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Organise a clothes swapping event

'Swishing' is a clothes swapping event which gives new life to old items, while bringing your local community together.

We’ve all got good quality clothes that we no longer wear, and a community swishing party encourages people to swap them for something else.

Recent studies suggest that around 30% of clothing hasn’t been worn in over a year, while the cost of this unused clothing is around £30 billion. Swished clothes can also be donated to local good causes.

What you will need

  • A place to hold the event
  • Lots of people to donate good quality clothes
  • Clothes rails and hangers — these can sometimes be borrowed from local shops
  • Mirrors — full length if possible
  • Publicity — put up some posters and ask local radio and press to drum up attention
bunting two
Illustrative bunting string in teal and navy blue.

How to swish


1) Set a date and spread the word

Book a venue and set a date. Think about how much space you want, and whether you want to partner with another event or organisation. A venue that comes with tables and chairs will be very useful, to save having to find and transport them from somewhere else. Make sure it also has good power outlets, toilets and a kitchen if you intend to serve food and drink. Once everything’s decided, get some posters made up and publicise on social media and in local press. Make contact with your local council’s recycling team as they might agree to support the event with funding, staff or simply to take away and recycle any leftover items..


2) Get some help

Make sure you have some people to help you promote, set up, and take any unwanted items to the charity shop afterwards.


3) Agree some rules

Decide how you want the swishing to work. Some clothes swapping events use tokens to encourage people to bring plenty of items, so for each item you bring, you get that many to exchange for new clothes; the more you bring the more you can take! This also lets volunteers check the donated clothes first, to make sure they are good enough to give to someone else. Figure out if you want donors to organise clothes first, e.g. women, men and kids. Some events let people browse before the swishing begins.


4) Add something extra

Swishes can be as simple as bring and take, but if you want to add something extra, consider making contact with local clothing or craft shops to offer fixing services. Or you could involve a local school in designing their own outfits and then putting on a mini fashion show.


5) Set up

Before the event, make sure you have everything you need including tables, clothing rails and coat hangers. If a few people pitch in, or a local shop helps out, then this can all be pulled together in no time. Clothing can be sorted before the event, if you have it, but people won’t expect it to be arranged into anything other than men’s, women’s and children’s so you can be super organised or just lay/hang items out as you get them on the day.


6) On the day

On the day make sure a volunteer is monitoring the swishing area at all times, and that there’s enough tea and coffee for all. Some music playing in the background can make things feel more lively, and having someone to take photos will be a great way to record the event. If you expect people to come throughout the day then staggering any activities would work well, as would holding back some clothes to make sure there is enough to go around towards the end of the event.

Or you could encourage people to arrive at a particular time for a ‘first come, first served’ approach. Near the end of the event, it might make sense to let anyone take as much as they like, so you’re not left with heaps, and a cut-off point for clothing donations will mean that you’re less likely to be left with more than you can cope with! .


7) The leftover clothes

If you get foot traffic, you could allow people to make a donation to take some clothes. Any leftover items can either be recycled or donated to a charity shop. Large numbers of clothing can be very heavy, so make sure you have an appropriate way to either store or transport everything at the end of the event. If you were able to weigh the total amount swapped, you could then generate some great statistics on the impact of your swishing event.

So, ready to take a look through your wardrobe?

If this seems too much at first but you like the idea, get a group of friends together and do a practice run between you.

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