Swap Parties: Incorporate This Sustainable Soiree Into Your Social Calendar

August 8, 2023

We’ve all been there. The season changes from spring to summer or summer to fall and, as you survey last year’s wardrobe, you suddenly have the urge to get rid of all of last year’s fashion and buy something new. Call it the curse of fast fashion or the ephemeral nature of trends, but it’s never long before that itch for something ‘new’ starts to seep into your thoughts and subconscious. 

While thrifting is an eco-conscious option, there’s a better, cheaper way to get a new set of clothes without the cost. In this economic crisis, learn more about swap parties: the sustainable soiree you need to transform your wardrobe without breaking the bank.

swap party with two women

What is a Swap Party?

A swap party is an event organized with the goal of swapping items among friends, family, or your local community. It can be organized formally or informally in support of collaborative consumption, or the sharing economy. 

Read More Here: What Is Collaborative Consumption & How it Saves Your Money and the Planet

Beyond being a huge budget-saver, it’s also an environmental act that can reduce the number of clothing and goods that would otherwise end up in landfills. If you’re ready to host your own swap party, keep these things in mind:

1. Set Guidelines

A successful swap party is contingent upon clearly laid out guidelines sent out ahead of schedule.

Select a theme—whether summer clothing, coats and winter gear, books, kitchen swaps, toys, shoes, etc—and provide a range of items to bring. Five to fifteen pieces tends to be a good rule of thumb to allow for choice without overwhelm.

Next, emphasize quality over quantity for the pieces brought. Establishing a level of quality is helpful to ensure fair swaps in terms of wear and tear, luxury, and newness. 

2. Organize/Decorate the Swap Space

Before guests arrive, make sure the swap party space is organized and decorated in preparation for the festivities. Provide ample table/hanger space for the swappable items, along with labels for where items should go.

After setting up the swap area, be sure to prepare food and drinks in another room to keep guests occupied and entertained. 

Pro tip: Consider bringing out a mirror for those wanting to try items on. 

3.  Establish A Swap Party System

While it may be tempting to have everyone come and grab whatever they like, it can also be stressful and disorganized. Turn your swap party into a game by assigning a number to each guest. Have guests select items one at a time based on numerical order, with ‘one’ going last and then reversing the order for the next swap selection round. 

While each person is perusing the swap options, keep the rest of the guests in the food and drink room to clear the swap space, sending only one guest at a time. 

Rule of Thumb: Once all desired clothes are selected, donate the rest to a reliable thrift store for continued use.

4. Make it an Annual Tradition

Once you’ve hosted your first successful swap party, consider making it an annual tradition. With guests expecting an annual invite, they’ll be sure to set aside items throughout the year to swap for bigger and better selections. Even more importantly, you’ll have a guaranteed way to connect with friends, neighbors, and family to collectively minimize your environmental impact.

Other Swap Party Alternatives

If a swap party isn’t your thing, consider these other sustainably-minded parties instead:

  • Repair party: Bring clothes and items in need of repair and share repair tools together. Have people bring sewing kits, thread, hammers, wire, pliers, and more, to collectively repair items that otherwise would be thrown out or discarded.
  • Host a zero-waste craft party: From making your own soaps to DIY candles, host a zero-waste craft night to encourage reducing and reusing, rather than buying new items
  • Prepare a vegan picnic party: Let vegan patisserie and sandwiches be the star of your vegan picnic, the perfect outing for a hot summer day. For picnic tips and tricks, check out our article How to Host the Perfect Sunrise Picnic


Whether you have two items ready to be discarded or twenty, a swap party can help you upcycle your worn clothes and trade them for new and exciting pieces. And who knows? Maybe that pair of jeans that you thought was ‘so last year’ two years ago but now feels trendy and chic will find its way back to you several swap parties later. 

Start planning your swap party today!

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Photo: Ron Lach via Pexels

Dana Drosdick
Dana is a marketer living in Saratoga Springs, NY with a passion for all things related to stewardship, faith, wellness, and personal enrichment. Her work has been featured in various Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, The Odyssey Online, and The Banner Magazine. Follow her at @danadrosdick on Instagram for foodie trends, her latest book recommendations, and far too many photos of clementines.


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