I Host a Clothes Swap to Upgrade My Wardrobe Without Spending a Cent (…Which Means FREE Clothes!)

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Host a clothes swap to get new clothing for free!

women holding up jacket at clothes swap

One girl’s old sweater is another girl’s fresh find.

My friends and I love any excuse to get together for a girl’s night, but since we all lead pretty busy lives and like to be as frugal as possible, it’s hard to meet up for a night out with dinner and drinks. However, we’ve solved this dilemma by creating our own seasonal event full of fun, food & drinks, and fashion. The Clothing Swap.

bags for clothing swap

In short, we all raid our closets for pieces we no longer love and would normally take in to donate. It helps that we do this seasonally so it’s a bit easier to pick out what hasn’t been worn during the past few months. Then, we all meet at one of our places with a bag of unwanted clothes, a bottle of wine, and a dish to enjoy.

host a clothing swap party - clothes swap

After a quick catching-up session, we get right to the clothes swap…

We start by hanging the pieces so it’s easy to sift through everything available. At our latest swap, I brought up a wardrobe hanger that’s used for extra jackets and gear in the basement. This is *not* a necessity though, and you can lay out clothes in piles organized by tops, bottoms, dresses, or other clothing categories.

Then it’s on to “shopping”! We sift through each other’s pre-loved wardrobes with many of our clothes being new or barely worn (we’re all suckers for TJ Maxx impulse purchases)!

Jewelry arrangement

It’s not strictly for clothes either. We’ve shared shoes, purses, jewelry, and even home decor items that we’re no longer loving. I’m always surprised at the number of accessories I accumulate within a season so seeing how much of it I no longer want helps prevent future unnecessary purchases.

Woman trying on top

Once we’ve gone through the initial phase of shopping, it’s on to the auction.

This is when each piece is held up and the previous owner tries to “sell” it off by hyping it up. The auction is probably the most fun part of the whole night! It results in a loud and hilarious sales pitch and all the girls end up slewing out a million compliments about how amazing someone would look in said outfit.

clothing on rack at clothes swap

There’s still no money exchange involved, but the first person to claim the piece or make the case of why they should have it gets to add it to their takehome pile.

When it’s all said and done, some pieces just don’t make the cut so the leftover clothing items are taken to a donation center by whoever hosted the clothes swap.

bags of clothing at a clothes swap

We’ve had about 7 or 8 Clothing Swaps with fresh faces in each one—friends of friends often ask if they can come because who doesn’t love free clothes?! I really just love this concept since it gives me and my friends a reason to get together with a frugal night in so we don’t have to overspend dining out. Plus, it forces me to purge my closet for unworn clothes and helps me cut down my shopping budget!

If you’re looking for an entertaining evening with friends, I highly suggest trying out a clothing swap party in your own home. Who knows, it may become your new favorite seasonal tradition just as it has for me!

Not sure which clothes to buy? Here’s how to build your capsule wardrobe!

About the writer:

Emily obtained her Bachelor's degrees from Clarkson University with 5 years of content writing experience specializing in health, beauty, fashion, home, & living frugally.

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Comments 30

  1. Donna

    Most people would call it a “Swap Party”, Where friends get together to have fun, eat, and bring items from their closets they want to swap out with for something else. Can range from inexpensive items, to expensive purses or so, depending on the person. The only downfall is keeping in mind the clothes sizes. We wanted to do one many times in the past, but we knew everyone in our group wasn’t able to take advantage of it. So instead of clothes, we elect to do accessories like jewelry, hats, scarves, and those expensive purses, every now and again. So everyone is included! 😀

    • Emily (Hip Sidekick)

      Hi Donna! I love the idea of making it more accessories based! I forgot to mention that we often do a craft during these parties as well so if someone were to come and not care for the clothing swap portion, they still get to leave with something fun. ☺️

  2. mariel

    I was invited to one of these once but i declined because no other size 16s were coming! fun girls night in idea!

    • Jennine Wassink

      That is a bummer… it sounds like they really wanted you to come! Those are good friends! Talk to them about Open sweaters, accessories, purses, shoes, health and beauty, and home!! You are worth the change! If you want to be there, they want you there! Also, people are thinking of others during these events, you could pick up something for a family member or friend, and vs. versa for the items you bring. This helps dwindle the big pile at the end. Haha side note after thought I finish typing this I’m thinking back on Hip2Save These use to be couponing swap events. 😀We’ve all grown, growing means change, and change means moving in a different direction! Everyone here still loves ❤️ a good deal, and electronic saving make it So Much easier! No more debilitating viruses from downloading a $3 coupon that won’t print 😂

  3. Mendy

    Love this idea. Will definitely want to set this up soon!

  4. MamaBear

    This is an AMAZING idea! You ladies are it!

  5. Lorna

    I hosted these annually where I used to live. Now in a new locale, my first is scheduled for this Saturday – Brunch & Baubles. To avoid the size issues, accessories only. And because we are among friends, lotions, perfumes, nail polish etc is also welcome. No prescriptions and nothing size specific. We set up the house like a boutique, people come in and out out their wares, we eat and drink and shop. Leftovers will go to charity.

    • Emily (Hip Sidekick)

      How fun!! I may have to talk to my girls about doing a brunch swap (ours are in the evening) and having themes for them similar to yours. Great idea, Lorna!

  6. Joan

    We have a BIG one here in San Luis Obispo, CA. Last time there were 600 women there and it went all day 8am-5pm. There is another one coming up on 10/12!!! Email me if you want to know more about it: coloradopsych (at) yahoo.com Everything is totally free (no entrance fee) and on an “on your honor” basis so you just take what you actually need and will use and you have to bring at least one bag of clothing minimum. I know there are a few “companies” such as https://www.peaceloveswap.com/ that host these too nationwide for about $5 entrance fee per person and that pays for the rental of the facility. So basically, you bring clothing you don’t want and take whatever you want. clothes, shoes, accessories—I get so many of my clothes this way! It’s so easy and fun! I LOVE it! By the way, I used to go to a kids clothing swap twice per year when I lived in Colorado Springs, CO and I loved it for getting my kids clothes and toys.

    • Terri

      Darn! I was excited to check that out. The web page is gone:(

  7. MaymeV

    The Hip2Save Community of commenters is one of the BEST features of your site!! I’m always smiling by the helpfulness of your readers to each other 🥰

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      Aww, Thanks for the super sweet comment! You’re right! Our readers ROCK! 💕

  8. K

    I’ve never heard of this before, what a great idea! It would be awesome if these became very popular everywhere

    • Sam

      The women’s ministry at my church has one every year. It is awesome. Anyone in the community is welcome too. I would reach out and see if any of your local churches offer anything or would be willing to try one out.

  9. Colorado Amy

    Great post. My sisters, mom and I do this, not really as a planned event, but just whenever we are all going to be together hanging out and someone has a bag of clothes to get rid of. We also do this with our kids’ clothes, toys, books and games. I love the idea of doing this with friends.

    • Emily (Hip Sidekick)

      That’s so smart to exchange kid’s items as well! They grow so fast I bet most of the stuff is barely worn/used. Thanks for the tip!

  10. Holly-Marie

    I do this with my family, but we just swap. It’s really fun!

  11. Kiana M.

    I’ve attended these events and they are awesome! Even if you don’t find clothes you want (or that are in your size) you usually find accessories, handbags, or shoes. Also, participating in your local Buy Nothing group on Facebook is another great way to freshen up your wardrobe. There should be a post about that too!

  12. Fran Wojs

    I do this as well with my two nieces that live in another state. We also text pics to each other to see if we are interested in any of the items before we donate them. Lots of fun!!

    • Emily (Hip Sidekick)

      Love that idea for groups that aren’t always together. It’s like a virtual swap! Thanks for sharing, Fran!

  13. Lisa JP

    I’ve gone to two swap parties. Came home with nothing, but at least I got rid of my stuff. Women wanted my stuff for their kids and there was nothing in my size for me to take. I’m 5’6 and 95 pounds. Being little stinks.

    • saraj-ariss

      I am not that small. 5’8” and 116 lbs. I always bring a lot of expensive name brand items (that women grab for their tweens) and I come home with a necklace or scarf. 🤣 It’s so beneficial when you can find women in your size range to trade with. 😀

  14. Janyne

    I’m moving to Houston, TX in a couple of weeks, any body in that area do this kind of thing? I am 5’6″ about currently 160 but losing steadily. Wear mostly casual to business-casual jeans, pants, blouses, occasionally dress up in dresses, dressy slack sets, etc. Also interested in lower heels, boots, shoes, handbags, accessories, jewelry, etc. Might be interested in decorative household items, possibly some furnishings, or other smaller knick-knack or crafty type items.

    • Shoppingfan

      Just curious are you moving to Houston or a suburb? I’m in the Houston area as well & would love to look for a group like this as well.

  15. Justine

    Way better than a Tupperware party – or any party where you feel obligated to buy from your rep friend and end up spending too much!

  16. Bonnie

    I hosted one of these at my church for our young mom’s group this past spring. It was a hit! We are a smaller group…maybe 12 attended….but we had SO MANY items! We included clothing, shoes, purses, other accessories, and even hair care products, lotions, etc. This way there was something for everyone regardless of size. One of the girls recently asked if I would do another one! We did NOT do it like an auction, personally I think an auction style could get awkward if no one wants a certain item (or a certain person’s items…). Ahead of time I labeled different tables or clothing racks for coats/dresses/pants/tops/shoes/etc. As people arrived, I told them to place the items they brought in the designated areas. Then we had coffee/breakfast food until everyone arrived. Then it was time for free shopping! I encouraged people to maybe choose 3-4 items at a time, then try them on to see if they really wanted them (if not, they were asked to place items back in the correct location for others to ‘shop’). I had several full length mirrors available around the room which was really helpful.

    • Emily (Hip Sidekick)

      This sounds incredible, Bonnie! So organized and efficient! 🤩I completely understand skipping the auction portion because that could definitely get uncomfortable for some guests. My friends and I have been close for so long that there are no hard feelings when someone’s item isn’t wanted.

      I’m going to have to borrow your table labeling idea to make our swaps less messy and chaotic (as you can see from the post, we just throw things on couches 😆) Thank you for sharing!

  17. Sylvia

    Hip2Save you have great creative ideas, someone should create an internet swap page app where you can exchange stuff in your surrounding location, like an e-bay or Facebook version but for swaps.

  18. Bunny

    In my neighborhood, Buy Nothing Facebook pages are the place to go for free stuff. In my local group, someone will start a bag of clothes (with size mentioned) and will pass it on to the first person who is interested. That person takes stuff then adds clothes of their own and passes it to next person on list. We’ve done this with makeup/skincare stuff and it’s so much fun! And the best part of Buy Nothing is I’ve met wonderful neighbors who otherwise would never have known. Win win!

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