Truman's Closet offers clothing rentals for MU students, staff, faculty

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:25 a.m. CDT, Thursday, April 17, 2014
Truman's Closet, a service that offers free rental business attire to MU students, faculty and staff, opened in fall 2013.

COLUMBIA — Last semester, Lanre Shitta-Bey helped a student pick out a suit to rent from Truman's Closet. For weeks afterward, the student came back for more clothes.

The student was always happy with what he checked out and was incredibly thankful for the service, said Shitta-Bey, education chairman of Truman's Closet.

Hours, location

What: Truman's Closet, a free clothing rental service for MU students, staff and faculty

Hours: 2:30 to 5 p.m. Sundays, 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, 3 to 6 p.m. Thursdays.

Where: Rock Quarry Facility, Room 8, 1400 Rock Quarry Road

"It was really cool that someone could be so excited and so touched by what we do here," he said.

Run by the Missouri Students Association, Truman's Closet provides MU students, staff and faculty with access to business attire and formal wear, which they can rent for free with their university email username. Clothing can be rented for a variety of events, including job interviews and fraternity and sorority formals. 

The clothing rentals are for two days but can be changed to work with a customer's needs. Clothes do not need to be cleaned before they are returned, but they are cleaned at Tiger Cleaners before they are put out again.

The idea for Truman's Closet started when Nick Droege, former MSA president, heard about the idea from another university. The idea was later passed on to Sean Joy, the founder of the organization at MU.

Joy, a graduate student in occupational therapy, held interviews to find an executive coordinator and chose Kathleen Kowalsky. Kowalsky picked the members of the first executive board, and Truman's Closet began. 

The space on Rock Quarry Road has shelving units, two free-standing clothing racks and two tables where the staff members sit. Black sheets obscure a large portion of the room, hiding the shelving units that Tiger Pantry, which is at the same location, uses to store its food. 

When Truman's Closet opened Oct. 1, it was even smaller. It had only two shelving units for clothes. Tiger Pantry donated the other shelving units.

The staff have hopes for further expansion. Charlie Hall, staff chairman for Truman's Closet, said they hope to someday move to a space on campus. 

Since it opened, Truman's Closet has had more than 50 checkouts. This semester has been much busier than the previous one, and the staff has seen many returning customers, Hall said.

Truman's Closet carries a variety of clothing, including dress shirts, slacks, jackets, skirts, shoes and ties. 

All of the clothing comes from donations, which are accepted any time while the store is open or at the Center for Student Involvement at the MU Student Center. All donations are kept unless they are damaged.

"A lot of people around campus have been helpful," Hall said. 

Though right now it primarily rents business attire and formal wear, Truman's Closet is working on educational opportunities for students. Truman's Closet posts links to helpful videos and articles about topics such as "how to tie a tie" on its Facebook and Twitter pages.

The board is developing a panel discussion series to further educate students about topics such as creating and updating a LinkedIn profile, Shitta-Bey said. 

They are also working on a new checkout system that will allow students to check out clothes by swiping their IDs.

Staffers at Truman's Closet said they appreciate the opportunity to help other students. 

"Getting to serve other people in a capacity like this, it really excites me," Shitta-Bey said.

M.J. Rogers, fundraising chairwoman for Truman's Closet, said many other staff members have returning customers. She has had returning customers and one day was even recognized on campus by a woman she helped at Truman's Closet. 

Kevin Ackermann, a staff member at the store, said he sees his work there as a bit of a social equalizer. It allows people who would otherwise not be able to afford business attire access to it and gives them a chance to dress for internship or job interviews, he said. 

Students interested in getting involved should look for ads around campus and on Facebook or Twitter. Truman's Closet takes on new staff members every semester and will soon be looking for staff for the fall semester.

"We want to do our best to set students up for success," Hall said. 

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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