Student organizes spring clothing swap, plans intimate atmosphere
One hundred eighty five dresses hang in Vita Newstetter’s closet.
An avid clothes collector and thrifter since the age of 12, Newstetter’s fashion interests followed her to UCLA.
“My roommate’s boyfriend’s uncle got a pair of jeans from a man in China four years ago, and they fit me perfectly,” said Newstetter, a second-year Design | Media Arts student. “That cycle of sharing clothes and knowing that each piece of clothing has a history is the best part of used clothes.”
Newstetter, a member of the Student Committee for the Arts, created the organization’s first free clothing swap, which will take place Thursday in Kerckhoff Grand Salon. Visitors will gain admission to the event by bringing clothing, bags, shoes or accessories and attaching tags describing the items’ history, said Newstetter.
“People can write an email address, draw a picture, write about something they spilled on the shirt, explain its itchiness or how they got it from their boyfriend when they were 15 years old,” Newstetter said. “The stories don’t have to be positive because the purpose isn’t really to sell clothes but to share their history.”
Newstetter said the lack of money being exchanged will make the event less focused on fighting over certain items and more geared towards interacting with the stories. Clothing left behind will be donated to Goodwill.
“I’m hoping that even if you don’t want the dress or the jeans, you’ll still read the tag for the story,” Newstetter said.
She added that the clothing swap will have an intimate and boutique-like atmosphere.
“There’s not going be a huge messy pile you have to dig through, and once you enter there will be free reign,” Newstetter said. “If people walk out with 30 items I might have to say something, but the idea is that you take the amount you bring.”
She said she sent out more than 100 messages during spring break asking friends to bring clothes from home and scoured her own house for suitable items but expects most donations to stem from a morning donation box located in Kerckhoff Grand Salon and the items people bring to the actual event.
“I’ve collected around seven bins, and there’s honestly no common denominator,” Newstetter said. “There’s everything from funky vintage kids clothes to business skirts from Milan to a ton of clothes my cousin left in my room when she moved to Scotland and unknowingly contributed.”
UCLA alumnus Theodore Bonners-Perkins, the Student Committee for the Arts adviser, said the event intersects oral tradition with fashion while still allowing students to connect with each other.
“SCA has never done a clothing swap before, and the event is especially relevant with the high costs of clothing facing students’ budgets,” Bonners-Perkins said.
Newstetter said that visitors who do not bring clothing can also enter the event by answering interview questions on camera for a future art piece.
“I like to have people reflect on what they’re wearing, whether they’re looking professional, dressed like a student or not caring at all because they’re going to the gym,” Newstetter said. “It can be a great source of confidence, and I want to make an interactive website that helps keep those stories alive.”
Annakai Geshlider, a second-year world arts and cultures/dance student and Newstetter’s roommate said she thinks the idea of sharing clothes can discourage unfair labor practices common among larger clothing chains.
“When I buy clothes from a chain I don’t know the conditions they were made in or their background,” Geshlider said. “A campus exchange is a method of reusing that also links you to other people and the community.”
Taylor Henry, a second-year psychology and human biology and society student, said she is planning on attending the event because it encourages people to reconsider their purchasing choices.
“Clothing today is produced following weekly fashions instead of seasonally,” Henry said. “They are designed to fall apart faster than they were for our parents, and a clothing swap will be a sustainable way to pass on good quality clothes.”
Newstetter said she feels fashion is underrepresented as an art form on campus, and the event will show attendees the value of clothing as a form of expression and possibility.
“I’ve loved watching my friends sit down not knowing what to write on their tags, and I just encourage them to be weird,” Newstetter said. “Maybe someone will write their name and number so you can call them up and go on a date. The opportunities are endless.”