Nekkid Lady Party: My tips on how to host a clothing swap

Guest post by Lily Supardan

Alley-33-Clothing-Swap-betholsoncreative-68 © by BethOlsonCreative, used under Creative Commons license.

About 8 years ago I moved from Portland to Seattle and realized I had way. Too. Much. Crap. I thought to myself, “Self, you can either donate to Goodwill or you can see if your friends want to pick through your stuff.”

I chose the latter. Girlfriends came over to what I called a “take my stuff” party and did just that. In the process, some brought over clothing and shoes they wanted taken away as well and thus, Lily’s Nekkid Lady Party was born.

If you’re considering hosting a clothing swap, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is your closet a-burstin’?
  • Too many black dresses that look exactly the same?
  • Pants that don’t fit anymore or are no longer your style?
  • Time to offload, but you’re too lazy to deal with a garage sale?

THIS is what hosting a clothing swap is for, and I’m here to tell you how to do it.


I usually do invitations via Facebook and/or email. Some of my friends are not on Facebook, so I have to remind myself to send an additional email out with the information.

Who to invite

  • Range of sizes: Make sure you invite a range of people in a range of sizes — it sucks when a tiny petite friend shows up with a bag full of clothes, only to find that everyone else is six inches taller than her. It ALSO sucks to be the only plus-size attendee at a swap where everyone’s gleefully trying on each other’s size 4 pants.
  • Range of styles: I like to invite a mix of my Burner/offbeat friends and my coworkers. This makes for a nice blend of weird costume-y stuff and Banana Republic basics.
  • Body comfortable: If you have a friend who you know is very shy and/or modest, they may not feel comfortable stripping down and trying on clothes at the party. I’ve found that when you have guests with a wide range of body shapes and sizes, even shy people generally feel less self-conscious — in fact, it can be super empowering.


Not everyone is on the same schedule as you. If you can’t pick a weekend day, go for mid-week. In my experience, Wednesdays or Thursdays are great for a wide range of people. I start the swap at around 5 pm and we go til 8:30 or so.

On that note, allow at least 4 hours of swap time. Not everyone will show up right at the time you’ve picked to start. Some people like to roll in an hour late, although most of my friends get there right at the beginning, because they want to get first pick on the clothes!


Yes, it’s important to establish rules for the swap. I usually send these out in the invitation. They’re pretty simple:

  1. Clean shoes only. Nothing muddy or falling apart. There’s nothing worse than bringing your shitty, muddy, super old shoes circa 1990. Seriously. Throw those things away or donate them, because chances are no one will take them at a swap.
  2. No underwear. You think I’m kidding? No. People bring their underwear to swap. This is not only unacceptable, but kind of gross when you think about it. It’s one thing to bring new underwear THAT’S NEVER BEEN WORN, but bitch, please, leave your nasty used skivvies at home.
  3. No sports jerseys. This has also happened. Old jerseys should be rags, or donated to your local Goodwill, where someone will buy them and use it as a costume.
  4. No swimsuits. While I loves me a cute swimsuit, I find this to be along the same lines as underwear. Unless it hasn’t been worn or you’re really good friends with the person you happen to be taking it from, please don’t bring it to a swap.

Other than these rules, it’s all fair game. At my swaps, we’ve traded perfumes, jewelry, books, purses, backpacks. Most of the swaps I’ve hosted turn into girly flea markets…minus the exchanging of money. IT’S AMAZEBALLS!


Do it in a space that has good lighting and mirrors, and if you don’t have mirrors, ask people to bring them. Two of my girlfriends brought additional mirrors to the last swap I hosted, which was a relief since it was held in a community room with no mirrors.

Also, make sure the space is secure. You don’t want your roommate coming home with five random friends while there are a bunch of people standing around your living room in their underwear.


Supply snacks and wine/beer/fizzy water. I usually have cheese, crackers, and wine on hand, but I also ask that my friends bring stuff to share as well. After all, it is a social event as well – while you’re swapping clothes, you’re also sharing stories over a glass of wine. Or a bowl of popcorn. Or a veggie plate.

Also, since I’m in that age bracket, I make my swaps kid-friendly. Not everyone wants to spring for a babysitter or leave their significant other with the kids. Babies and toddlers are always welcome at my swaps, as long as the parents bring toys to keep them busy.


After every clothing swap, bag the leftover clothing and donate it to a women’s (or men’s, if applicable) shelter. I’ll admit there have been a few times when I’ve been lazy and just walked it over to the Value Village near my house, but only when there’s been underwear and jerseys!

Every other batch of clothing was donated to a women’s shelter — at my most recent swap, it was 12 bags of women’s clothing. See? EVERYBODY WINS!

If you’ve hosted a clothing swap, what have you learned about making them as awesome as possible?

Comments on Nekkid Lady Party: My tips on how to host a clothing swap

  1. My swap was a hit because a.) I made a pitcher of French 75’s with cheap champagne that made everyone good and tipsy b.) I included books and household items too, which was a draw for my non-fashiony friends c.) one of my friends is a costume designer, who offloaded a bunch of her stuff there in addition to good clothes – a few friends ended up with gorgeous handmade Halloween costumes! d.) despite wearing a range of clothing sizes (4-16) and heights (4’11” – 5’10”) everyone miraculously wore a size 8 shoe.

  2. I did one of these a few months ago with my Belly Dance buddies and our students. It was a great way for the students to get some ideas of what’s lying around in our closets and talk shop, we had lots of other things there too not just belly dance stuff. And of course where there are belly dancers there is always copious amounts of food and wine and hummus (which is its own food group with us). It was a blast we are planning another one soon!

  3. So inspired by this that I’ve already created a Facebook event for my friends. And I like the pitcher of cocktails idea. I’m finding that a full bar with “just mix your own whatever” is a lil intimidating for people who don’t already know what they like.

  4. I hosted a swap in Paris where I let folks barter! I had a stack of note-cards where folks could write a service or some-such to trade for items. This really worked since the pickings were slim for us all (tiny apartments) and we were broke. I traded a well-loved red sweater for a loaf of banana-bread and some egg-nog. I got rid of a bunch of stuff and folks got to share their talents in lieu of having to trade stuff or money.

  5. I really can’t agree with the ‘range of sizes and shapes’ thing enough. I’ve been to several where I was the only one there who wasn’t petite – it’s enough to make even this super body confident lady miserable…

    • Agreed. My friends don’t understand why I have never gone to one of their clothing swaps…it’s because they’re all itty bitty B cups and I have a 42″ rack!

  6. Ok I’ve really been wanting to do this for a while, but do you establish a one for one kind of rule or just let people go crazy and take whatever they like, regardless of how much they brought? Is each person responsible for negotiating their own trade or do you throw everything in the middle and have a free for all? Sorry, I need logistics!

    • As an attendee of many Lily parties, I can pipe in here: it’s a free-for-all, and goes by a general honor system. Everyone brings tons of stuff, everyone walks out with tons of stuff. There is no negotiating, except for between people who are both eyeing the same thing… which usually results in a sorta “first dibs” and then “let’s be honest: who’s wearing it better?” moments.

      I generally want to come home with LESS than I arrived with (my goal is purging old clothes, and the new clothes are just a bonus), so for me personally, I’ve never felt like I’ve be short-changed by somehow people taking my stuff without me getting enough.

    • When I’ve attended swaps before, we did some separating into piles (pants in one corner, shirts in another, etc.) and then it was just a free-for-all. It worked for us.

  7. Having worked at a homeless shelter, I would like to re-iterate what she said about some items: some things should just be rags/garbage. Don’t donate things to a shelter that normal people wouldn’t wear. We used to get bags of clothes every day, and it took hours of staff or volunteer time to go through it all and then someone still had to deal with getting rid of all the super out-dated, stained, etc. crap. Donations are great, but if you’re not thoughtful, they are just a lot of work and can be insulting (who thinks that they are doing someone a favor with their sweat-pit stained old tshirt?). Homeless people are still people. But, yes, if there is good stuff–by all means, donate! 🙂

  8. When I lived in Olympia, WA (greener alum!) there were lots of swaps and they were great! There were also free stores, which are like permanent swaps where you can donate things and take things and probably should not remove your clothes (but then again, it’s Olympia so it’s pretty acceptable to remove your clothes almost anywhere). Now I live in NYC and wish I could have one, but alas my apartment is dark and I live with two guys. But oh, the days of awesome clothing exchanges in Olympia! The handmade hippie skirts! The flannels and peasant tops! You definitely had to wash everything when you got home because hygiene isn’t most greeners strong suit, but oh! It was amazing.

  9. I was part of a clothes swap fundraiser a few years ago- we tried selling donated 2nd hand clothes at a market, but didn’t sell much so we held a swap on campus at uni and charged like $5 admission (went towards an educational project in Cambodia, covered food costs) and then it was a free for all. Was good in that people who didn’t have any/many clothes to contribute (like international students) could still take part, although most people bought a few pieces. We raised a bit of $$$, and donated the remaining stuff to the Slavos (which was much less than what was left over from the market).
    Been travelling with work this year, but I can’t wait to try a clothes swap party with friends once I return home!

  10. Yes, this! I live in a small town in Uganda and the only place to buy clothes is the second hand market, which is all the left-over stuff from second hand shops in the West. We have clothes shops with all the ex-pats, and a lot of people bring great quality stuff from their home countries that they just don’t wear any more. A great way to get some nice things and an awesome social occasion, too.

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