How to Organise a Clothes Swap

Thought of organising a clothes swap, but not sure where to start? Clothes swaps are a great new way to get a new wardrobe without spending money, or contributing to fast fashion. They give our unloved clothes a fresh life and are a chance to keep up with sizes as kids grow. Our step by step guide talks you through everything you need to do to organise one yourself.

đź‘•Scale

First of all, you should decide on a scale for your event. Do you want to host a large clothes swap with members of the public, or a small one with friends and family? 

đź‘•Audience

Now you’ve chosen a scale, have a think about who is going to attend. Will it be families, young women, older men? If you’re expecting students, for example, you might be left with a lot of leftover if anyone brings children’s clothes. Have a think about who your target audience is going to be. This audience is who you will invite. 

đź‘•Venue

Where are you going to host the swap? You can host it at home if it’s for friends and family. You could throw a swap party in your local students union. You could hire a room at a community centre or get in contact with local businesses who may have function rooms you can use. If you have to pay for the venue, consider if you will charge admittance at the door or get a local business to sponsor the event. Consider if you’ll need to hire or borrow tables for the event, and if you can store leftovers there until you can arrange for them to be picked up.

đź‘•Method

Now is the time to decide how you’re going to run the swap. Will it be by a token method or more informal. You could run your swap on the basis that everyone gets a token or credit for every item they donate, and exchange their credits for items. This method requires a lot of volunteers to process the credits. You may prefer the informal approach of people bringing whatever they want, and taking whatever they’d like. There is almost always more clothing donated than claimed, so using this method you may be left with a lot of leftovers. 

đź‘•Tell Everyone!

Now you’ve got the basics all planned, pick a date and start telling everyone about it. Remember to appeal to your target audience. Join local community groups on Facebook, Mumsnet etc, then create an event and get sharing. Remember to always post context when sharing links, as most people won’t click on a link that they know nothing about. Be polite, enthusiastic, answer questions and use good images to bring people in. Tell all your friends and family about it, and get in contact with local press. If your guest list is looking too big for your venue, tone it back a little. You don’t want the event getting out of your hands, and you can always run bigger swaps in the future.

đź‘•Recruit

You’ll need volunteers to make the swap run smoothly. Ask your friends and family to come for a couple of hours on the day. The clothes will need hanging, folding and general organising as people bring them. It’s a big job, and you can’t do it by yourself. 
Now is also the time to book any tables you might need (you can’t have too many!) and to borrow mannequins, clothes hangers and clothing rails. You may want to provide a couple of changing tents too. 
Plan the signs you’ll need. It’s a good idea to have ones reminding guests not to leave their personal belongings unattended, in case they’re accidentally swapped. 

đź‘•Host the Swap!

It’s the big day! Set up the venue in plenty of time, brief your volunteers and set up a welcome station. Divide your tables into different clothes sizes to make it easy for guests to find things that will fit them. Take guests donations off them at the welcome station so that your volunteers can put them in the right places. It’s a good idea to provide food and drinks for your helpers, and to make sure no-one is getting stressed out. Remember to take lots of pictures, enjoy the event and have a rummage through yourself!

đź‘•Donate the Rest

After the swap has finished, you’ll probably be left with a lot of clothes. Have a look at what you’ve got, and decide what to do with them. You can donate womenswear and babywear to women’s shelters, childrens and adults clothes to refugee and asylum seeker charities and warm clothing to homeless shelters. Research the charities you give clothes to to make sure they use the clothes and don’t just rag them. Bag up the clothes in secondhand cardboard boxes instead of plastic bags, as bags will just be binned, whereas people are more likely to recycle cardboard. 

Congratulations! You’ve hosted a clothes swap! Afterwards is the time to sit back, reflect and enjoy what you’ve just done. You’ve potentially saved a lot of unloved clothing from landfill, helped out a lot of people who might really need it and stopped a few fast-fashion sales from taking place. 

Perhaps you’d like to do more? Regular clothes swaps can provide families with clothing as their children grow in and out of the clothes they swap. They’re great for the environment as well as our pockets, and you never know who you’re helping. Why not give it a go this summer?

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