13 Rules for a Successful Clothing Swap
2. Host your swap at the end of the season when people are more likely to be cleaning out their closets and looking for new pieces to freshen up their wardrobes. Send out an Evite or Facebook invitation (both save trees and help you track RSVPs) a month in advance to give guests time to prepare and let go of the too-tight, too-short skirt or neon blouse they haven't been bold enough to wear. If you're not opposed to a few extra houseguests, ask friends to spread the word to a stylish friend outside your circle to increase the pot and better everyone's chances of walking away with a good find.
3. Note a minimum and maximum number of items each person should bring, especially if you do choose to open up the guest list. This ensures there are plenty of quality things to trade but not so much stuff that it becomes overwhelming for you or your friends. And encourage everyone to bring any unwanted clothing, regardless of the weather outside. Tank tops and T-shirts make great layering pieces year round, says Nichelle Stephens, founder of the Fashion Swap and Meet blog.
4. Only things in good condition (washed and ironed) should be welcome. Gently remind guests on the invitation to clean out their pockets (tracking down an ID card someone mistakenly left in their old jeans is a nuisance worth avoiding) and reserve anything they'd be embarrassed to loan to a friend (stained clothes, moth-eaten sweaters and underwear) for the garbage—not your swap.
5. Add accessories to the mix (like gently worn shoes, handbags, jewelry, scarves and unopened beauty products). This will ensure that everyone—regardless of size—can find something that fits.
Next: Get the rest of the rules and find out how to keep the process sane
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 RehashClothes.com 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 ReFashioner.com, 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.
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