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Suit up


For some, landing an interview means stress over affording the clothes needed to dress to impress.

Mia Ledet September 5th, 2012

It all started when Susan Walton watched an episode of CBS This Morning that featured The Bottomless Closet, a Chicago nonprofit that outfits struggling women with interview-appropriate clothing.

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Walton felt a connection with the women; she had been a single mom in the banking industry who knew the importance, and the cost, of the right attire.

“I thought we needed [a similar service] in Oklahoma,” said Walton. “Here, we unfortunately have a very high divorce rate, but we also have very good vocational training to help the ladies.”

Walton visited The Bottomless Closet, where the workers there encouraged her to start her own program in Oklahoma. The staff in Chicago provided her with a checklist of information and resources. Walton began learning about the processes of collecting clothes and building referral bases.

Walton's nonprofit, Suited for Success, 4149 Highline Blvd., is now celebrating 15 years in business. It has served nearly 7,000 women.

To locate appropriate clients, Suited for Success partners with approximately 50 vocational schools and job-readiness programs, including Wright Career College, Vatterott College and Platt College. When female students at these facilities near completion of their training, they can schedule an appointment with Suited for Success.

From there, the clients are assisted by volunteer personal shoppers who help them choose two outfits for interviews. Clients are also provided with accessories like shoes, jewelry, purses and, when available, unopened hosiery and makeup. After a client is hired, she can return to Suited for Success and choose two more outfits appropriate for the workplace.

Suited for Success holds an annual awards ceremony honoring an outstanding client. One recent honoree was raising four children by herself after being left by her husband. The woman’s determination to provide for her kids motivated her to get up at 4 a.m. every morning and ride the bus to school.

Walton recalled another client who was thrilled to receive a package of makeup with her outfit. The client had been using flour as a replacement for face powder to save money.

“It’s just the things you learn to do when something isn’t available,” said Walton. “It’s stuff that the rest of us often take for granted.”

Suited for Success primarily accepts clothing the third Friday of each month, but people can also bring donations to the building between Tuesday and Thursday. The nonprofit is in need of clothing in every size, especially size 16 and up. Walton also encourages donations of interview-appropriate accessories, with a special need for wide-width shoes.

To learn more about Suited for Success, visit its website at suitedforsuccessokc.com.

 
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