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How to Throw a Virtual Clothing Swap

by Haley Peterson 2 years ago in tips

Fashion. Friendship. Fun.

Have you ever heard of a clothing swap? The name is somewhat self explanatory, but in a few words, it is a get together where people bring clothes or accessories they no longer want and swap them for something else. It’s a perfect way to get rid of some of those items you always think you will wear (but never do) and add something new to your wardrobe.

With our current social distancing situation (and if you are reading this in the future I’m sure you remember what Spring of 2020 was like) having an in-person clothing swap just isn’t possible right now. Since I was planning on having a swap in April, my friends and I decided we would try to do the swap virtually using Instagram this year. The plan is to meet up for a “Swap After Party” on a later date to actually swap our items. I was a little skeptical about how it would all work, but we are a little over a week into our virtual swap and it has actually been pretty fun and easy. Follow the steps below to create your own virtual swap.

Invite your friends to create new Instagram accounts to be used for the swap.

Everyone creates their new username to be used specifically for the swap. We got a little creative and came up with usernames like @confessionsofaswapaholic and @getinloser_weregoingswapping. Then each participant follows all the others (and no one else) by setting accounts to “private.” This creates your own little shopping Instagram group. Too many swappers might make organizing the swap a little tricky. Between 5-10 swappers would be ideal. Our swap has seven people which I think is a good balance.

Post your items to swap.

By Malte Wingen on Unsplash

Share pictures and descriptions of your items. In our group, we take a few pictures of each item from different perspectives so others can see the details and condition of each item. We also describe the item, disclose any imperfections, and anything special about the item. Taking the time to present clear pictures and descriptions gives everyone a way to decide if they want to claim that item since they are not able to see it in-person. You may also want to include items other than clothing, such as accessories or housewares. In our group, we’ve decided to continue our swap for a month, and we each share 1-5 items a day so we can continue to look for items and enjoy swapping for longer.

Claim your items.

A general guideline for claiming items is that each participant can only claim as many items as she posts over the course of the swap. For example, by the end of the swap, if a person posts 20 items they can also claim 20 items. This prevents one person from taking everything, encourages everyone to carefully consider which items they claim, and keeps everyone engaged throughout the length of the swap. In our group, we comment on the photo of the item we want to claim. Then, the person who posted the photo edits its caption to “Claimed!” and tags the claimer in the photo. At the end of the swap, we can each easily see which items we claimed by looking back at our tagged photos. We only claim as many items as we plan on posting.

Conclude your swap.

By LUM3N on Unsplash

Continue posting until all participants are out of items to swap, and items have been claimed. Our group has not set an end date, but rather plans to continue posting and claiming items until we run out of items to swap. We also started a “Last Call” on items that have been unclaimed for over a week by posting those items in our story as a reminder that the item is still available. If no one claims it after 24 hours, we archive the post and put the item in a donation pile.

Keep track of which items belong to which person so they can be exchanged on a later date.

By Brooke Lark on Unsplash

By editing each photo, it is easy for us to keep track of who claimed what so we can exchange our items when we meet up in the future. I’m looking forward to swapping in person! We have not set plans yet, but I imagine we will meet at my house and have some brunch style food and drinks.

What makes a virtual swap unique.

By alex bracken on Unsplash

The most unique aspect to a virtual swap is obviously the effort required to recreate an in-person event. Photographing and describing items takes effort, but I’ve found that it’s actually fun, and making my items look attractive makes a huge difference in how quickly my items are claimed. Also, each participant has to commit to staying engaged and organized during the swap to ensure claimed items end up with the right people in the future.

Another difference I have noticed in the virtual swap is that everyone knows who brought each item. In contrast, at previous in-person swaps we all just set out our items on one table. For the most part, no one really knew who brought what. The lack of this anonymity in the virtual swap has made me a little more picky about what I share. I don’t post items that no one will want. However, it is also cool to see how the items people post reflect their style as well as who is interested in each item. I can almost guess who is going to claim some items just because I know what each swapper likes!

Also, claiming items can get a little tricky with the virtual swap since it is easy to see whose items are being claimed or not. At a traditional swap, the rule is you claim as many items as you bring. We stuck with that rule (you can claim as many items as you post) regardless of whether or not all your items were all claimed. Once "Last Call" items are archived, it may seem like some participants are claiming more than they contributed. In our group, no one is concerned that one person is taking too many things, but it would depend on the size of your swap when it came down to managing the claiming of items. One option is to choose not to include "Last Call" items in the total number of items claimed since those were the items that were going unclaimed anyway.

There are a few more pros to having a virtual swap. One is that instead of one day of swapping, participants gets a full month to swap. Also, it can be a challenge to get a whole group together on one date, so by swapping virtually more people can participate and swap on their own schedule. Thirdly, when swappers do eventually have a get together in-person it will be easier to chat and visit as opposed to focusing on the swap itself.

By Katy Anne on Unsplash

So far, we have been having a lot of fun sharing and claiming new items. It has been a great way to use social media in a positive way and keep in touch as a group of friends while we haven’t been able to see each other in person. I usually organize a yearly clothing swap. Maybe next year we will stick to the virtual model again!


Haley Peterson

I am a full-time teacher turned stay at home mom, and I have been loving every minute of it!

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