Clothes Swap

Shopping Alternatives #1: Clothes Swap

This Sunday I participated in a girls-only clothes swap event. The rules were very simple: bring the clothes you don’t wear anymore and all that is left after swapping will be donated to charity. I am not a 100% convinced about donating clothes to charity but I wanted to try out clothes swapping. I did it before in Madrid and it was a bit like feeding the lions…

Some clothes and shoes disappeared faster than they could be taken out of our bags and put on the table. I even saw some women fighting over a piece of clothing, well they were for free so it was a bit like a super-sale event without the need for money.

This time we would be less people and it was more about doing something good than just getting rid of old and/or exchanging for “new” clothes.

Here is what I brought to the event:

  • A Diesel dress
  • A pair of tie dyed jeans
  • A pair of clogs from Buffalo
  • A lace skirt for under your skirt
  • A wool cap from Kangol (from the 90’s, they were so hot back then)
  • A wool skirt from Olsen
  • Jewellery

I want to tell you why I am not a big fan of donating for charity. There is an article on The Guardian about donating clothes that appears interesting to me.

Back to charity: The problem I see with donating clothes is that about half of it is being resold in developing countries. There is no problem with offering cheap second hand clothing to people in need as a low-cost option. The problem lies in the fact that these second hand markets offering the 1st worlds textile waste are competing with the local textile industry and pushing small craftsman and artisans out of business. The less we shop cheap and the longer the clothes last in our closets the more we avoid flooding the rest of the world with our fashion trash.

Back to the event in Rotterdam this weekend. The clothes swap was very clever organised and the organiser told us that she especially chose to do it this way as it was her favourite way to swap clothing. No clothes fights and no grabbing as much and as fast as possible. This is how it worked: We left our bags with the clothes we wanted to swap in one corner of the room and sat down around the living room table to have tee and cookies. This was a great start already. After a general introduction, we didn’t meet before, the host started presenting clothes from a random bag. We could say if we wanted to try it on and after three bags, and different people taking turns presenting different bags, we had a “changing room” break when we tried on the clothes we had picked before. What we liked we kept the rest went into the charity bag. Everything that was not chosen from the presenting rounds also went into the charity bag.

If more than one person wanted something they would all try the piece on and if they still liked it, they would do a lucky draw at the end. At the end of the day there were two lucky draws and no clothing fights, yeah.

The event was really fun as we got the chance to chat a lot, eat cookies and also give style tips to each other. It’s especially good if you present your own bag with clothes as you are the one who knows your clothes best.

I went home with a bag of fitness clothes, a denim skirt and a sweater to wear at home. At every piece of clothing I tried on I asked myself if I was going to wear it. Just taking clothes and than not wearing them wouldn’t make any sense to me.

Clothes SwapDid any of you go to clothing swaps before? What are your favourite ways to swap clothes and what do you dislike?


8 thoughts on “Shopping Alternatives #1: Clothes Swap

  1. annamaderight says:

    I’ve been wanting to organize a clothes swap! My plan is to invite friends and have them bring friends, who can bring friends etc. I think it’s a lovely way to get new things in a sustainable way 🙂 My only worry would be if someone felt like no one wanted their stuff…. Did that happen at all?
    Anna @

    • Martha - your green city says:

      Hi Anna,

      it does happen that clothes end up in the charity bag but that’s probably better than to throw them into a landfill right away. Another rule we had to keep your favourites clothes out of the charity bag was to allow people to take them back if the wanted. The even was so much fun that I didn’t really worry about my clothes not being wanted. I think as long as you find something nice to take home it will be less of a problem. I hope you enjoy your clothes swap and exchange a lot of clothing.
      P.S.: I really like your blog and your mission to support local production. The interview I made with the founder o Constant Simplicity will probably also be interesting for you. Interview with

      Best, Martha

      • annamaderight says:

        Yes – that was a good & important read! Thanks! I will check out that brand also 🙂 I should get my act together and organize that clothes swap, thanks for sharing and it does sound like it was lots of fun!

  2. Conscious Collegiette says:

    I’ve never participated in a clothing swap before (I’ve always just donated or “gifted”), but this sounds like a great alternative. I love this idea of socializing/sharing cookies/having a lucky draw instead of “leaping in for the kill”, black friday-style. Clothing swaps should be a nonviolent and happy event, haha!

    I actually just went through my closet and donated a bunch of clothing to a nonprofit, but the Guardian article you linked certainly sheds some light and will make me think more carefully about donation transparency – rather sad.

    I think it’d be really fun to organize a clothing swap like this at my school. I’m just wondering how this can work or be adapted for a large scale event and how much time it would take. Let me know if you have any thoughts on this 🙂

  3. Martha - your green city says:

    Hi Collegiette,

    it definitely will be fun to swap clothes if you manage to avoid the black Friday style version of it. You might want to organise groups or at least ask people to organise their clothing in sizes. It is much more fun to go to a swap when the clothes you will be seeing are somewhere close to your own size. Then there will be more to choose from.
    Once you find out the best way I would like to hear the results, have fun with it.



  4. AimeeNott says:

    This was a super interesting read – I’ve never been to a clothes swap mainly because of the issue mentioned above. I’ve always though they would be a bit manic and could end up being more like a fight over the clothes. I loved this though, it was very encouraging! I was also really interested in what you mentioned about charity shops. I didn’t know this was an issue, and I’m not overly keen on my donated clothes being used that way – I will definitely be doing more research on the subject. Thanks for the great post!

Share your opinion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s