There’s nothing like a swap party to keep your credit card expenditure under control and those creative wardrobe juices flowing. With chocolate cake in hand, I can’t wait to attend the Seattle Swap on January 22! In this post, Antje, who is coordinating the YLF Global Swap Event, has some great tips for attendees.

We hope that many of you will be able to attend one of the clothes swap parties hosted by YouLookFab members on or around January 22. Check out the current line-up and be sure to contact us if you are interested in hosting one in your area! We have compiled some tips for hosts that you can find on the main swap page. Today’s post, however, is written with attendees in mind, whether you are planning to attend one of the swap parties later this month, or some other future clothing swap.

Let’s start with a quick refresher of why a clothes swap is a super way to spend a couple hours of your time: It’s a great opportunity to update your wardrobe – for free! And at the same time, it’s the kick in the rear you need to do some “editing” in your closet, shed the things you don’t wear anymore, and set them free to acquire a new life in someone else’s wardrobe. You may refer back to this article for more good reasons to swap clothes, and maybe have your own personal ones as well.

Now that you decided to attend one, how do you prepare?

What to bring: Each swap host will give you some guidelines on what to bring. For example, a minimum or maximum number of items, or the types of items (clothes, shoes, belts, jewelry, etc.)  It’s only respectful to stick to those guidelines – or to check with the host if you’re unsure. Most importantly, you want to bring clothes that are clean and in good shape. As a rule of thumb, you don’t want to be embarrassed to claim ownership of the items you contribute.

What to wear: Of course you can come as you are However, I’ve found that just like when going on a big shopping trip, it’s a good idea to “dress for changing”, which for me means wearing clothes that are easy to take off and put on, and that provide neutral backdrops for separates I try on. For example, jeans work well as a basic bottom for me (this will be different for you if you’re a skirt girl or prefer to wear smart pants on a regular basis), and a black or other neutral camisole can be super helpful for layering when trying on all kinds of tops and dresses. You might also want to consider your privacy needs, since there will likely be one communal “dressing room”.

How to pick and choose: Most swaps are organized as a “free for all”, where all the clothes that are contributed get displayed immediately and all participants can freely pick things to try on and take home (a typical — and very sensible — rule is that you don’t get to take home things you haven’t tried on.) I’ve seen this work very well, but it does mean you can’t be too shy and you do have to signal your interest in something by picking it up, trying it on pretty quickly, and setting it aside if you decide to take it. And if it doesn’t work out for you, just put it back right away so someone else can have a turn.

Focusing and filtering: When I see all the goodies displayed, I try and get a sense for what I want to look at and try on first. This is partially determined by what I’m most interested in (e.g., am I hoping to find a fun skirt, or a fancy top?) and partially by what’s available. For example, if my pants size doesn’t seem to be represented very well, I might either just forgo bottoms altogether during this swap, or alternatively, try on the few that I see right away as they might not be available anymore after the first rush. And if you find that your size is just not well represented, period, then just focus on shoes or accessories while everyone else is digging through clothes.

Taking advantage of the crowd: If you want it — ask for feedback! I personally find it super helpful to have so many other women around who can give me honest feedback on how an item looks on me. I usually have a specific question (like “does this color suit me” or “is this too short/long/tight/loose” – maybe just “is this ME?”) and encourage others to give me honest feedback. No one has hurt my feelings yet and I’ve found it very helpful. However, don’t feel like you need to involve others in your decision making process. If you just want to try things on and settle on what to keep by yourself, you will be left in peace.

Trying something new: I think the biggest benefit of a clothes swap is that it lets you experiment with an item you might not have purchased in a store, but that somehow intrigues you and that you take home because it’s new and different and it’s completely free. Be open to this, and enjoy trying on a piece of clothing you might not be really sure about but that somehow draws you in. You might discover a whole new side of yourself and your style!

I hope these tips help you to make the most out of the upcoming parties. Do those of you who have attended clothes swaps before have any additional tips to share?