Now that last year’s Elsa outfit is just so last year (plus a little tight under the armpits) it’s time to switch out the old and swagger off in something new…to you. National Costume Swap Day is October 10 this year, but local swaps are happening throughout the first 3 weeks of October. Suiting up in a new (free!) costume is as easy as clicking your heels three times: Just bring in the old and pick something new. Check out our list of local swaps as well as tips on hosting your own.

Ladybug-Toddler-Trick-or-Treat-HalloweenPhoto: Jonas Seaman via Flickr

Hayward Public Library
Complimenting their popular prom dress swap, the Hayward Public Library is hosting its second Halloween costume swap on Tuesday, October 20th between 5-7 p.m. at the Weekes Library. Kids donating a costume will get a ticket and first dibs on the swap from 5 to 6 p.m. The second hour is open to the public with a one costume per child policy. The kids will have to be present to receive their free costume. Gently used costumes and accessories can be donated any time before the swap date at the Weekes branch. This year it’s open to all, from toddlers to teens.

October 20th, 5-7 p.m. at Weekes Branch
27300 Patrick Ave., Hayward, Ca 

costume swap2012

Photo: Emily Myers

Color Me Mine 
Bay Area paint-your-own pottery studio, Color Me Mine is holding a costume swap at its Alameda location this year. Drop off your gently used costume anytime between now and 4 p.m. on swap day, October 11th, and get a voucher for free studio time as well as a costume exchange voucher. Then just show up at the store that Sunday between 4:30-6 p.m. and you can claim this year’s costume. Bring the kiddos for try-ons because there are no exchanges, until next year! Even if you don’t want to trade, Color Me Mine is looking for donations, so if you are clearing out your garage, you can take advantage of their offer to give studio fee coupons for each complete costume donated.

October 11th, 4:30-6 p.m.
Color Me Mine Alameda
2205 South Shore Center
Alameda, Ca


Photo: Jim Voorhies via Flickr

Oakland Public Library Piedmont
Up-cycle last year’s Super Mario for this year’s Picachu at the Oakland Public Library’s Piedmont Avenue Branch. Bring your gently used kids costumes to trade. This year there will be two dates, Wednesday Oct. 14, before and after the 10:15 a.m. toddler story time. A second swap will take place on Saturday Oct. 17th  from at 11am. Costumes are available to those who don’t have one to donate.

October 17th, 11 a.m.
Piedmont Ave. Branch
80 Echo Ave.
Oakland, Ca


Photo: Michael Bentley via Flickr

Prewett Family Park, Antioch
Antioch’s annual Halloween costume swap is now in its ninth year. Head to the Prewett Family Park on Tuesday October 13th, to make the leap from jungle theme to Jurassic.  You can swap entire costumes or just parts of costumes, think masks, swords, shields and light sabers. You’ll be given tickets for each item which will then become vouchers for new booty. The event takes place on Tuesday, October 13th, 6pm-9pm. If you don’t have anything to swap, pitch up at 8:30 p.m. and what’s left will be available for free.

October 13th, 6-9 p.m.
Multi Purpose Room
4701 Lone Tree Way
Antioch, Ca
Online: costume

Photo: USAG-Humphreys via Flickr

The San Francisco/Emeryville branch of the national swap program Peace. Love. Swap has just hosted a Back To School exchange at the Albany Community Center. Organiser Erin Anderson is gauging interest in a Costume Swap for Halloween and is happy to be emailed at erina@peaceloveswap for feedback. Events usually have an entry fee and once you’re inside you can swap til you drop as well as win prizes from local vendors.


Photo: Juhan Sonin via Flickr

Plan your own Swap
While the East Bay swap scene is thriving, interest in the idea is flagging in other parts of the Bay Area. If it’s something that appeals but you can’t find an exchange nearby, try hosting a swap event in your own community, school or preschool. The Marin Country Mart has, after three years, ditched its costume swap event but staff say they would be happy to partner with a moms group wanting to run with the idea. With your venue sorted, here are some of the top tips in order to run a successful event:

  • Get the word out early, create some flyers and post them in mom-friendly zones (the gym, rec center, YMCA, pool, school, daycare and online via Facebook or the venue website). The more costumes you have, the more fun it will be for everyone.
  • Invite a variety of ages. People with babies won’t have much to give but having a wide age-range promises that most people will be able to find a suitable costume or accessory.
  • Provide some coffee and snacks, it helps everyone feel more comfortable.
  • Create a plan for the swap itself. Most swaps allow you to drop off a costume in advance and allow children to get a costume regardless of having a costume to swap. Depending on the number of people you expect, you might want to determine who gets first dibs, whether it is ‘first come, first served’ or not.
  • Borrow a hanging rack. It saves costumes getting thrown on the floor and makes it easier for swappers to see what’s on offer. Depending on your space, you might be able to lay costumes on tables.
  • Be prepared to take care of the un-swapped items by taking them to Goodwill or another nonprofit that accepts clothing donations.

Swapping not an option?
If you’re turned off by the cookie-cutter costumes in the stores but can’t find a local swap, challenge yourself with a pair of scissors and some cardboard. Some home-made creativity is always well received by those dishing out the candy. After all, if a cardboard Lego head is possible, a Minecraft Steve will be a breeze. Alternatively, check out Bay Area craft and consignment stores for wigs, wings and wands. Local consignment stores come into their own at this time of year or visit, which is like eBay just for kids stuff and usually has a good supply of outfits.

Planning on hosting a Halloween swap or know of a local place that is? Let us know in the comments below.

—Emily Myers and Amber Guetebier