The Welcome You Wear

New clothing closet on campus helps students affirm gender identities

by Evan Elliot, USF News

USF has opened a clothing closet in which transgender and non-binary students can seek, try on, and keep clothes that help them express themselves.

“Whoever you are and whatever your gender identity, we want to help you feel like you,” said Erin Echols, director of the Cultural Centers.

The gender-affirming clothing closet is an actual closet inside the Gender and Sexuality Center on the fourth floor of University Center. Clothes aren’t segregated as “men’s” or “women’s.” They’re sorted by sizes that indicate both women’s and men’s sizing, such as this: L (12, 34–36).

Make a Wish List

Before they arrive at the clothing closet, students fill out an online wish list from which they choose items such as skirts, sweaters, or jeans.

When a student arrives at an appointment time, a student staff member from the Gender and Sexuality Center greets them, shows them a range of their chosen clothing, and points them to a changing room — an all-gender restroom with a full-length mirror inside.

The students are welcome to keep any clothes they like.

“Many trans and non-binary students may not feel comfortable shopping for clothes at a traditional store,” said Echols. “So they can come here and try on clothes in a safe, private, supportive space.”

It can be hard to afford a new wardrobe for a new or transitioning gender identity, she added, so the free clothes in the clothing closet can help.

Wear the Welcome

The closet holds more than 200 new and gently used pieces of clothing, all donated by students. Nina Aversa ’21, a marketing major and fashion enthusiast who volunteers as a personal stylist for the closet, says the clothes range in style from “interview casual to hanging at home. There’s something for everyone.” 

Aversa said she volunteered at the closet because she has seen how much a change in clothing can help friends who are transgender. “Fashion helps people to explore, to know themselves, to convey their personality to the world. It’s important.”

Echols said that the gender-affirming clothing closet is the first of its kind at a Jesuit university.

“We really want to serve the needs of the transgender and non-binary community,” she said. “This clothing closet is just one step among many that we’ve taken and that we plan to take.”

The closet isn’t accepting clothing donations now, Echols said, but it will when the weather warms and the closet needs replenishing. In the meantime, the closet will hold a grand opening on Feb. 11 at 5 p.m. Students are welcome to shop at the event.