Savvy Consumer: Purge closets, update wardrobe with clothing swap

Grab some friends and score great new finds for free.
This is an archived article that was published on in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Hosting a clothing swap is great motivation to do a closet purge — a seasonal necessity — and a fun way to connect with friends and update your outfit — at zero cost. Plus, it's eco-friendly.

To ensure a successful swap, invite at least 10 women whose style you admire; have each bring three to 12 things in good condition to trade, including jewelry and unopened cosmetics, suggests Melissa Massello, a co-founder of Swapaholics, which stages clothing exchanges in the Boston area.

Don't worry about guests being different sizes — a roomy dress can be cinched in with a great belt, and accessories work for every size and shape. Consider opening the event to friends of friends, as well, and you add to the mix of swappables you get and make things more social. After all, what could be more of an icebreaker than sipping wine and trying on cute clothes with a bunch of your girlfriends?

To be sure your party doesn't turn into a free-for-all, let guests know that they can take home only the same number of items they've brought. Then, swap away. Here are some fun ways to host your own event.

Get ready • Fashion and fun are the focus here. Keep the vibe casual, with simple invitations and light bites. Create buzz by sending invites, paper or virtual, at least three weeks ahead to give guests time to sort through their closets. Serve non-staining sips such as white wine, fruit-garnished prosecco or spritzers, suggests Swapaholics' Massello. Provide easy finger food that won't make a mess, such as fresh fruit and veggies, crackers and cheese, and macarons. You don't want anything requiring too much cleanup.

Pretty it up • While guests are snacking, turn your space into a chic boutique by laying everything out artfully. Arrange accessories on a coffee table and end tables; use a tray, plates or even a bulletin board to display jewelry. Top cleared surfaces with neatly folded shirts — you don't want guests to feel as if they're going through someone's laundry.

Display shoes • Lay them out in a nice visual display. Just because it's your living room doesn't mean you can't transform the space and make it fun. Two guests want the same thing? Do a walk-off, in which each models the item and the group votes. It's a win-win, hard feelings are minimized and everyone leaves looking fabulous.

Take a fashion risk • A swap is the perfect chance to try something new, given that there's no buyer's remorse. Mix, match and experiment. Place hanging items on a clothing rack — you can rent one from a party store — or use an emptied hall closet. Create a try-on area; put mirrors around the room. Guests should be ready to disrobe — a cami and leggings are recommended. The best part about shopping with your friends is having some helpful input. Aside from leaving with a closet full of new threads, spread the wealth by bringing leftover clothing to a donation center. You can get a tax write-off in April.