University of Iowa Clothing Closet reopens

After shutting down in March because of COVID-19, The Clothing Closet has taken the time off to modify their operations to follow health and safety guidelines.


Grace Smith

The Clothing Closet, a resourceful place for students to find professional attire, is pictured on Oct. 19, 2020. The Clothing Closet is adjusting its normal routine due to COVID-19 with shorter hours, masks and social distancing, and appointments that must be made 24 hours in advance.

Grace Hamilton, News Reporter

The Clothing Closet — a student organization that provides professional clothing to college students at no cost — re-opened on Monday for the first time since the abrupt end to on-campus activities spring semester.

With new projects underway, The Clothing Closet adheres to the University of Iowa’s COVID-19 guidelines — which apply to all student organizations — to restructure its operations while revamping its services.

Associate Director Hunter Stevens has taken the lead on one of the organization’s promising initiatives. Since March, he said the organization has been in the process of implementing the university’s student ID swipe system.

Stevens said in the past, students have filled out pieces of paper to record the clothing items they take from the closet. These physical records are kept documenting a student’s item count and are later shared with campus partners to gather client data.

“Transitioning into swipe is going to help not only streamline our process at the backend of being able to report these numbers to the Board of Regents and other campus partners, but it will also help us moving forward to improve the sustainability of the Closet,” Stevens said.

The swipe project was in the works before COVID-19, as was the development of a new volunteer curriculum, organization advisor Sarah Henry said.

“Now that we don’t have so much time being open, it’s a great time to work on some of those behind-the-scenes projects,” she said.

RELATED: Clothing Closet brings accessible professional attire to UI students

While developing new procedures, Henry said The Clothing Closet is also taking measures to remain safe during COVID-19. With reduced hours and appointment-only visits, the organization aims to reduce crowding. Dressing rooms are not in use, and all donated items are sanitized by staff.

Although the COVID-19 shutdown offered the organization more time to improve their operations and plan in response to the pandemic, the student-run, business-clothing provider is faced with unique challenges.

“Oftentimes, we hear about University Counseling Services. Counseling is a heavily utilized service, but they’re also an established, university-backed service. They have full-time staff and everything,” Marketing Director Verona Victoria said. “So, when you contrast that to The Clothing Closet, which is more of a start-up led by students who also have to find their footing amid all this chaos, it’s just a little bit more difficult.”

Victoria said she thinks that since students aren’t as frequently attending in-person internships and interviews because, they might not be in critical need of professional attire. However, she said she remains confident in the organization’s services.

“We’re just here to serve the students in whatever way they need, and this is just one avenue through which we can do that,” the marketing director said.

Stevens added that he sees a bright future for The Clothing Closet. He said he hopes to see the organization someday open a second location on the west side of campus.

“It’s something that going forward I want to be able to see spread out a little more to reach more students,” he said. “It’d make us bigger than what we are. We are less than five years old, and we have nothing but growth in the future.”