How to host a clothes swapping event

Gone are the days where wearing second hand meant being forced to wear your older brother’s hand-me-downs that had been ‘customised’ by your mum to make them ‘more girly’ (usually involving copious amounts of lace trim and/or an iron-on patch). All we had to do was replace the words ‘second hand’ with ‘vintage’ or ‘retro’ and voila, old has become the new new. With celebrities like Dita Von Teese and Nicole Richie leading the way down (fashion) memory lane, second hand is now far more Grammy than Granny, and not only that but it’s incredibly bank-account and environment friendly too.

Vintage clothing shops have been popping up like daisies across the UK, but despite their musty smell and questionable music choices, they do tend to be quite pricey. And while charity shops can contain some great hidden gems, finding them does often involve trawling through rail after rail of corduroy trousers and velveteen blouses. Of course some do succeed in pulling these off, but it’s fair to say that for mere mortals like me such items should stay firmly in the hands of those in possession of a free bus pass.

So for those of you looking for a fast, fun and pricetag-less way to pick up some second hand sizzlers, why not consider hosting your very own clothes swapping event. For those of you who haven’t heard of these before, it basically involves gathering up a group of people armed with clothes, shoes and accessories that they’ve never had the right occasion to wear, that no longer fit, or they’ve simply gone off, and bringing them all together in one place to be oggled over and exchanged – as they say, one girl’s Crocs are another girl’s Louboutins. Not only does this eradicate the corduroy problem, it also means that the clothes are completely free, and you get the added benefit of catching up with friends or meeting new people at the same time. Here are my top 5 tips for hosting a clothes swap party to remember…

1) Choose a venue
Probably the easiest and cheapest place to host your swapping event is chez vous. Of course if you wanted to make it a big event, it’s usually easy to hire out community centre halls, or even function rooms in hotels or restaurants to make it extra swanky. Ask around for old clothes rails you can borrow (you mum/nan is probably your best bet), or Homebase currently have them on special offer for 2 for £15. Alternatively, you could try stringing washing line from wall to wall and peg clothes on, or simply lay them out on tables.

2) Invite your guests
Send out invitations that include a list of guidelines – clothes should be washed beforehand (and ironed if necessary), in good condition, and advise that old pairs of knickers or socks may not be best-sellers (except of course where Agent Provocateur is involved – if so gimme). Ask for donations to be dropped off before the event so that you’ve got a good amount to get you going on the day. I used this here ‘drobe as a template for my ‘lift the flap’ style invites.

3) Have a wardrobe overhaul
Don’t just rely on your guests to provide the goods -make sure you’ve got something to offer too. A good amount is between 5-10 items of clothing, shoes, jewellery and other accessories each. Be ruthless! My rule is that any item of clothing which hasn’t been worn in a year or more has to go. And no, you can not use the ‘but what if I need it for fancy dress’ excuse.

4) Provide food and refreshments
There’s nothing quite like  a sausage roll to make your guests feel welcome. If you feel like going upmarket, pink champagne and cupcakes go down a treat. If you’re looking for something a bit more laid back (and kinder to the purse) serve up jugs of punch or sangria, and scatter around bowls of crisps and dip. Of course, just offering a nice cup of tea is enough to quench a retail-therapy induced thirst

5) Take any leftovers to a charity shop
Don’t let things go to waste – put any unwanted items in bin bags and drop them off at your local charity shop. They will be more than happy to take them off your hands.

Happy swapping!

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I went shopping.

I recently experienced two especially distressing clothes tragedies. Firstly, my suitcase was stolen whilst I was on a weekend away in Paris. I say stolen, the truth is I couldn’t be bothered to drag a 26kg suitcase up five flights of uneven, precarious looking steps that only the French know how to achieve to my friend’s loft appartment, so instead I decided to leave it in the little courtyard at the back of the building. I took out my valuables (I’m not that stupid), but thought a suitcase of clothes would be perfectly safe within a secured building in a respectable part of Paris. Wrong. Goodbye favourite half of wardrobe.

Secondly, I loaned a friend my beautiful emerald green maxi skirt that I had practically lived in last summer but had yet to make its debut this year. Unfortunately said friend’s inexperience in the realm of chiffon led her to push an iron over it. It died in the prime of life, and will remain eternally beautiful. The Princess Di of the skirt world.

So anyway, both of these events (as well as the long-awaited appearance of my student loan) made me decide that I deserved to treat myself to a shopping trip. And so behold a shopping trip was created, and I looked at my shopping and I saw that it was good. The main beauty of it came with the discovery of H&M’s new Conscious Collection. All the pieces in this line of clothing are made in a completely environmentally and socially sustainable way, and not only that but they are simply beautiful! An incredible combination of this Spring’s pastel colours, lace and crochet textures and tropical prints, all completely guilt-free. You can imagine my excitement when I came across these adorable floral-print shorts, made entirely from recycled polyester.

Here’s a few of my fave pieces from the collection…

100% recycled polyester cropped top £9.99

Embroidered organic cotton dress £49.99

100% organic cotton crocheted shorts £19.99