Swishing (clothes swapping) is a fabulous way to update or refresh your wardrobe, without having to splash the cash.
Check out the Swishing website to see if there is a Swish near you.
If there isn’t, fear not!
Here’s a handy guide to putting on a Swish!
Swishes come in many different formats, ranging from a night in with a couple of friends, and the collective de-cluttered contents of your wardrobes, through to fiendishly complicated high fashion events.
You can have a swish without even leaving the comfort of your own home.
Invite round a few friends, along with the contents of their wardrobes that no longer fit/they are bored of/they’ve bought and never worn, crack open a cheeky bottle or two of vino (optional!) and swish away!
Important note: make sure you invite friends who are a similar size to you.
Cheeky tip: invite friends whose clothes you covet…!
Find a venue
Before you look for a venue you will need to have some idea of how many people you are expecting/how big your swish will be.
If you are running a free event, and not charging for admission, then you will probably want to find a venue that won’t charge you.
For the swish I run, the landlord of a pub in town lets us use the skittle alley attached to the pub for free. He gets extra income from the drinks sold on the night, and we get a great venue with drinks on tap-win win!
It is definitely worth asking around local pubs and cafes to see if they would be happy to let you use some of their space.
If you are charging for admission, then you might be able to afford to pay for a venue, so have a look at places like village and town halls.
Important note: make sure that the space you are using has somewhere for people to try clothes on.
We use a folding screen in the corner of the room, with a long mirror propped up against the wall. You could also try draping some big sheets to corner off an area. Anything is better than dispatching people to the loos!
– No charge for entry but everyone must bring at least one item of clothing with them, and they are allowed to take away as many items as they want.
The advantage of this is that it takes much less organisation, and there is no ‘barrier’ to people coming along and swishing away.
There is always a concern that people will take advantage and take ‘everything’, but I have generally found that most people bring more than they take.
-Ask for a donation on the door-either to cover costs, or to donate to charity. This is pretty easy to do-just have a bucket by the door for people to chuck their change into. Some peopel seem to positively want to give some money, as there is something about ‘stuff for free’ that can make some people feel uneasy!
-Charge for admission, and either sell tickets in advance or on the door. You can also include a glass of wine or simliar with the admission price.
Decide on your swishing ‘system’
-Bring at least one item, and take as many things as you want away with you
-Issue tokens (you can use things like raffle tickets, or even milk bottle tops) for the items people bring along.
So for example if you bring eight items, you get eight tokens, and you get to ‘spend’ eight tokens
-Issue tokens depending on the quality of the items people have bought.
For example, a Primark top might get one token; an M&S top might get 3 tokens; and a designer top will get 5 tokens. These items then ‘cost’ the same amount of tokens.
This takes a lot more organisation, but helps to avoid any concerns over people bringing an H&M skirt, and leaving with a Boden coat!
Decide how you are going to sort the clothes
You can ask people to drop clothes off beforehand, so the clothes can be sorted and then laid out ready to swish.
Sort through them all beforehand, and check everything is clean and in the kind of condition you are expecting. If you have the time or inclination, you can wash anything that needs it, or just pass it on to a local charity shop.
OR people can bring items on the night and you sort and lay them out as people arrive.
With this option you might want to have at least some clothes ready to start the evening, so that the table isn’t bare when the first people arrive.
You also need more people to help you and it can get a little overwhelming when everyone is arriving at the same time, and thrusting bags of clothes at you!
An element of discretion is also needed if anyone brings along things that aren’t quite up to muster-I have had clothes that smell bad, that are torn, or are just really tired and worn. Have a bag under the table ready for any items like this, and subtely slip them in!
An ‘in-between’ option is to get people to bring along clothes an hour before the event starts. You can then sort the clothes and lay them out for everyone to see, and then allow a half hour of browsing for everyone to have a look, without picking anything.
Set your ‘rules’!
Make it clear on any promotional material that any clothes bought along need to be clean and in good condition. Swishing is not a way to get rid of shabby clothes!
If your swish has a ‘theme’, for example summer clothes, or work clothes, or even accessories only, make this clear beforehand.
Decide in advance how you are going to resolve any ‘disputes’ if two (or more!) people want the same item. Something simple like flipping a coin, or a good old fashioned game of Paper, Scissors, Stone works well!
Things you need:
Tables-jeans and t-shirts can just be folded neatly and laid out on tables
Hanging rails-the more you can get your hands on the better! Try and get really sturdy ones, as the cheap ones are a bit flimsy and have a habit of collapsing at approximately half hour intervals throughout the evening.
If you are planning lots of events, it might be worth buying a couple (check out eBay for secondhand ones).
If you are just doing a one off, or having a trial run, then ask friends, or post a WANTED on Freegle, to see if anyone has one you can borrow for the night.
Coat hangers-as many as you can get your hands on!
Might be worth asking a local charity shop or even an ‘actual’ shop if they have some you could borrow (could be good promo for a shop).
Or again, try Freegle.
A long mirror-you need at least one mirror so that people can try on garments and check out how they look/fit
A changing area-as I said, we rig up a folding screen in the corner as a makeshift changing room, and this works well. If there is side room, then you can use this, or get imaginative with draped sheets etc..!
Tables and chairs for people to sit down and have a chat!
Decorations-bunting, or tableclothes to ‘pretty up’ your venue
Other things you might want to have going on alongside your Swish
This is a great idea to have an alteration station, with a local seamstress or upcycling supremo on hand to advise people on how they can alter or upcycle garments to fit better, or to suit their own style.
Check out Swap-o-Rama-Rama for inspiration!
Ask talented friends, or approach local small businesses-they would hopefully see it as a good opportunity to promote their business and maybe pick up some work!
If you are running a big event, and your venue has the space, then an upcycled/pre-loved fashion show would be an awesome thing to include!
You could get in touch with your local college to see if they have any textile students who might be interested in taking part.
Some swishes have people there doing nails etc. Vintage hair do’s might be fun!
Promote the Swish
Let people know that it’s happening!
Create a Facebook event, and invite your local friends, and ask them to invite their friends.
Tweet your swish, and ask local friends or businesses to re-tweet it for you.
If you are in a Freegle group, you may be able to send an e-mail to the group to let them know about the event-check with your local admin if this is something they allow
Tell all your friends!
Posters around town are a good way to promote events-many local shops and cafes are more than happy to put a poster up for you, as well as places like the library and information centre. After the Swish Have a plan in place for what you are going to do with any leftover clothes. Anything that is dirty, torn, or just plain tired, can be donated to charity shops for their ‘rag bags’. They get paid for these things by textile recycling companies, so they don’t go to landfill, and the charity gain some income from it. If you are planning more swishes, then have a sort through and cherry pick the best items to keep for next time. If you aren’t swishing again, and for other leftover clothes, you can donate them to local charity shops, or projects like women’s refuges may be grateful for donations.
So there you have it.
Go forth and SWISH!