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Beacon Senior News

Breathe new life into your closet: Host a clothing exchange party

Mar 02, 2020 03:45PM ● By Melanie Wiseman

Despite having closets and drawers overflowing with shoes, dresses, jeans, tops and sweaters,  how often do you find yourself with nothing to wear? Maybe things don’t fit right because they shrank or you’ve gained or lost weight. Maybe that dress was an impulse buy, or that sweater isn’t your color.

When it comes to shopping for clothes, let’s just say I’m not a fan. I quickly tire of navigating the congested maze of tightly packed racks of faddy merchandise and outlandish retail store markups and dislike having to flag down an employee when I need help. So I support local thrift stores instead.

When I was recently introduced to the concept of a clothing exchange party, I couldn’t contain my excitement.

clothing exchange

“You mean I get to shop and take clothes home for free? I’m in!”

I’m now a clothing swap groupie, if there is such a thing.

If your wardrobe needs a face-lift, organizing a fun and easy clothing exchange may be the answer.

Get swapping

Clothing swap parties are social and eco-friendly home gatherings where attendees bring unwanted clothing and accessories for the taking.

“I used to go to clothing exchanges when I lived in Flagstaff, Arizona,” said Sharon Sullivan. “When we moved to Grand Junction I wondered how I could get by without them!”

After a year, she invited friends and acquaintances over for a swapping party.

“It was a hit, and that was 20 years ago!” said Sullivan. “Since that first one, I’ve heard of other exchange groups in the valley.”

Connie Smith looks forward to the three or four events this group of friends holds each year. Anyone is welcome to host or invite a friend.

“I love getting new items of clothing and it makes you clean out your closet,” said Smith. “At the end of the event, there are usually many items left over, which hostesses donate to charities of their choice.”

Hostesses can also open up the exchange to shoes, purses, jewelry, games, books, CDs and DVDs, men’s and children’s clothing, and housewares.

Scoring treasures and friendships

clothing exchange shoppers
Cary Atwood, left, Melanie Wiseman, center, and Connie Smith, right, model some of the outfits they nabbed at a mutual friend’s clothing exchange party.


Cary Atwood began attending Sullivan’s clothing exchanges 18 years ago.

“Over time, I’d wager I’ve gone through half a closet of new-to-me sweaters, jeans, vests, shirts and the occasional dress,” said Atwood. “Most of the women who have attended are thrifters looking for a good find. Often, the exchanges are the only time I get to chat with these acquaintences.”

Smith took home a pair of sleek black boots from their last party. She said she’s had too many “good finds” over the years to count.

I scored a great hat and sweater as well as several tops perfect for travel.

“One thing that’s fun is when other women find clothes for you,” said Sullivan. “People have shown me things I would not have picked up and I end up loving them!”

It’s fun seeing your friends wearing your clothes around town, knowing they found a good home.

“One time I brought a bathrobe which one of the ladies took home, and her husband liked it and wore it,” said Smith. “Now that’s funny!”

The only clothing exchange rule

Once the clothes are sorted into piles, Sullivan gives the signal. “Okay, ladies...shop!” The hunting frenzy begins, full of chatter and laughter.

Sullivan hasn’t found it necessary to have a bunch of rules because most people are pretty relaxed and generous. Their only rule is to not start shopping until the signal is given. It’s never been Sullivan’s experience for women to fight over an item or to be greedy; it’s all in the spirit of fun.

“I embrace this kind of feel-good free for all,” said Atwood. “It’s a win-win for everyone and not a single dime is spent.”

How to host a swapping party

Compile the invitation list. Invite a good mix of sizes. Keep the guest list to 10-20 people.

Give invitees at least two weeks’ notice. Remind guests to come early to display their wares and make it clear that items not taken will be donated.

Host parties at the beginning of a season when people would be going through their clothing.

Be clear about what is “swap-worthy.” Stipulate the importance of all items being clean, contemporary and in good condition—no broken zippers, holes or stains.

Tell people to bring their own bags. Put those eco-friendly shopping bags to good use.

Decide on presentation. Display items on hangers or folded on tables for a chic look versus the casual pile-and-grab approach. Label areas by category and direct guests to sort their items when they arrive.

Browsing early is okay, just not shopping early.

Set up an area with several mirrors as a fitting room, such as a bathroom or bedroom.

Put on some upbeat music. After all, it’s a party!

Set a fixed start and ending time for the swap. An hour or so is usually good.

Encourage people to try things on even if it’s just for fun!

Consider extending social time with refreshments after the swap.

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How to donate to arc thrift stores

It’s super easy to donate your unneeded wares to ARC Thrift Store—and it feels good, too!

Donations to this mission-based organization stay in the community and help individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities live more independent lives. ARC is also one of the largest recyclers in the state, keeping millions of pounds out of Colorado landfills every year.

ARC Thrift Store, located at 2830 North Ave. in Grand Junction, is now open! The store accepts clothing, shoes, books, toys, kitchen items, furniture, home decor and many electronics. Donations are made in the back of the building, where ARC team members carefully and safely unload all items, so you don’t have to worry.

ARC also welcomes cash and credit donations, which are easy and secure. For more information, stop by today!