The REAL clothes swap event rules

Thinking about going to a clothes swap or swishing event to save some money? Here’s how to get the best out of the occasion.

Clothes swapping is becoming increasingly popular as a way to get some new-to-you items without the usual outlay of buying extra things. It can be very cost effective indeed if the entry fees are reasonably low and you find lots of stock that you’d like to take home with you. Dropping off clothes and accessories you no longer use frees up space in your home, clears clutter, and hopefully keeps garments out of landfill sites, so it’s potentially neater and greener too. Another plus point is that these occasions can be used as charity fundraisers, with entry fees going to good causes or unclaimed items being given to charity shops afterwards.

Rule 1: Know what you’re getting into
Find out as much as you can about the event in advance. How much does it cost to attend, how much or how little can you swap, what sort of stock are they likely to have, and so on. You should also find out about HOW the swapping is arranged: at some events you have one item with you and exchange it directly with a fellow swapper as a mutual agreement; at others an attendant rates the goods you bring and gives you a credit note to go ‘shopping’ with; and there are also events where you bring an exact number of items and select an exact number in return.

Rule 2: Ask a friend
Ideally, speak to someone who has been to one of these particular events before, or attend the event with them. They’ll be able to tell you what it’s really like and what’s good and bad about it, so you know what to look out for. They’re often very sociable gatherings, so if you go with a friend you can sometimes relax beforehand or afterwards with nibbles, free drinks, samples or even live music.

Rule 3: Don’t go over the top
If you don’t know much about the event, take the minimum amount/value to swap. Test the water carefully and don’t take everything you own – you might not like anything you see when you get there and while there may be green credentials or the chance to help with charity fundraising, you won’t want to come out of it empty handed or feeling ripped off.

Rule 4: Nothing you’ll miss
Many organisers say you should bring items that you haven’t worn in a while and that you’re unlikely to use again. I’d just add this: don’t take anything you still have even a slight fondness for. If you’re still attached to an item and don’t want to keep it stored away, consider altering it, dyeing it, or selling it instead.

Rule 5: Clean and tidy
There is a trust system in operation so treat others as well as you’d wish to be treated yourself. Get your clothes into good condition before you set off – make sure they’re nice and clean, and that they don’t smell of cigarette smoke or kitchen grease. Remember to bring hangers if you’ve been asked to provide them too.

Rule 6: Get in first
Arrive early and hand things over in plenty of time. This makes it easier for the organisers, and it also gives you the chance to chat to staff or volunteers to find out more about the layout of the room, or whether they have any particular stock you should be making a beeline for. Have a nosey around if the rules allow. If it’s a free-for-all event where everyone’s let in at the same time and you have to grab things quickly, make sure you’re at the front of the queue.

Rule 7: Play nice
Be polite and friendly to the staff and to the other customers. The staff are far more likely to help you find what you want, for starters! Pushing, shoving and tugs-of-war are very much frowned upon, and make it harder for everyone to get around the event properly. Besides, there might be friends, friends-of-friends and other acquaintances there so, seriously, don’t act like a bitch.

Rule 8: Play fair
At many of these clothes swapping events, it’s quite likely that you and another person might grab or want the same garment at the same time. Settle these disputes fairly – many organisers will do this for you by flipping a coin or pulling names out of a hat. Be gracious and abide by their decision. If you want to take home more than you’ve brought in with you then check the rules, as you may be able to pay the extra for them at some swapping and swishing parties.

Have you been to a swapping or swishing event yet? Do you have any tips for first-timers?

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  1. A small group has put up a website, started a meetup group and hosted / organized several clothes swap events in Southern California. The group is HPSwap – and we’ve had fun. Swappers have been generous for the most part – and we’ve met some great new friends.
    The best tip is to ask the organizers ahead of time any questions – offer to help ( people who set up get the first look at everything), and make suggestions for making the event better… usually people organizing just want to do it and have fun and jump in head first – so it’s up to the participanats to make the most of it…
    Also – help publicize the event(s) and encourage people to go – bigger swaps mean more selection (and sizes) for everyone – better swaps.

  2. Hello,

    Not sure if this is a UK or US-based web site, but we’d really appreciate it if you could mention our website We run a series of events in East Lonon and North London in the UK. If your readers are interested in a good ol’ swap then checkout out the events page ) for latest events. We’re doing the Field Day festival in Victoria Park this year and you’d be surprised at how many people come and swap. It’s great fun.

    Thanks and happy swapping,
    Mrs Bear

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