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How to Host a Successful Clothing Swap

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Clothes at a Clothing Swap

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one with unwanted clothing in my closet. You know how it is — you think your hemp crochet cropped poncho could make a comeback within the next five years, but the truth is, you haven’t worn it even once since you fished it out of the clearance rack at Forever 21 in eighth grade (true story).

There’s no doubt about it: It’s time to clean out your wardrobe. It’s time to reinvent your wardrobe. But you know, the economy hasn’t been looking great for a long time, and personal stylists don’t offer services at a “college student” rate.

Luckily, you’re not the only one who thinks like this. Recently, my friends from Hoot (a fashion publication at Columbia University that I co-founded) and I hosted a clothing swap soirée, called the Green Clothing Swap, in partnership with Green Umbrella, the campus eco-friendly sustainability club, and CU Couture, the campus fashion club. While it was partially an effort to get people interested in our magazine and to raise money, it was also a fun gathering for students to come swap clothing, eat delicious food, and win giveaway prizes. It was so successful that we are going to make this an annual event from now on!

I would like to share my tips for hosting a successful clothing swap with you, as I think a lot of college campuses could benefit from such an event as well.

Tips for a Successful Clothing Swap

Green Clothing Swap

* Book an easily-accessible and cozy room.
Hoot had the option of hosting the swap in a bigger room in an off-campus building, but we decided to opt for the smaller on-campus location. When swappers are lugging bags and bags of clothes around, they don’t want to be traveling far. Additionally, a spacious room detracts from the creative clutter of a clothing swap and provides less incentive for swappers to socialize and mingle.

Chocolate Pretzels

* Have food. Lots of food.
Like all college organizations hosting events, Hoot promised an ample amount of delicious finger foods. On the morning of the swap, we gathered in the kitchen of one of the dormitories and made finger sandwiches — all while gabbing about studying abroad in London and Goyard bags. We also baked cookies, and a member of Green Umbrella brought peanut butter sandwiches! CU Couture also brought in homemade chocolate pretzels, which I demolished within two hours. Our school’s chapter of FeelGood, a nonprofit student organization that offers wholesome organic grilled cheese sandwiches in exchange for small cash donations to end world hunger, was also there to satiate the hunger of our energetic swappers! You don’t need to be fussy with your food — make it quick, and make it tasty. Just make sure there’s enough for everyone.

* Publicize well.
We went crazy with the advertising. We sent out the event details to all of the campus organizations’ mailing lists that listed weekly events in their newsletter, asked campus blogs and publications to post our event, made a Facebook Event and invited all of our friends, constantly flier-ed the campus whenever we were walking to class, and sent out text messages to all of our friends. Did it annoy them? Maybe. Probably. But for all of the people who didn’t come, we had plenty who did — including faculty members!

Clothing swap photo
Photo Credit: Anna Cooperberg Gonzalez

* Set up with mirrors, a variety of tables, chairs, and clothing racks.
Luckily for us, our facilities department lets us borrow clothing racks, tables, and chairs for free. While we hung up dresses and shirts on the clothes hangers, skirts and pants were placed on the tables. One of the members of CU Couture brought a mirror, which is a necessity when the bathroom is too far away.

* Play upbeat music.
One of my friends brought her iPod and speakers, and we blasted some of her self-proclaimed hipster music. Everyone loved it and it filled out any potential awkward silences with equally awkward dance moves.

* Have a trade system for swapping clothes.
In our swap, we gave out one ticket for every piece of clothing that was brought in. We checked the number of tickets before each swapper left in order to ensure that he or she did not take more clothes than he or she brought in

Raffle Prizes
Photo Credit: Anna Cooperberg Gonzalez

* Host giveaways and raffle prize drawings.
Everyone loves freebies, after all. We had a variety of raffle prizes, from La Falaise gift sets, to a cashmere scarf from Nepali by TDM Design. We even raffled off a copy of blogger Winona Dimeo-Ediger of Daddy Likey’s book, Closet Confidential! For every piece of clothing that a swapper brought in, we’d give him or her a raffle ticket. We also got gift certificates from local businesses, such as nail salons and coffee shops. When planning your swap, scout out local businesses and offer them free publicity in exchange for a raffle prize — and don’t be afraid to contact public relations companies either! Of course, we waited until the swap was almost over to give out raffle prizes!

* Make sure there are volunteers to help the swappers hang up the clothes, fold the clothes, organize the clothes, and count the clothes.
Clutter is shabby-chic, but staying organized is important, too. Swappers need to be able to find the clothes, after all.

* Donate the leftover clothes.
Really, if no one else wants them, there is someone who needs them.

Oh, and just as a precaution — make sure to specify that swappers cannot bring used underwear, if they can bring any underwear at all. We had a few awkward mishaps at the swap that we didn’t anticipate.

Your thoughts?

What do you think? Have you ever hosted or attended a clothing swap? How did it go? Did you find any gems? One of my friends donated a Marc by Marc Jacobs jacket to the swap — a lucky girl snatched it up right away!

* Top image ©iStockphoto.com/DanDrieger

Posted on on December 29, 2009 / Filed Under: College Life / Tags: , , , ,

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17 Responses to “How to Host a Successful Clothing Swap”

  1. 1
    December 29th, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Amazing job on the successful event! As someone who organizes student-run events herself, it’s great to provide anecdotes and insanely helpful tips for how to run something similar – this post can not only be applied to organizing clothing swaps, but also to any other event; Great job!

    I especially like how you publicized the heck of this event, and provided food, music, and volunteers to help organize; very common things to forget, and very often, a lack of these necessities usually leads to a subpar event.

    Makes me wish I applied to Columbia so I could join in on this :3

  2. 2
    December 29th, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Wow, this sounds like a great idea. It could even be used as a holiday party of sorts. Or even a birthday party. My friends and I are always swapping clothes so it would be cool to get some other people involved!

  3. 3
    December 29th, 2009 at 11:00 am

    That seems amazing! I’ve always wanted to attend/host one, but sadly I don’t have many friends who are fashion-crazed as I am so they tend not to have many unwanted clothes anyways. I would love to go one downtown but I always miss them and never know when the next ones are. Haha.

    If anyone is in Toronto GTA and are hosting one maybe with me a shout! =D

  4. 4
    December 29th, 2009 at 11:02 am

    That is so awesome- it sounds like you thought of everything!

  5. 5
    December 29th, 2009 at 11:39 am

    What a great way to publicize a new campus mag, too! Did the event end up covering the start-up costs y’all needed? How much did you make?

  6. 6
    December 29th, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    This sounds like a great event. It sounds like a lot of fun. Great Job.

  7. 7
    December 30th, 2009 at 12:10 am

    i love your tips :) great idea!

  8. 8
    December 30th, 2009 at 1:07 am

    hey! i have been reading this blog for about two months now, and even though i’m through with college (i’ll be 27 next month!), I love your blog! It’s filled with great ideas and tips!
    Also, I will be hosting my 3rd swap party this coming February (2010) and I love it! It’s a great way to get rid of your personal belongings that you are tired of, and get new stuff without spending a fortune (or anything, for that matter)!
    It’s alot of fun and a great way to meet new people!

    Keep up the good work!

  9. 9
    December 30th, 2009 at 4:56 am

    I went to a clothes swap at a night club earlier this month – it was lots of fun and everyone walked away with great goodies!

  10. 10
    December 30th, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Very nicely done!
    I’ve thought about doing this sometime, and I’m more into it after reading your guidelines of sorts. Those were very helpful. :)

  11. 11
    August 21st, 2010 at 11:39 am

    i want to do this at my college campus. what are some orgainizion that i can connect that can help me run this. is there any tips you can give me to jump start this. im scared it might not go right. but i really want to have one. college = no $$ for shopping.

  12. 12
    May 18th, 2012 at 2:20 am

    Have a trade system for swapping clothes.
    In our swap, we gave out one ticket for every piece of clothing that was brought in. We checked the number of tickets before each swapper left in order to ensure that he or she did not take more clothes than he or she brought in

    //i’m not sure how to do the tickets…every clothing gets 1 ticket…and how do you check that they have 1 ticket and 1 clothing? Especially if it’s at a nightclub…

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