Why I Love a Good Clothes Swap

Back in middle school, when shopping was a favorite pastime but spending money was hard to come by (that allowance didn’t stretch very far), my little clutch of girlfriends and I invented what we thought was an ingenious way to expand our wardrobes for free. We called this grand exchange a “clothes swap.”

Each season, one of us would host a party to which we’d bring a haul of items that we’d grown out of or grown tired of. After arranging ourselves on the floor in a circle, wares displayed, we’d take turns holding up an item for “bid.” From there, it was up to expert female negotiation, complete with try-ons, to decide who got what. (Talk about diplomacy!)

By the time we were finished, each of us would walk away with a whole new bag of clothes, filled to the top with cute pieces of clothing from the others’ closets. At the end of the season, we’d return what was borrowed, deciding whether what we’d given away was worth missing, then gradually evolving our wardrobes from there. It was magic!

Later on, I realized that we weren’t the only ones onto the idea that sharing is caring. In fact, clothes swaps have become a very popular party format. I mean, who doesn’t love the idea of getting something new to wear without having to spend a dime?

Teenagers exchanging clothes

So many of us find ourselves blankly staring at our closets each morning wondering how we could possibly have nothing to wear. Despite wardrobes overflowing with shoes, tees, dresses and jackets, we still grow tired of seeing the same pieces day after day. And when the urge to shop strikes, our wallets (and knowledge of our destructive consumeristic tendencies) halt us in our tracks.

A clothes swap solves all of these problems at once. It’s free, has no environmental impact and helps inject a little novelty into our wardrobes just when we need it most. Really, it’s a fantastic idea!

Sound like something you could get into? All you need is willing participants, a few guidelines for the group and keen minds ready to barter! Here are some ideas to get you started.

How to Host a Clothes Swap

1. Invite a mix of guests within a similar size range or make the party accessories only (shoes, bags, scarves, jewelry).

2. Set rules that will help create a calm, polite space for negotiating. Settle on a specific number of items to bring (say, 10 or so), set up a lottery system for picking order, and lay out some criteria for the quality items.

3. Encourage browsing and bartering, clear space for a makeshift fitting room and set a fixed amount of time for the swap. You could even display all the items like you might in a boutique!

4. Set out snacks and drinks to establish a leisurely pace to the evening. The last thing you want is a selfish frenzy! It’s all just for fun, after all. This isn’t a sample sale.

5. Donate any pieces that are leftover. There’s no pressure for every last straggling item to be taken home.

If your first clothes swap goes well, it might just become a regular event, like it did for my friends and I back when we were kids. Hold a swap once per season, or make it an annual bash that brings together friends from a variety of different social circles. Your closet will be glad you did!


John N
John N1 days ago

Thank you for sharing

Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson12 days ago

Thank you.

Ganaisha Calvin
Ganaisha Calvin13 days ago

my friend is part of a mom group so she hasn't had to buy toys or clothes in a long time

Dr. Jan H
Dr. Jan Hill14 days ago


Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn14 days ago

Many thanks to you !

Danuta W
Danuta W14 days ago

Thank you for sharing,

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara15 days ago

book swaps would be more popular here

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara15 days ago


Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara15 days ago


Anne M
Anne M15 days ago

Never heard of clothes swapping before..