Clothing and book swap benefits students, flood victims

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The Gender and Sexuality Center allowed students to experiment with different fashion styles through a gender-inclusive clothing swap Monday.

Dance senior Kelsey Rondeau said the clothing swap is a comfortable place for students to try on clothes for all genders without soliciting stares from strangers.

“It’s interesting because you can find clothing here from both genders and leave with clothing from either gender,” Rondeau said. “It’s an environment where you won’t be judged for trying on a skirt or a top.”

Rondeau said when trying on women’s clothes, onlookers will occasionally stare, but shopping is generally more comfortable in Austin. 

“When I go to Buffalo Exchange, everyone gets excited,” Rondeau said. “But that’s here in Austin. If I were shopping anywhere else, I would be judged for taking a top from the women’s section.”

Undeclared sophomore Stephanie Salazar said the clothing swap helps build community.

“[The event is] trying to create solidarity within the community by way of expressing ourselves through clothes,” Salazar said.

The clothing swap was intended for students on a budget, as well as the community the Gender and Sexuality Center serves, according to Elizabeth Elsen, program coordinator of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, who organized the clothing swap.

“A lot of our students aren’t super rich, so free clothes are always great,” Elsen said. 

Ilse Munoz, a Plan II and geography junior, said she wants others to have the opportunity to wear nice clothing without spending a lot of money.

“I like recycling clothing a lot,” Munoz said. “When I was younger, my family didn’t have enough money to buy new clothes, so for us it was nice to get good quality clothes for cheap. I want someone else who might be in a similar situation to be fashionable, to feel good about themselves.”

Leftover clothing from the swap usually goes to local community organizations.

“This year, any leftover clothes are going to those impacted by the flood in Travis County and Dove Springs.” Elsen said. “We usually donate to SafePlace and the settlement home.”

The event, which began two semesters ago as a clothing swap after a student’s suggestion, has since added a book swap. 

“A lot of students were talking about not getting much for their books at Half Price Books,” Elsen said.