How to Host a Halloween Costume Exchange Party

A Halloween costume exchange party is one of the least expensive ways to find the perfect costume for you, your kids, and even your pets! It’s also a fantastic way to get rid of your clothes from the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s :-)

Whether you’re going trick or treating or to a big Halloween bash (or both!), you’ll need a costume for October 31st. And what better way to find one than to go free?

A Halloween costume exchange party is similar to a more traditional “clothing exchange party.” People collect the clothes they no longer wear, meet at someone’s place for wine and appetizers, and try on each other’s clothes. One woman’s treasure is another’s cast away! (I haven’t heard of men doing this – I think most men wear their clothes down to the bare threads).

In a Halloween costume exchange party, people bring all the costumes and accessories they’ve worn for past October 31st celebrations, and trade them for new ones.

8 Tips for a Horror-ific Halloween Costume Exchange Party

1. Plan at least two weeks before Halloween. Mid-October is the latest time for a costume exchange party. Most people’s schedules are too hectic the week or two before Halloween to fit in another event. Also – make sure you give people enough advance warning between invitation and party time. They’ll need time to dig up their costumes and accessories!

2. Invite women from all walks of life. If you’re a mom with kids, it might be tempting to just invite other moms. To make your Halloween costume exchange party a success, consider inviting women you don’t normally connect with socially: colleagues, friendly acquaintances, people outside your age group at church, teenagers, etc.

3. Decide if pets and children’s Halloween costumes are included. If you want people to bring their clean, gently used Halloween costumes for pets or children, make sure you tell them on the invitation.

4. Ask everyone to bring at least one full costume. A variety of Halloween accessories are welcome (feather boas, Carnivale face masks, glitter belts, etc) – but every person should bring at least one full Halloween costume for a woman, man, or child.

5. Make sure your space is big enough for women to try on costumes. My house is far too small for a Halloween costume exchange party! Remember, people will bring accessories such as pirates’ swords, big feather hats, princess wands, bumblebee wings, wide pumpkin costumes, etc. If you don’t know anyone with a suitable home, consider holding the exchange party in a community hall or church basement (unless, of course, your church is vehemently opposed to celebrating Halloween!).

6. Cover the costumes until everyone is ready to start.  When people arrive, ask them to put their costumes in three separate piles: Halloween costumes for women, costumes for children, and costumes for pets. Cover each pile with a large blanket, so nobody can pick a costume until everyone is there and ready!

7. Explain how this Halloween costume exchange party works. Everyone stands around the pile of costumes, and when you give the word, everyone lifts the blanket(s). “Each person grabs the clothes and accessories that she is interested in and creates a personal pile,” recommend the experts at Secondhand Savvy in their description of a traditional clothing exchange party. “No one can take from that pile, but they can call ‘dibs’ just in case you decide you don’t want it. If no one has called dibs, it goes back into the pile as ‘incoming’ or ‘seconds’ so that people know to go and check it out.”

8. Consider sharing Halloween party ideas. If you’re throwing a Halloween party and need fresh, fun ideas, ask your friends at the exchange party. Pass a clipboard around, and get your friends to write down their best Halloween party ideas. If they want a copy of the list, you might offer to type it up and email it.

If you need decorations for Halloween, ask participants to bring party decorations and accessories to exchange.

For more tips, read Going to a Costume Party? 11 Ideas From Your Closet and Kitchen.

“Halloween was confusing,” said Rita Rudner. “All my life my parents said, ‘Never take candy from strangers.’ And then they dressed me up and said, ‘Go beg for it.'”

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4 thoughts on “How to Host a Halloween Costume Exchange Party”

  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comments!

    Allison, that’s great to hear that you’re hosting a Halloween Costume Exchange party. I love the idea of labeling the costumes for return or donating to charity.

    Happy Halloween :-)

  2. Thanks for the great advice! I am considering hosting a kid’s costume exchange for my neighbors. I think it would be a good idea to ask contributors to label who the costume came from and whether they want it back after halloween or whether it should be donated charity.