In a small, unassuming room on the ground floor of Stone Davis reside rows upon rows of new winter boots, gently-used jackets and brightly colored sweaters. Here lies the Wellesley Student Aid Society’s (WSAS) Clothes Closet, founded decades ago, which was recently relocated from Billings Hall due to construction. Any student, regardless of financial aid status, can take items from the donated stash for free — a policy some students have criticized, as the Closet most benefits students of low socioeconomic backgrounds who may not be able to afford Massachusetts necessities like snow boots, warm coats and scarves.
“I think it is good that they don’t make you prove you’re on financial aid,” Paige Feyock ’22 said, explaining “that can be embarrassing for students. However, Feyock noted that some higher-income students may use this as an opportunity to overuse the closet. “It’s uncomfortable to know that people can utilize these resources and possibly resell the items when they truly don’t need the Clothes Closet, or treat it like a little dress up stand when it actually is meant to alleviate the burden of finding clothes as a low income student.”
In addition to signs welcoming any and all students, a posted notification reads: “Please Be Courteous — Take Only One Clothing Item At A Time.” A hand-drawn clarification is posted nearby, explaining the one-at-a-time rule only applies to “specialty items” like coats and boots. The Honor Code is placed deliberately near the entrance.
The one-at-a-time rule seems to be new, as similar signs were not posted in the Closet’s previous location — although WSAS Executive Director Catherine Kefalas claims no new policy changes have been made since the closet’s relocation. Despite the Honor Code warning and multitude of signage, brown paper bags and custom WSAS totes are available for students’ convenience to take their respective hauls home.
The space is popular, albeit hidden. Students swarm out of the crowded room, carrying bundles of clothes and similarly-useful items like jewelry and sunglasses. Dorm decor, toothbrushes, menstrual products, fresh socks and more are placed in organized bins. Much of what is provided for free to students is in excellent condition, and price tags are a frequent find. Sought-after brands such as J. Crew, Diane von Fustenburg and even Yves Saint Laurent are hidden in the mix, donated by members of the Wellesley community including alumnae, faculty and current students. Kefalas explains that in addition to the previously mentioned items, the Clothes Closet also accepts “new toiletries, business attire [and] workout clothing.” Those interested in donating may head straight to the WSAS office in Schneider Center, or drop off items at the Stone Davis location during open hours.
The Clothes Closet was originally slated to open in mid-October, though it was delayed until Nov. 18. Information on the closet’s reopening was conveyed primarily by word of mouth until a general announcement email was sent out on Oct. 22. The Oct. 22 email consisted of basic donation information and a footnote: “exact date of reopening will be published shortly.” Emma Bachman ’20 claims to have gone “directly to the WSAS office for more information,” only to be directed to the already-open but minimally publicized space.
Some students found the wait for the Closet’s reopening to be stressful, indicating that as the weather became chillier and the space remained closed, they feared they would not have access to sufficient winter clothing. One student claimed an email was sent to first generation students through the First Gen Network offering warm coats as part of a “soft opening” to those in need before the Closet’s reopening. Others said that they did not receive any notification.
Regarding students affected by the delay, Kefalas said, “I don’t know what students did on campus in general. Any requests made to our office are confidential.”
The Clothes Closet has become a fixture in the Wellesley community, embracing a sustainable method of reuse and donation to provide for students in need. Its reopening has certainly been welcomed. Students shuffle in and out of bathroom-turned-fitting rooms, weaving around the clothing rack and scouring the shelves, excitedly searching for their next favorite — and often essential — piece of clothing. Item donations to the Closet are tax deductible, and graciously accepted by the students who rehome them.
“Thank you to the College for working so diligently to find a new location for the Clothes Closet and renovating the space,” Kefalas said. “Also, thank you to the Wellesley College community for being so patient as we transition to the new space.”