It was my second year teaching middle school in a public school. In preparation for the December Holiday concert, I send home with each student a flyer informing their families about the upcoming concert, report times and what was required for each student to wear. It was your standard, dresses must be knee length, no high heels, boys should wear nice slacks, a polo shirt or button down, tie would look nice, but absolutely NO Jeans and NO sneakers. Sounded acceptable and after all we’re teaching these students about concert etiquette after all! We want our students to look the part!
The night of the concert arrives and a student, we’ll call him “Frank”, reports on time to the location indicated on the form, in green sweatpants and a half-washed t-shirt with ripped sneakers…
- The student arrived on-time.
- This is a typical outfit for this student
- He showed up ready and wanting to sing
- You need a future option for this student.
The concert was wonderful! Frank sang along with his peers to a standing room only audience in a pretty small, rural school district in Pennsylvania. But I still had a problem… students could not afford the concert style clothing and a few in this situation were simply too embarrassed to even come to the performance.
Enter the Big Idea! I need clothing for these students to borrow! I created what I lovingly refer to as the “Rental Clothing Closet” students in need could come and “rent” their concert attire at no cost, as long as it fit them, they felt great in it, and they returned it the next week so that it could be laundered for the next performance!
Ask for donations: Email your teacher population first, then branch out to some booster parents. People came out of the woodwork when they found out what I was doing, with bags of beautiful dresses, button down shirts, ties and shoes galore!
Create a Spreadsheet: Make sure you create categories and document the pieces of clothing that you have. Make columns so that you can catalogue all the clothing.
- For example D1 (dress 1), Color: Purple, Size: 12/14. This will allow you a quick snapshot of all the things you already have, and things you may need more of.
Create a Sign Out Sheet: Have students sign out each garment and have a column to list the Catalogued details so that you know who has what so that you can retrieve what was “rented” after the concert.
Make it available: Be discreet. Offer times before and after school so that students who don’t want other students to know about their need can come at a time that is private to look at and try on clothing without feeling like the world is watching them.
Make friends with your FCS teacher: FCS teachers are the BEST when it comes to helping with clothing needs especially if you’re like me and can barely sew on a button! Many school also have laundry units in the FCS classroom! If you provide the detergent maybe your FCS teacher will let you wash the clothing!
I had so many beautiful things donated to the closet, and monetary donations started coming in as well to provide tights for the ladies, upkeep for the detergent purchases etc etc. More importantly, SO MANY Students benefitted from the clothing closet!
I’ll leave you with a quick story… A fifth grade choir student walked quietly into my room at the beginning of the school day, her homeroom teacher let her come during my prep to ask a question. With her head to the floor, and hand on her opposite elbow she said, “Ms. S. I don’t have a dress for the concert and my family doesn’t have the money to buy me one, so I can’t come”. This is clearly why the teacher sent her to me… When this student put on the size D3 – Size 10/12, Purple Sparkles Dress and looked into the mirror, her her head was held high and she twirled in my clothing closet! “I FEEL like a PRINCESS!”… This child not only came to the concert, she sang her heart out!
Rental closets don’t take a lot of work… but they do take a lot of heart! Grab the tissues and get ready to make a difference in your students lives!