How to Host and Shop a Clothing Swap

Clothing swaps are incredibly sustainable and affordable (as in FREE!) ways to update your wardrobe. How do they work? What’s the best way to find one near me? And how do the hosts ensure that the events are size inclusive? Tune into episode 20 of Thanks, it’s Thrifted podcast to hear from the organizer of Swap League, host of the best swaps in Akron, Ohio.

How to host a swap

Start small

Our guest on the podcast, Lauren, recommends starting small before hosting a public event. Host one with your friends or coworkers to get your feet wet and to work out any kinks before you open it up to the public.

Find a spacious location or venue

For large, public swaps, partner with places like local businesses, music venues, community centers, or boutiques. If you’re hosting at someone’s home, make sure you have enough space to spread out. The idea is to find a free or low-cost location. Free admission is always recommended, but if you must charge admission, charge a small fee to cover the cost of the venue and donate the rest to charity.

Gather items for set up

The setup doesn’t have to be fancy but you’ll definitely need things like racks, tables, and hangers to display your items. Most swaps are open-air concepts where everything is laid out on tables or hung on racks and swappers can shop freely, as opposed to a literal exchange or swap between two people.

Select a drop-off location and drop -off rules

Encourage people to drop off items a few weeks leading up to the swap. If they can’t do that, tell them they can drop off their items 30-60 minutes before the swap begins. 

Be clear about what you will and will not accept. Ask attendees to bring a limit of items (or not) and ask them to write their name and amount of items on the bag or box. The amount they bring is the amount they can swap. Keep a list of who’s attending and how many items they dropped off so you can check them in the day of the swap.

This is one of the most important aspects of the swap. The success of your swap relies mostly on how many people show up and what they bring to swap. If it’s a public event, use tools like social media and free ad posting to advertise your swap. Be sure to indicate that ALL sizes are encouraged to swap so everyone feels inspired to attend. 

There are a variety of ways to host swaps, but whatever you land on be sure you’re clear about where and when swappers should drop off their items, what to expect when they arrive, and the rules of the swap. You can list all of this information on your event page and then repeat it at the beginning of the swap. 

The day before the swap

Organize all of the items by category (shirts, pants, sweaters, dresses, etc). Don’t worry about sorting by size, that’ll take forever and mixing the sizes encourages people to really hunt for the items.

The day of the swap

Some swaps are more structured than others, but Lauren recommends a basic, casual swap set up to make it easier and more enjoyable for everyone: 

Check guests in and give them a card indicating how many items they are permitted to swap. Make an announcement reminding swappers of the rules. The swap goes by very fast, so start on time.

Set up rules. For Lauren’s swaps, she tells swappers they can choose one item in the first five minutes; two items in the second five minutes, and then she opens it up for swappers to take as many items as they brought (example: you brought 10 items, you can swap 10).

Donate what’s left. Partner with a charity or drop off the remaining items to a local thrift store.

How to shop a swap

Search for swaps online

Facebook is a great tool for swap locators. Follow local brands and influencers for updates.

Come with zero expectations

Because swaps all depend on what people bring to swap, you have absolutely no idea what you’re walking into. So, keep an open mind and come without any expectations or plan to find a specific item.

Read the rules

Every clothing swap is different, so make sure you read up on the rules or ask the host any questions before you start shopping.

Swap things you would want to wear

Nobody wants your stained gym shirt. Leave your worn out clothes at home and bring things you’d actually wear. Lauren also strongly encourages swappers to bring accessories and small housewares like candles for variety.

Arrive on time

The swaps go by very quickly and if you show up an hour later, chances are you’re not going to find that much stuff.

Don’t be pushy

Most swaps are relaxed and fun. Be kind and courteous and check the Black Friday drama at the door.

Want more? Thanks, it’s Thrifted is a podcast about secondhand shopping hosted by two treasure-hunting friends, Dina & Shannon. Subscribe today. 

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