How to host a swap party

Many people have never heard of a swap party, but the concept is fairly simple. A group of people get together and trade items they don't wear anymore. You may remember doing pretty much the same thing in your childhood with marbles, lunches, or pokemon cards.

The benefit of swap parties is that everyone comes out a winner. You bring in items you don't use anymore and trade them for items you will! Swap parties are also great in that you don't feel like you're spending any money, although some hosters will ask for a small financial donation to cover costs of food or rented space. You're also going green by not buying new items and instead, reusing clothes. Although this post is specifically dedicates to closet swaps, you can also swap books, cookware, board games, and anything else you can think of.

Since I'm going to college soon, I plan on hosting one of these so I can freshen up my wardrobe and clear out my closet!

Start by picking a date, time, and location. Make sure that the time is long enough that everyone will have a chance to look around, try on potential "buys," chat, restyle, and make deals. As far as location, make sure that you pick and area that is large enough to accommodate everyone's items and dressing room needs. This means tables or clothes racks for items, and a bathroom or changing screen for trying items on. I also recommend having a food-and-drink area. You may decide to make the event larger and rent out a picnic area in a park or host one at your local church. Also think about whether or not you want to make your party a DIY swap party where guests will get a chance to bedazzle, hem, cut, or otherwise alter their new clothes as this will take extra time and more materials.

Plan a guest list. Try to get a diverse group of people, but not too diverse. You want to avoid getting everyone of the same body type, but you don't want everyone to have drastically varying bodies either. I'd recommend 8-15 people for a party at home.

Plan out your system. Your party's swap system should be fair and have some sense of order about it. What's the fun if not everyone has a fair shot? Whatever system you choose, everyone must get a chance to swap, everyone must have the opportunity to take newly swapped items "off the market" or decline a swap, and no one should have to leave empty-handed.
  • Some parties will have every guest hang up their items, then draw numbers. The first hour is devoted to all attendees browsing racks. After that, everyone snacks and chats as number one gets a chance to swap for a maximum of two items with the permission of the previous owners of course. each number takes his or her appropriate turn in rotation until everyone is satisfied.
  • Other parties will have guests simply swap with the use of name tags and designated swapper's areas. For example, Sheila's items will be ondisplay at a table or rack marked with her name. Sheila will also have a name tag on since some people don't know her already. If someone wants to trade with Sheila for an item they like, they find Sheila and make her an offer.
  • Some parties will use a token method. A token is given to each person for each item they've brought in. For every item they "take off the market," they put a token in the "take home" jar. This ensures everyone goes home with the same amount of items as they came with.
You should also decide what to do with leftover clothes. Consider sending them to a charity like the salvation army, goodwill, etc.

Send out invitations or publicize the event. Make sure everyone knows when and where the event is occurring and also that they know what is acceptable to bring and what isn't. Let people know that it is in their best interest to bring an item they can get something great for. Someone may want the dress or jeans someone has grown out of and will swap something else just as nice for it. No one will make and offer for ratty gym shorts or an old bra. In swapping you get what you give, so remind everyone to keep their swap stock nice. In addition, outline how many items can be brought. Are accessories like scarves, bags, and jewelry allowed? Finally let them know about anything else they need to bring. Everyone should bring a canvas bag to bring their new-to-you items. You may also request that they bring snacks, a cover charge for expenses incurred from hosting, a full-length mirror to share for the night, items for redesign like puffy paint and buttons, or hangers to display their clothes. Tell everyone to wear modest underwear just in case, and consider setting up a minimum and/or maximum on how many items can be brought to make clean up easier.

Prepare the party area. Set up the table or racks, clear space, and prepare the tokens, cards, or whatever. You may want to dress up your party area so that is has that chic boutique feel. Like check out this Swap party feature on the Creative Party Place. Make sure you have a mirror or two!

Prepare the food. Go for finger foods. Stay away from foods that dirty fingers like cheetos and wings. Consider having a snack area so there aren't any dip and salsa incidents. Try these great foods!

When guests arrive make sure you help everyone set up, get organized, and when everyone is present, explain the rules. It's also a great idea to talk to everybody about why what they're doing is so great! Tell other swappers to make sure they don't make rude comments about other people's clothes since their past owners are present and to be mindful of how much mirror time they take up. Consider having a swapped fashion show where guests runway model their new clothes!

Clean up. Ask guests to help in order to ensure that they don't leave anything behind and to make the process go by quicker. The best way to ensure quick and easy clean up is to be organized in your preparations, so consider that before you try to leave all the prep to the last minute.

Can't host a party or find one to go to? Check out, an online swap meet!

I hope this was informative. If you have hosted a swap party, please write a post about it for your blog and comment right here. Your party could be featured on Harper's Thrifty Guides and Adventures!


1 comment:

  1. When I used to hang out on CafeMom I was chosen to write a feature on a swap party. We held ours outdoors, laid out the items by age range/size, and just had a free-for-all! Since we were good friends there were no hurt feelings about anyone getting more than their share. We even had left overs to donate to charity.