In a basement room inside a Wentworth Institute of Technology dorm one recent afternoon, students searched racks of secondhand shirts, jackets, and skirts to find the right fit.
The subterranean boutique was stocked with hundreds of garments donated by faculty and staff, all available to be checked out and worn for career fairs, conferences, and internship interviews: a lending library for business attire.
“It actually looks really nice. I’m impressed by it,” said Nate Schwartz, 21, who owns one or two neckties but no sport coats or suits. “It’s awesome that people were able to volunteer and give up some of their nicer clothes.”
Wentworth’s WITwear shop, which opened last month, is part of a growing number of colleges that have set up such lending shops on the belief that a sharp button-down or pencil skirt may not be a top priority for cash-strapped students. Bridgewater State University and Nichols College in Dudley are among the local schools to have established similar resources.
Robbin Beauchamp, Wentworth’s director of cooperative education and career development for the institute, came up with the idea for the program. She said it’s a natural endeavor for a school that requires each of its 3,800 undergraduate day students to complete two co-op placements.
“It’s in our mission; it’s in the vision,” Beauchamp said. “Everything is career-focused.”
WITwear shirts, skirts, jackets, or pants are freshly dry-cleaned, unless they arrived still bearing the original sales tags or labels from a previous cleaning. Although some neckties are wider than current fashion dictates, and some blazers boxier, many garments are sharply tailored, and some bear labels from top designers and upscale stores.
About 85 percent of Wentworth students receive financial aid, but WITwear is open to all.
Industrial design major Melvin Morales tried on a suit jacket that fit perfectly. Morales, 21, said he owns just one semicasual sport coat.
“I haven’t bought a complete suit, just because I don’t know exactly the requirements for that,” said Morales, who is from Cranston, R.I.
He said borrowing rather than owning makes sense for a generation that has embraced ride-sharing and apartment-sharing apps.
“It’s just when you need it, you have it,” he said.