Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thrifting Thursday: Clothing Exchange Enchantment

When I planned a clothing exchange for a Sunday night in October, it had been about three years since my last exchange. Far too long, in my opinion! 

I started doing clothing exchanges in 2009 as a way socialize with cool ladies who, like myself, enjoyed a good deal and as a way to refresh my wardrobe. Since then I've probably hosted 5 or 6 of my own exchanges and attended several others. 

A (blurry) photo of me in '09, trying on a wide assortment of exchange items. Quite the ensemble, no? 
For those that don't know, a clothing exchange is just as it sounds; a party thrown for the specific reason of exchanging clothing with other guests. I usually schedule these parties as the seasons change, as this is when people typically clean out their closets.

As far as the theme for a clothing exchange, the sky's the limit!  I've heard of exchanges where people will bring their clothes and then sit in a big circle and hold up each piece for people to sort of bid on. While this method seems interesting, it always seemed sort of fussy to me. I've been a part of a work clothing exchange where all employees were encouraged to bring in a bag of items and all the stuff stayed in the break room for a week for people to look through. This method was nice, as it wasn't limited by gender. I've heard of others throwing exchanges just for kids clothes, accessories and items. Now clearly there a lot of different ways you can go with a clothing exchange, but here are a few tips that I've come to rely on when planning my events. Here are my 5 Tips for a successful clothing exchange!

1. Invite guests of all different sizes, styles and age ranges.
Clothing exchanges shouldn't discriminate. One of my favorite things about clothing exchanges is that they force nudge people out of their comfort zone. With so many different styles and sizes presented, it's almost guaranteed that you're going to find something that you wouldn't have necessarily picked up in a store or even a thrift shop. Inviting some folks out of your immediate age range is great because who knows when your aunt is going to show up with some great vintage pieces that have been hiding out in her closet since the 70's or 80's?  Also, I always suggest people bring shoes, accessories and socks/tights. Even if someone doesn't find a ton of clothing, you can bet they go home with a great pair of shoes, earrings or a new hat.

2. If you cook it, they will come. 

If I have any success at all with throwing parties, it has to do with food. If you cook for people, they are more likely to show up, will probably stay later, and most importantly, will have a fuller (Ha. No pun intended) experience. For this particular exchange I made some simple crockpot chicken tacos with all the fixin's and cookies for dessert. I asked people to bring a drink to share and my lovely cousin brought a batch of delish homemade cinnamon bread. It was a quick, simple meal that filled people up and fortified them for some serious shopping!

If you're concerned about spending too much cash on your get-together or don't have access to a full kitchen, go for a potluck theme! In my experience, people are very willing to help out with food and drink, especially if you are hosting the party.  Depending on the time of day you decide to host your party, you could also do a mid-morning brunch, a dessert or light appetizer menu. The options are endless! The point is that food is a great unifier and whether you've invited a group of close-knit friends who've known one another for years or a diverse group of people who have never met, food bridges all kinds of gaps.

3. Hang up & organize as much as you can. 

The first clothing exchange I thew was a mess. Literally. We had clothes and accessories piled on couches and people had to dig to find their treasures. I think people had a great time and went away with some really choice items, but the process was kind of jumble. Since then I've found that the best way to go is to hang as much clothing as you can and organize everything into sections. Even if your "sections" are just piles on the floor, that's better than nothing. For this clothing exchange we had two free standing clothes racks that I borrowed from my close friend and cousin. I then had a bin for hats/scarves, a bin for socks/tights and laid out all jewelry on the coffee table. We had a section for shoes and piled up t-shirts, long sleeves and sweaters. Don't go out and buy a rack if you don't have one. For one exchange we used a broom handle set on two chairs to hang up our clothes.Get creative. Although I always go into an exchange more organized than the one before, at some point in the night, the system breaks down and you have to know that's okay, too. Maybe even kind of fun. Work with what you have and don't stress.

Don't forget you are also going to want to have a place for your guests to try things on. Not everyone is comfortable stripping down with 15-20 of their friends and acquaintances. Make sure you have extra space and at least one full-length mirror.

4. Decide what to do with the leftovers. 

It's a good idea to ask if people are going to want their clothes back if they don't get picked. In most cases, people don't, but it's good to be sure.

At the end, when everything has been picked through, what do you do with the rest? You can always take them to your local thrift store. This is a relatively easy and fast way to get all the extras out of your house. But what I usually do is to get in touch with someone from the local women's shelter and see if they need any clothing donations. As they usually do, that's where most of our leftovers go. It's a little more work, but ultimately better for our community, so I feel like it's worth. Plus, I think the ladies in attendance like that their clothes are getting a second life in a really meaningful way.

5. Schedule enough time for your party. 

I don't ever set aside any less than three hours for a clothing exchange. You want to make sure that people have enough time to add their items to the racks or piles, eat some food/drink a beverage or two, chit-chat and of course, try on clothing. Don't rush things. Just enjoy and go with the flow.

That's pretty much it! Follow those 5 simple tips and your clothing exchange will be a hit! Just be sure to invite all your friends with enough advance notice for them to go through their closets. You may also want to put together a playlist for the event, just for fun! Be prepared for a lot of people and clothing. I will say the latest clothing exchange was the biggest yet and after everyone picked through the clothes, I still had five bags left-over to take to the shelter. Not too shabby! The whole party was, in my opinion, a total success! My only regret was that I didn't take more pictures. I guess I was too busy trying on awesome clothes! That's a sacrifice I'm willing to make, I suppose! ;)

Have you ever thrown a clothing exchange? Do you have any tips or tricks that you've learned along the way? I would love to hear them!

Happy Thrifty Thursday!


  1. you're a pro and it was a ton of fun. Thanks again! ;)

    1. Aww! Thanks so much! :) And thanks for coming!!! <3

  2. I've just downloaded iStripper, so I can watch the best virtual strippers on my desktop.


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