Clothes That Work!
Imagine you’ve gone through a job training program, have all the right skills and are ready to go to work. But when it comes time for the interview, you lose out on the job because you aren’t able to present yourself professionally.
That’s not an uncommon scenario, says Brid Power, coordinator of Clothes That Work!, a collaborative effort between Northern Valley Catholic Social Services (NVCSS) and the Butte Community Employment Center. Clothes That Work! operates shops in Chico and Oroville that offer professional attire, make-up and haircuts at no cost to individuals participating in Butte County back-to-work programs such as CalWORKS and Private Industry Council (PIC) programs.
Not being able to afford work-appropriate clothing is a barrier for some people returning to work, Power said.
“If they didn’t have the appropriate clothes when they went to an interview, they might have actually interviewed quite well, but there’d be a bias going toward their appearance,” she explained.
Clothes That Work! combats that bias by providing its clients with the tools needed to present themselves professionally at interviews and in the workplace. Individuals actively seeking employment and in CalWORKS, PIC or general assistance initially receive two interview outfits and another outfit appropriate for stopping by a workplace. When a client secures employment, he or she is provided with six additional outfits appropriate for the client’s worksite.
Clients also benefit from consultations on interviewing, hairstyles and makeup. Makeovers are hosted each month. Clients receive a makeup kit, tips on makeup and skin care and a haircut.
NVCSS first started Clothes That Work! in Redding 10 years ago. The Chico store opened in October 1999. Since that time, it has served more than 800 people entering or returning to the workplace.
Power says this been made possible by the generosity of the community, both with donations of good quality clothing and by volunteering in the shops.
“For the most part the response for clothing has been really great,” Power said. “We always are in need in women’s plus-size clothing and men’s shoes and belts. Other than that, it seems to come in steadily.”
The Clothes That Work! client base is mostly women, largely between the ages of 18 and 40. The clothing expectations in their prospective worksites vary from highly professional attire to “smart casual.”
Donations may be dropped off at either location during its office hours. Donations should be in good, clean condition with no tears. In women’s clothing, Clothes That Work! seeks suits, blazers, shirts, pants, knit tops, nylons, bras, shoes, CNA uniforms and maternity clothes. Men’s clothing accepted includes blazers, suits, khaki pants, dress shirts, polo shirts, ties, dress shoes, work boots and dress socks. Donations of new, unused makeup, shampoo, soap and perfume are also accepted.
Clients receives one-on-one attention, much like at a small clothing shop. A staff member or volunteer works directly with each client to help him or her find just the right attire.
Power believes her volunteers find helping at Clothes That Work! to be a rewarding experience. Many of them are retired and love to share their expertise with those who are reentering the workforce. Other volunteers prefer a “behind the scenes” approach.
“We have some volunteers who love working with clients, and we have others who are just incredible organizers. Both skills are really valuable,” Power said.
No particular skills are needed to be a volunteer—aside from a friendly, non-judgmental manner—since training is provided. Volunteer commitments vary between one to five hours per week.
The Chico location is open Monday and Friday from 10 a.m.3 p.m. and Wednesday from 27 p.m. The Oroville location is open Tuesday from 12:30 6 p.m. and Thursday from 11 a.m.4:30 p.m.