UVA Stepmom blends school spirit, style and sarcasm – The Cavalier Daily

If you’ve walked around Grounds in the past year, chances are you have seen a t-shirt brandishing the phrase “UVA Stepmom.” The iconic, satirical t-shirts have become a fashion staple among the University student body, and their design, production and promotion can be accredited to one student creative — third-year Commerce student Mary Walton Petersen. 

What started as a one-off joke intended for some of Petersen’s friends has morphed into an inside joke held between hundreds of students that serves as a quintessential symbol of University social culture. 

In the summer of 2022, when Petersen decided to launch a clothing brand to sell a few of her personal designs, the first “UVA Stepmom” shirt was born as a comedic way to gain some traction for the brand. Parodying the classic “UVA Mom” and “UVA Dad” shirts, Petersen was inspired to release a “sexier alternative.”

Since then, Petersen’s brand has become not only an outlet for her own self expression, but a space to build community. In every aspect of the business, Petersen’s original objective has not changed — to keep creating content and merchandise that makes herself and others laugh. 

“I just want to make my friends laugh and try to accumulate as many friends as possible under the brand,” Petersen said. “UVA Stepmom really was, and always will be for U.Va. and the students.”

Following the success of the first “UVA Stepmom” shirt, Petersen went on to sell more iterations in various sizes, styles and colors. Soon after, she released several more designs including “UVA Stepdad,” “UVA Menace” and — Petersen’s personal favorite — “UVA Ginger.” 

As the brand continues to grow, Petersen has maintained her values as a clothing retailer, focusing on sustainable production. Every shirt the brand sells is second-hand and screen printed with water-based ink. 


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  • February 26, 2024