The Swap How To

A costume swap can be as simple as getting together with a few neighbors or as large as a citywide event. Either way, you’ll be making a difference in your community, bringing families together, getting creative, living light on the Earth and saving a few bucks too.

Costume swaps not only mean less resources are used to make new product, it also means less packaging, less transportation of the product and less waste (So cool!). They make for a great kick off  to the Green Halloween® season!

We’ve got a full to-do list for you here.

First, let’s go through the legal stuff, then we’ll party on:

Use of National Costume Swap Day Canada name and logo

You may use the National Costume Swap Day Canada name and logo with permission. Go get yourself registered and all the goodies we send you to use are all kosher. When using the name National Costume Swap Day Canada online or in any printed materials you must use the TM, i.e. National Costume Swap Day™ Canada on first mention. And if you are using Green Halloween, you must use the registration symbol, i.e. Green Halloween®. When you register a swap, we ship you a full package of pre made graphics, banners and posters for use both electronically and in print. So, no need to think you’ll be creating a bunch of stuff. This is just to give you the scoop on how to properly identify everything.

Now, let’s get street level and show you how swaps are set up:

1. Secure a location. Hosting a small swap? How about using your living room or cleaned out garage? Or get the neighbors involved and use the cul-de-sac. For larger efforts, holding the swap in a mall or at a natural food retailer is great for many reasons. (For one thing, they can do a lot of the advertising). Other venues such as libraries, public colleges, churches and recreation centers are great, too.


– Size – will it hold the crowd you expect with room between tables or racks so that kids can try on costumes
– Location – Is the site easily accessible for the people you are hoping to attract? Is there parking and public transport nearby
– Cost – is there any rental cost? Will you need insurance? (If so, will you charge admission? A small fee can cover your expenses or all of the money can go to a local charity. If you choose this route, involve the charity beforehand. DO NOT say “proceeds” will be donated to XXX unless you have agreement and buy-in from the charity!)
– Parking – Is there enough? Is it free or will patrons have to pay? Is public transportation available nearby?
– What’s included? Do they already have tables or racks and hangers or will you have to supply? Is there a room to change in?

2. Decide on your date and hours.

– We invite you to choose the second Saturday in October (October 13, 2012) – which is the official National Costume Swap Day in Canada – for your swap. However, whatever date works for you is fine and you still are free to register your swap on the National Costume Swap Day Canada site and benefit from potential PR from this national effort.

– When it comes to setting hours, there is no right timeframe that will work for everyone. But whether your swap is scheduled for a half day or full, be sure to leave enough time before for set up and after for clean up.

3. Create a written plan.

The more you plan ahead, the more successful the event is likely to be. Take time to think through contingencies–too many people–too few people. What will you do with leftover costumes? Having a written plan will make it easy to have a great event.

4. Collect costumes.

It’s best to have a small variety of costumes to start with so that people who come at the beginning of the swap have choices. Put out a call at your school, church or neighborhood association or pick up some in various sizes at a local Goodwill. You can also put out the word to swappers through Facebook or other means to collect costumes in advance. A great way to do this is to have drop-off bins at the swap location and a few other sites. It has been very successful for swappers in the past.

5. Recruit volunteers to help.

You can probably use help leading up to the day, (especially on the PR and social media side), but on the day be sure to have helpers assigned to areas like taking tickets (if you use them), helping kids try on, keep the peace and of course set up and clean up, etc. We highly recommend at least 5, 10 is better.

6. Consider having additional activities for kids.

If you’re up for it, include invite other businesses or non-profits to participate with a table activity for kids like coloring or a simple craft involving recycled materials. This is, in our opinion, key to the success of any swap. Simple fun like big rolls of paper for kids to draw on are a great way to have some cool art from the day and distract the tiny people while swapping is taking place.

7. Gather supplies:

– racks or tables
– signs for racks or tables (Recycled cardboard, markers and tape)
– hangars if you are using racks
– trash and recycling receptacles
– Mirrors

8. Decide how you will set up the swap.

Do swappers need to leave a costume to take a costume? (one for one) Or, will your swap operate on the “leave what you can, take what you need” principle? Either way, here are two ways to organize the event:

Option #1: Prior to the swap (days or hours – depending on how many people you expect), swappers bring the costumes they want to exchange. They receive a stamp on the hand or small token (to avoid using paper tickets) for each costume to use on the day of the event. Once costume(s) is selected, the participant shows the stamp or returns the token.
Option #2: When the swap starts, everyone enters with costumes they are exchanging. Costumes are immediately placed in areas by size and swappers can make one new selection.

9. Get some help.

An event like this is something one person can take on, but why not make it a group effort? The more the merrier as long as everyone is clear on expectations. Ask friends and family, neighbors, parents at your child’s school, members of your church, etc. Let them know this is a community effort, that the purpose is to save resources (and money) and that helping to host can be F-U-N!

10. You may also want to incorporate others in your event. Vendors selling (or giving away) appropriate, eco-friendlier items, or local health/green-focused organizations may host a Halloween themed activity. Show parents how to make their own face paints or roll beeswax candles. Here are some great ideas for activities.

11. Follow our guidelines for media and PR.

12. Swap! On the day of:

– Costumes are laid out on tables or hung on hangars according to size with the table/rack clearly marked.
– Kids can try on costumes, but have enough “staff” available to supervise to ensure things are hung back up or laid on the right table.
– Owners can reclaim costumes that are not swapped or donate leftovers to Goodwill.
– Have a photographer take photos (with parent’s written permission) or shoot some video of the event (ditto on the permission).

Additional ideas:

– Ask consignment shops and thrift stores if they want to get involved.
– Have a section for accessories; mismatched pieces of costumes that creative kids can use to put original get-ups together.
– Stage a dressing-room area. Or, you may want to encourage parents to bring kids dressed in a leotard or swim suit to avoid having to undress.
– Ask people to bring a shopping bag. Do not provide them.
– State that costumes should be in good to excellent condition, no significant spots, holes etc. (unless they are supposed to be there!). You should note on written materials that you have the right to reject costumes based on whatever criteria you like.
– You can limit items that are contributed, i.e. if you won’t want masks, plastic costumes, etc.
– Request that people behave well. There should be no pushing etc. You might want to have a “security person” on site just in case. If you are concerned about this, you can always ask people to register in advance for the swap, assign a time and allow them to enter in small groups.
– At the end of the event, how about staging a costume parade? A business might contribute some healthy treats or treasures to give each child.
– Have a microphone available. You might want to do an introduction and let people know why you’re doing this, reinforce any rules (i.e. good behavior), point out the rest rooms, let people know about upcoming Green Halloween events in your community, encourage use of recycling containers and encourage everyone to have fun.
– Be sure to have plenty of people assigned to “roaming” on hand to ensure your event goes smoothly.
– If you have food at your swap, make it healthy and avoid paper wrappings, napkins etc. and/or provide compost bins.

That’s it. Make sure you sign your swap up here on the website and use the tools provided to real showcase your community and spirit.

Happy swapping!

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