When the Outfit Helps You Land the Job—and How Bottomless Closet Makes That Possible
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re applying for a junior or senior role. If you don't feel confident, if you don't feel like you look professional, you’re not going to get the job.”
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Melissa started working with Bottomless Closet almost seven years ago, when she was going through career difficulties of her own. “I’m an attorney by training, and I’ve worked in the nonprofit space for many years,” she says. “I was someone who never thought I’d lose my job. But then, when I was a senior executive of a very large nonprofit, I was part of a mass layoff. I thought, ‘I’ll be fine—I’m a lawyer.’ But I had a very hard time finding a new job, and I ended up being out of full-time work for two years. When the opportunity to work with Bottomless Closet came up, it really resonated with me, because I realized that if it hadn’t been for my network, my education, my family and friends, and my savings, I could have been a client of the organization myself.”
Since then, Melissa has been working tirelessly to ensure that the clients Bottomless Closet serves have the tools they need to attain and thrive in their new roles. “When a client comes to us, they are paired with a fully trained volunteer career coach,” she explains. “They’ll start in our boutique, which is stocked with donations. We are so fortunate to have partners like M.M.LaFleur, who have helped us fill that boutique, but there are also individual women across the country now who have taken clothing out of their wardrobes and paid it forward.
“When the clients come in, we ask them, ‘Do you know what you should wear for the interview? Do you know what you want to wear?’ Sometimes they have a very specific idea, and other times, they’re like, ‘I have no idea.’ We try to get each client one to two career-appropriate outfits for an interview and a call back—or for those times when you spill coffee on your blouse and need to change. Many of our clients don’t have a backup outfit, so we have to think about those things.”
At M.M.LaFleur, we’ve always believed that the best measure of an outfit is the confidence it inspires. Melissa agrees: “It’s not about the clothes,” she says. “It’s about how the clothes make you feel. Many of our clients have never had their own wardrobes, and when they look in the mirror for the first time in the clothing that we’ve given them, the look in their eyes is everything. I don’t look at the outfit; I look at the smile. It doesn’t matter whether you’re applying for a junior or senior role. If you don’t feel confident, if you don’t feel like you look professional, you’re not going to get the job. Some of my favorite success stories are the clients that went in for the more junior position and were offered the managerial role because of the confidence they exuded.”
Having the right clothes is just a starting point and can’t solve the problems that so many women deal with every day. But according to Melissa, taking the time to help someone feel beautiful and professional can still have a major impact. “So many of our clients are dealing with a number of difficult issues—it’s not just their jobs,” she explains. “Sometimes, they don’t have childcare, or they’re in an abusive relationship, or they’re homeless, or all of the above. It’s very frustrating that we can’t do everything for them. But recognizing someone, giving them your time, and showing them that they are valuable is, well, invaluable.”
M.M.LaFleur was built on the belief that when women succeed, the world becomes a better place. Part of living our mission means recognizing that success looks different for everyone, and that each version of success is equally transformative. “For one client, success may mean getting out of debt,” says Melissa. “For another, it’s about becoming a role model for her kids, or educating her kids during the pandemic when she had no education herself. Maybe it’s getting a job, or going back to school. There’s no one definition of success.”
One of Melissa’s favorite moments with Bottomless Closet happened during what started as a hard day. “I had just gotten over Covid, and we were in the middle of moving to a new space,” she says. “It was the end of the day, and I was exhausted. A woman walked in and said, ‘I’m a former client of Bottomless Closet, and I have an interview tomorrow. I wear a size 16. Can you help me?’ I had no idea how I was going to find her something among the mess, but then I looked down and saw the label on the bag I was leaning on: Dresses Sizes 16-20. I opened the bag, and at the very top was a blue M.M.LaFleur dress, with the tags still on. It fit her perfectly—and the next day, she got the job.
“There’s a Yiddish word, beshert, which means ‘meant to be.’ Of all the bags we happened to have, it was the one that she needed.”