How 'green' is swapping clothes?

It’s 15.00 and I walk to the Erasmus Paviljoen Clothing Swap. It’s quiet outside and I wonder if I am too late, since the swap started at 14.00. When I walk in, I see that’s not the case. The theater where the swap is hosted is transformed into a chic boutique. Clothes are hanging from the high ceiling and are organized with the help of clothing racks. A DJ booth plays smooth lounge music and there is a cosy coffee corner. I smile when I notice some heels in the corner. Looks like they are my size.

Clothing swaps have reached the mainstream. The concept is very simple: you bring preloved clothes, just like the other attendees, and in exchange you take home items that do fit your wardrobe. Clothing swaps come in all forms and sizes; from a small group of friends to big and well-organized events. However, second hand and ‘consuless’ (consume-less) doesn’t sound very sexy to all of us. So what do we love about swapping?

So far, I personally only have been to the bigger clothing swaps. I love to search the clothing racks for something unexpected. With many people you never know what could be there…

At the Erasmus Paviljoen Clothing Swap I ask others what they prefer and it is a mix. The bunch-of-friends-swapper love the small parties better to ensure themselves of good items.

Swap parties make me happy. I can meet like minded people, shop for free, have a great day and most importantly I’m shopping sustainable! Swapping clothes extends the lifetime of clothing, what is above all the most sustainable way of fashion consumption. It is still better to wear jeans till the end of its life than buying new bio-cotton made jeans.


Why o why

And that we should do more. According to Nibud, an information centre for households, 25% of the Dutch citizens very often buy stuff they don’t need. A green wardrobe does not match with high consumerism at all. Even though something might be produced ‘green’, over-buying ‘green’ products also eventually leads to a high growth of landfills. Swapping makes this unnecessary.

Most of the women I spoke with during the swaps (yes most attendees are woman) said that sustainability is not the main reason they attend. Some don’t even notice they are being involved in something sustainable. For them, a Clothing Swap Party is a nice day out shopping with lovely bites and drinks, and (depending on the event) great side activities such as style advice, fashion shows, etc.


Online swapping

An alternative to real-life swapping, is online swapping, to swap at any time at any place. You can imagine online swaps have a broader range of products, hence more sizes and styles to offer. With over 40.000 international members,, is the biggest online swapping platform. I bet you can find something here!


The best known Dutch site is . To be frank, this platform doesn’t really facilitate real swapping. You can however sell your clothes (and thus buy others).

The German version, recommended by a friend, is .

A Guide To The Best Swapping Experience

  • What you bring is what you get. If that very nice dress you love really doesn’t fit anymore, or that slightly expensive jersey isn’t really your style… bring them along! If you bring lovely items, others will do too. Nobody loves a swap with only plain tank tops.
  • Wear stockings and a tank-top. Not all swaps have a dressing room, or have a shared dressing room. If you are not really comfortable being in your undies between people, be prepared so you can try on clothing.
  • If you find something fantastic, but unfortunately isn’t your size or colour: try it on anyways and use your creativity! Since the clothes are basically for free, it’s the ultimate chance to try something new. Something oversized could really suit well if you would adjust it with a belt, for instance. One time I found a lavender maxi dress. Even though I really don’t like wearing purple, it turned out to be a lovely summer dress which I wore very often. If you are not sure about a clothing item, ask your friends and for advice. In case it doesn’t turn out to be a match, you can bring it to other swaps in the future so someone else might enjoy the item.
  • Bring your own bag! Besides bringing your own bags is the best thing you could do to avoid wastage, not all swaps have an overload of extra bags.
  • Bring some extra money. Organizing an event where the location and beverages for example have to be paid, money must be earned. Sometimes a little entrance fee is asked and sometimes you can find a donation box.
  • Take care of your new item as you would do with a purchased item. Unfortunately, many people are not motivated to maintain such a bargain, which obviously lowers the sustainable effect.
  • In case you want to host a clothing swap yourself, you can always contact us for advice! We would love to help you out 🙂

And to close off: these are my new items from the Erasmus Paviljoen Clothing Swap. Little jealous? The Erasmus Paviljoen will host the swap twice a year, so stay tuned. Also, we as The Talking Thread will host a lovely swap event soon, more details will follow 🙂


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