Clothing Swap - A How-to Guide

There is no better time to hold a clothing swap, than right now. Everyone probably just got a lot of new clothes for Christmas which means it's likely time to go through your closet and purge the things you no longer need.

Lexy Silverstein Clothing Swap

Clothing swaps are simple. We sort of do it all the time, but not in an official capacity Think about it. You borrow a friend’s dress for a party because you don’t have the money or you don’t want to spend the money on another dress. Your friend borrows your fancy coat for a black tie party. But for a “clothing swap”, instead of just borrowing, you actually swap or trade clothing.

The definition of a “clothing swap” (according to Google) is a party where you and each of your attendees bring an agreed upon amount of clothing and accessories to the event. All of the items are fair game, so you can trade, barter, and donate clothes to your friends while snagging some new stuff to breathe new life into your closet.

WHY CLOTHING SWAP? Who doesn't like free clothes? That's a given! But let's face it, we all have too many clothes and our obsession is hurting our planet. On average, Americans throw away 68 pounds of clothing per person, every single year. According to a new study by ClosetMaid, the average American woman has 103 pieces of clothing in her closet and get this..... she considers 21% of it to be unwearable for whatever reason.

Lexy Silverstein Responsible Fashion

According to Business Insider, fashion production makes up 10% of humanity's carbon emissions, dries up water sources, and pollutes rivers and streams. When you buy an outfit you don't even factor water. So let's talk water.


Water waste and pollution happens throughout the entire fashion process - beginning to end. According to the Drop4Drop cotton makes up roughly 90% of all natural fibers used in the textiles industry and the global average to create 2 pounds of cotton is more than 2600 pounds of water. Wow! Think about that! The organization also states that cotton uses nearly 4 times the amount of water and twice the amount of land as other natural fibers such as hemp, flax and nettle. So we consumers need to buy and support brands who are concerned about water conservation. Now let's talk pollution.

Not only does the fashion industry consume a lot of water, it also pollutes a lot of water. First of all, cotton farming requires pesticides and fertilizers which can end up in local rivers, lakes, wetlands, etc. That's why organic cotton is a more sustainable choice for consumers because they aren't using the chemicals that other cotton farmers use.

Then when you consider the dyes and toxic chemicals it takes to produce the vibrant colors, patterns, and fabric finishes. Then when those clothes end up in the landfill, those chemicals continue to pollute as the clothing slowly breaks down.

SO extending a garment’s lifecycle by a mere three months can reduce its water and waste footprint by 5-10%. Thus "clothing swaps"!


  1. Start small. Invite 2-5 friends for your first clothing swap

  2. Invite friends who have similar tastes and are closer in size for your first small clothing swap

  3. Once you've thrown a successful small clothing swap, increase the number of your attendees, then you can increase the diversity in styles and sizes

  4. Send out an invite at least 2-3 weeks in advance so your friends will have time to pick out clothing or accessories. (make sure they are clean and presentable

  5. In the invite, provide detailed instructions for the swap:

  • Time

  • Date

  • Location

  • Number and types of items to bring (for example if everyone has the same shoe size, include shoes but if everyone has a different shoe size, don’t include shoes) Everyone should bring 8-10 items

  • Make sure your guests know, the items should look presentable, clean, ironed, on hangers, no stains (unless that stain makes the vintage piece that much better)

  • Potentially identify a theme: New Years Eve Clothing Swap, Black Tie Clothing, Swimsuit Clothing Swap, etc. Or there can be no theme.

  • The first 20 - 30 minutes of the swap will be needed to display the clothing and/or accessories. Try to set it up like a store - jeans folded or hung nicely beside each other, dresses and shirts on hangers organized together, etc.

  • After that, make sure your guests have time to "window shop", actually look at the items they might like to go after

  • Make sure your guests understand the rules.

  • One person will shop at a time.

  • You will draw straws or coins to decide the order in which everyone shops

  • Each person has a limited time to shop and a limited amount of items they are allowed to take

  • Everyone goes home with the same amount of items they donated

  • If there are any disputes because two people really want the same item, agree ahead of time how to handle it. For example, everyone votes on who wears it better or maybe you just flip a coin.

  • Bring your own recycled shopping bag so you can pack up your items when it’s time to leave.

  • Hostess should set the mood. Shopping is fun so have music, and snacks. This is a party after all.

  • Make sure there are identified bathrooms or closets and mirrors so your guests can try on the clothing and see if it looks good on them.

  • At the end, make sure you donate any unwanted items to Goodwill.

Lexy Silverstein Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake

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Make the ordinary - extraordinary!


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