Published November 16, 2004
Volume 12, Number 11

Wardrobe for Opportunity Helps Jobseekers Dress for Success
Wardrobe Logo

In today’s competitive labor market, it’s hard to get a good job if you don’t make a good impression at the interview, not just in terms of your demeanor but also your appearance and clothing. The problem is that it’s hard to afford a suitable business wardrobe if you don’t have a job.

That’s exactly the situation that Wardrobe for Opportunity, a local non-profit headquartered in Oakland, has addressed on a daily basis since its founding in 1996. Wardrobe provides free professional clothing, image enhancement, and career support to low-income job seekers in the Bay Area. Wardrobe’s clients are referred by organizations such as job training programs – Pleasanton’s Tri-Valley One Stop Career Center is a member – as well as homeless and domestic violence shelters, and English as a second language programs.

“To begin with, we provide one to two outfits to mix and match together for the interview and follow-up,” describes Jennifer LeBlanc, a Wardrobe board member. “You don’t want to wear the same outfit to your second interview – you want to look great a second time. Once they get their job, they come back for their work wardrobe, which is three to five more outfits that they can mix and match with their initial outfits so they have several weeks’ worth of clothes that will be appropriate for their new job.”

The group provides much more than clothes, however.  “Wardrobe provides a lot of mentoring in terms of their image management, their interview techniques,” says LeBlanc. “We try to get them ready. Sometimes with men, it’s as basic as teaching them how to tie a tie – they might not be used to it; many people don’t wear ties anymore.

“There’s also a service provided by Wardrobe called ‘Pathways for Opportunity’ which is a work retention program. It’s for working adults who, once they’ve gotten their job, need additional skills so they can keep that job. It covers things like conflict resolution, how to break down a dream into a defined set of goals and make a work plan around getting that goal achieved. What do you do if your child is sick? How do you work that conversation with your boss? Simple things like that move people out of the workplace because they think it’s too hard.”

Wardrobe’s track record is outstanding. Since the group’s founding in 1996, they’ve helped over 8,700 clients and 80 percent of them have gotten jobs paying between $8 and $15 per hour, amounts that are considerably above minimum wage. It all starts with the clothing.

“It makes you feel like Santa Claus – they get these beautiful suits and they look fabulous in them, and they go out with the biggest smile on their face,” adds LeBlanc. “It’s a very uplifting experience to watch.”

Business support of Wardrobe for Opportunity is welcome. Starting this month, the group is accepting donations of business clothes and accessories at a new Pleasanton location, the Fremont Bank at 6654 Koll Center Parkway. Wardrobe is also looking for volunteers and support for their wish-list, which includes a laptop computer and discounted printing and dry cleaning services.

For more information about Wardrobe for Opportunity, please call (510) 463-4100 or access their web site at www.wardrobe.org.  


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