What is a Clothes Library?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 January 2020
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A clothes library is a collection of clothes which are loaned to members of a community, just like books at a conventional library. All sorts of garments can be found at a clothes library, from suits for job interviews to prom dresses for low-income teens. Many clothes libraries pick a particular community to serve, such as the unemployed or expectant mothers. A good resource for information about clothes libraries in your area is a local service organization, as clothes libraries often go by obscure names which makes Internet searches for a local clothes library challenging.

A clothes library is available for people who need specific garments for various reasons, but don't want to purchase these garments. Many people who take advantage of clothes libraries are on the lower end of the income scale and they can't afford new clothes, while others are simply thrifty, and see no reason to buy clothes which will only be worn once or twice. The garments at a clothes library are typically provided through donations from members of the community.


One common type of clothes library provides business clothing to homeless people and the unemployed. Many homeless and unemployed people have difficulty finding jobs because they are unable to dress appropriately for interviews, because they lack the funds to do so. A clothing library can connect people with business suiting for interviews, and many such libraries offer classes for people who are seeking new jobs to help them write resumes and perform well in interviews.

Another common sort of clothes library is a maternity library. Expectant mothers are obliged to find new clothing to fit their changing body shapes, and many maternity clothes are expensive, which can be frustrating when the garments only fit for a few months or weeks. In regions with maternity libraries, mothers can borrow gently used maternity clothes for a few weeks, rather than buying entirely new wardrobes, and they can exchange their garments as their bodies change shape.

It is also possible to find clothes libraries for events like weddings, proms, and formals. These events often require expensive formal wear which has limited use beyond the event, and this can be a problem for people who do not have a great deal of money. These clothing libraries allow low-income people to participate in these events without having to scrimp and save, and sometimes the clothing available at such libraries is stylish and quite fabulous, especially in wealthy communities, where people may donate almost-new designer garments after wearing them once or twice.


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Post 3

I lived in a pretty rural area and my high school operated a clothes library for the prom. If you wanted you could borrow a tuxedo or a prom gown to wear. Some people took advantage of the service but not many.

We probably all remember how vain teenagers are. many of the clothes on loan were ten or twenty years old and very out of style. Lots of kids wanted to order new clothes for themselves.

Post 2

I used to run a clothes library in a halfway house. We had everything from business clothes to warm winter clothes to basic shorts and t-shirts. We had some clothes that we loaned out and others that we could simply give to people. Many of the people we serviced had nothing more than the clothes on their back and they were grateful for any help that we could give them.

Post 1

I have never heard of a clothes library before but it makes a lot of sense, especially in regards to lower income people who might struggle to get the clothes that they need. It is something that we probably all take for granted. If you need a certain garment you just go out and buy it. But for other people it is not that easy.

Even buying a second hand suit with shoes can cost ten or fifteen dollars. And often that suit will only be worn once or twice. It makes perfect sense to try and pool this resource for the benefit of many rather than just one.

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