6. Request that each guest bring a snack to share along with her unwanted sweaters and slacks, taking some of the burden off of you. Nongreasy finger foods—like fresh veggies and fruit—allow your friends to keep one hand free while they shop, and won't leave stains or spills on the clothes (or your carpet).

7. Eliminate clutter (like stacks of magazines or breakable items that could accidentally get knocked over by aggressive shoppers) and group like items together in different areas. For example, put pants in one corner and tops in another. Hang up dresses and jackets on a garment rack or curtain rod, neatly fold sweaters and trousers, and organize jewelry on a table to make the merchandise look more appealing. And set up an off-limits area so that guests don't mistakenly take things others want to keep. "Once a friend lost her shirt—literally!" says Stephens.

8. Designate one room for changing and have at least two full-length mirrors available so that friends don't have to fight for face time. If your space is limited, invite guests to wear a bathing suit underneath their clothing to make trying on items in a group setting less awkward.

9. When hosting a large group, set a few ground rules to keep the swapping process sane. Draw straws and take turns shopping, limiting each person to five minutes and one item per round to keep things moving. If two friends have their eye on the same thing, have a model-off and let the group decide who wears it best, says Stephens. If you're afraid of hurt feelings, flip a coin instead.

10. Use a swap as an opportunity to take fashion risks. If you've always wanted to wear a high-waisted skirt or a geometric print, but haven't wanted to make the investment, now is your time to road test the look—for free. If it doesn't work out, trade it in at the next party.

11. Ask friends to put everything (including handbags and shoes) in the dryer on high heat (at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit) for 10 to 20 minutes before coming over. This will kill uninvited guests like bedbugs, clothing moths, carpet beetles and lice, says Michael Potter, a professor at the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture and an urban entomologist. The majority of dry-clean-only items, provided they aren't wet, are also safe to treat in the dryer on low to moderate settings (less than 160 degrees Fahrenheit), he adds. But if you're concerned about ruining a silk blouse or dress, the dry-cleaning process gets the job done too.

12. Find a local charity—like The Salvation Army, Dress for Success or Goodwill—that will appreciate your group's overflow (including that blazer with shoulder pads big enough for a football player). Bonus: Your party's leftovers could even earn you a write-off come tax time.

13. Try swapping via the Web to trade clothes with thousands of women...without inviting them all into your living room. Sites like allow you to join groups of other like-minded shoppers looking for similar styles or sizes, search for items you want, and initiate, accept and reject trades with other members. If you have a designer dress hanging in the back of your closet that you've only worn once, or a pair of high-end heels that kill your feet, visit, which specializes in pricier items. And the best part is that you don't have to wait for the other half of the swap. The "fashion police" at the site survey photos of your clothes and accessories and assign them a value, after which half of the credit is yours to spend on the site immediately. They'll even send you a prepaid shipping label via email once another user selects your item. All you have to do is put your dress/shoes/bag in a USPS box and send it off to its new home.

More Budget-Friendly Ideas


Next Story