Ashley Peterson loves clothes. As president of Find Yourself in Fashion, UNC Charlotte’s student fashion club, she often models new trends throughout campus, educating others on what’s hot.
But at least once a month Peterson and a few of the 20 other members of FYI volunteer at the Crisis Assistance Ministries Free Store, where customers aren’t looking for what’s hot. They’ll settle for what’s warm.
“They come in looking for coats, dress pants, and especially baby clothes,” said Peterson, 18, an anthropology and sociology major. “People are literally jumping over themselves to get in those bins.”
Those volunteer experiences were enough for FYI’s fashionistas to organize their first Chic Boutique, a clever way for students on campus to swap clothes, and donate clothes they no longer wear.
Racks of blazers, coats, and pants hung on either end of Room 200 in the student union on the Monday before Thanksgiving. T-shirts and blouses were folded neatly on the long tables in the back.
Some items were eccentric, like the green feather earrings and the pink and orange plaid skinny jeans. Others were off-season, like the bright blue swim wrap. But most looked brand new, like the three crisp, white T-shirts on the table.
“They could bring in whatever they wanted – shirts, pants, jewelry,” said Domini Cherry, 19, an electrical engineering technology major and member of FYI. “We take theirs and they can pick whatever they want.”
Students who didn’t have anything to trade could also buy a ticket for $2 and purchase any item during the swap.
“I gave up a jacket, a vest, a button up shirt, jogging pants, three sweaters, and three T-shirts,” said Carlyn Cancy, 20, a political science major who stopped in between classes to trade. “I got a blazer, two sweaters, two dresses, a T-shirt for me to work out in, three button-up shirts, and a purse.”
“I found a blazer, two cardigans, a necklace, and a shirt,” said Jasmine Brown, 19, a criminal justice major, perusing the racks. “I swapped two pair of jeans, a sweater, and a pair of earrings.”
Like a Black Friday sale, both women flocked to the table every time another person brought in clothes to swap or donate.
By the end of the swap, the fashion club had $10 and 87 clothing pieces to donate.
“This is great because it incorporates young people. They see how they can affect people in their community,” said Peterson. “It’s getting cold and that’s when people are in their greatest need.”
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 15.3 percent, or 919,628 people, in Mecklenburg County live in poverty, 21.2 percent of childrenlive in poverty, and 66,991 children at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools receive free or reduced lunch.
Next year, FYI plans to hold the Chic Boutique again. They hope the event will catch on with men as well.
“We had a lot of female clothes,” said Cherry. “We didn’t have a lot of men’s clothing.”
Brown said the more the merrier. “I feel like the more people come, the more options, and a better selection.”