LyLena Estabine and Travis Johnson display some of the clothing.

Harvard Undergraduate Association co-presidents LyLena Estabine and Travis Johnson show the wide selection of clothes available at the newly opened Crimson Career Closet.

Photos by Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

Suited to students’ needs

3 min read

Preparing for an interview? Crimson Career Closet can help.

Travis Johnson ’24 had a fashion emergency during his first year at Harvard: blazer and khakis, but no tie.

He scrambled, reaching out to friends ahead of his internship interview, and one came through. But the sense of panic stayed with him. After joining the Harvard Undergraduate Association, the government concentrator was pleased to be part of a team that worked to provide small stipends to students needing professional clothing. The need, he discovered, was great — some 200 applicants in 2020-21. He’s now a leader of the association, and together with his co-president, LyLena Estabine ’24, this week launched the Crimson Career Closet (CCC), a brightly colored space on the 10th floor of the Smith Campus Center where students can borrow suits, dresses, and accessories for free.

“Today the cost of professional clothing is exorbitant and we can’t assume everyone can afford it,” said Johnson. “That’s exactly why this program can be so impactful.”

Estabine, a sociology concentrator, noted that the closet, a core promise of the pair’s presidency, meets an unaddressed need. “I resonate with this in several ways. Because of my financial situation, a lot of my clothes are from thrift stores. Also, this closet is size-inclusive. This suit is a size 20. So there is enough room for everyone.”

Here’s how it works: Students can visit the CCC website to preview the available options, and book an appointment where they can borrow clothes for up to two weeks. They can make minor modifications to the garments, but not dramatically alter them. Currently, the CCC has five racks of clothes, mostly donated from faculty, but Estabine and Johnson hope to expand the donor base to alumni and classmates with support from the Office of Career Services. Harvard Common Spaces donated the Smith space.

“This closet is size-inclusive. So there is enough room for everyone,” says LyLena Estabine.

LyLena Estabine

Mary Lewis, Robert Walton Goelet Professor of French History, was one of the first faculty members to make a donation, two bags of suits and dresses.

“It’s a really good initiative, especially these days,” she said. “I don’t have to wear this kind of stuff very often anymore and for people to have to invest in nice clothes for one or two days is silly. I wanted to support the idea and it also was convenient, it was an excuse to get rid of stuff.”

Sasjha Mayfield, a sophomore studying political philosophy, stopped by the grand opening to support what she called a “necessary resource.”

“It’s such a tangible solution to tackling a problem. It’s a reminder of how diligent we need to be. It seems like a small thing, but for students who don’t have this it puts another layer of stress. I’m glad we’re getting started.”

John Cooke ’25, a first-generation student from Las Vegas who serves on the association’s social life team, identified with that struggle. “All the suits I have were gifted to me by people. There’s a huge social stigma. Being around wealth and generations of legacy can be a huge social burden. This is a huge opportunity to get through that.”

“Hopefully when we’ve long graduated, it’ll be a larger, stronger program,” added Johnson. “And we can say we helped start it.”