 2 – take everything else that I’m semi-interested in. Once I get home, I don’t put all the stuff into my closet/dressers/etc. I leave it all out in a separate pile. Then, in the coming days or weeks, I try wearing as much of the new-to-me stuff as possible. Some stuff does make it into my regular rotation, and some stuff goes back into my “donate/swap” pile, but you never really know until you try something on, with the rest of your clothes, if it’ll really work or not. I’ll also take all of the plain tank tops and plain long-sleeve tees that are left at the end, no matter the color – this is what I use for pajamas and lounge wear at home.

Donate the leftovers to charity. Many offer at-home pick-ups.

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Have you attended a clothing swap? Any other tips? What was the best item you got in a swap? A few years ago, I went home with a pair of UGGs in my size that looked like they’d never been worn outside.