Hosting A Clothes Swap Party 🇬🇧

Working within a strict budget now we have two children means more than ever that I put my needs last, which sometimes means I walk around looking a little well-worn! I try my best, but years of snot wiping and baby vomit, (not to mention a changing body shape) can really take their toll on my clothes. This is why I was curious about the (potentially cringe-worthy) clothes swap my friend was hosting. It was also a chance to get rid of some of the bad buys lurking in the back of the wardrobe and give up some of the „probably never again“ clothes I was holding onto and which glared at me guiltily everytime my mum-bod gazed at them.

"More new clothes? What happened to the old ones?"
„This old thing?“

It was great to make some space in my wardrobe and go back over what I actually own before thinking about what I might be missing. Actually I enjoyed the tidying out that much that I wasn’t sure I even wanted any new clothes to fill up the space again! But I’d said I’d come and so I did.

We all met at a local church hall where my friend and some other ladies had collected the clothes from us the evening before and sorted them out into different kinds (blouses, sweaters, jeans, sports clothes etc.) and within the categories they had also looked at the colors.

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We started with a brief overview of how it would work and I have written them down for you here:

  1. Everyone gets a strip of sticky tape with 10x a number on it. If you need more then you can ask for more as you go along.

    Sticky tape numbers to stick onto the hangers or directly onto the folded clothes.
  2. If you see an item you like, you can try it on (you need a good space for this). If you still like it, then you tear off one of your numbers from the strip and stick it onto the hanger the piece is hanging on, then hang or put it back where it was and move on.
  3. You can try on and put a sticker onto an item even if it already has a sticker on it from someone else.
  4. This carries on for a set period of time (we had about an hour) and you can use as many of your numbers as you like.

I finished before the hour was up because I really didn’t want too much to take home. So I sat where there were refreshments and chatted to some of the other ladies.

At the end of the hour, the organizers gather up all of the clothes which have our stickers on the hanger and put them onto a rolling rail. We got into a circle and the main part began!

Celebration circle and Dress Off
Celebration circle and Dress Off

Any hangers where there was only one sticker on were handled first. Each item was shown and we all clapped the lucky new owner. It made even the smallest of scarves feel special. I got my new work dress like this and was happy to be the only one who wanted it, because the next part was a little harder if you are more reserved!

I had my heart set on a lovely, cuddly autumn cardigan and I realized with horror that other people had seen its beauty too. I’d also chosen a dress and a pair of jeans which were more ‚in a couple of months post baby‘ pieces and others had their stickers on these too. So after all the „one sticker“ pieces had been handed out, we moved onto the pieces which had gathered a few admirers. Mostly there were two ladies who had liked the same piece (there were about 15 of us in total). The numbers were called out and they identified themselves. They then had the choice to settle it now by giving it over to the other person, or, if you were really set on it, you had to battle it out with a catwalk. This meant trying the chosen piece on and letting the circle decide which person it suited. Like I said, not for the faint hearted and here you might want to provide a bit of fizz to give the shy ladies some dutch courage.

Although the idea of a Dress Off with another lady had me terrified, I really wanted my cardigan. The other ladies mastered this part with bravo and it was actually a really friendly atmosphere were often the ladies themselves could see who it suited better. The dress and jeans I had eyed up for a later date I let go graciously but to be honest there was no way I would fight for them since I would not fit into them right now! Slowly we inched along the rail with a lot of laughs and good winners and losers. Now my cardigan came up! I was again pitted against a lady who had taken the jeans I had also chosen and so she said it would only be fair to let me have this piece. No Dress Off? I was almost disappointed, but very happy to have my cardigan.

I think everyone was happy at the end, they certainly seemed it. The pieces which hadn’t found a new owner at all were being donated to a ladies‘ charity so I was glad not to have to lug them home with me.

What I Would Change – If I went again or even found the energy to host a clothes swap myself I would definitely make it an evening thing (ours was an afternoon) and there would be a bit of bubbly to get the atmosphere rolling. A „stylist“ might also be useful for the ladies who came on their own but would like a second opinion before putting their stickers on. I would also say that you need to make the whole process clear as I didn’t really understand the whole Dress Off concept at the beginning and wouldn’t have put my stickers on the jeans and dress.

What I Loved – The refreshments were a great idea, so were the big mirrors which the organizers had thoughtfully brought along. The clothes were so nicely organized and ordered that you could easily see what was going on and it didn’t have a charity shop feel at all. I met a „Clothes Soulmate“ who basically took all my clothes and I took some of hers. This let to some good laughs and chats about why we had brought the things we had. The ladies were all really friendly and you left feeling you had gained some new treasures. I still remember this afternoon when I cuddle into my cardigan.

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