Career Wardrobe, a nonprofit which serves women in Philadelphia by providing them with the clothing, career skills, and confidence necessary to transition into employment, was started 19 years ago (then known as Working Wardrobe) by a group of women who wanted to do more than just donate to a thrift store — they wanted to give their clothes to women seeking jobs.
“It was as simple as they had suits and things that they didn’t need anymore and they knew that there were a lot of women in the community who needed help,” said Sheri Cole, executive director since 2000 and the first to take the position.
Career Wardrobe has assisted nearly 75,000 “women in transition” since it started, which, according to Development Manager Rae Pagliarulo, can have a lot of different meanings.
“I think that transition can mean pretty much anything…it’s been a self-declared need really from the start, but now we’re truly communicating if you say that you need us, then we believe you,” she said.
Career Wardrobe’s clients include women transitioning out of incarceration or rehab, women transitioning out of a career they’ve had for numerous years, women transitioning out of relationships and out of living situations, or women who have moved here and don’t have a support system.
“We don’t define transition for other people. If they’re in a transitional place in their lives, then we make ourselves available,” Pagliarulo added.
More Than Just Helping Women Dress Professionally
In addition to helping women dress professionally, the program offers educational programs to help women develop professional skills such as resume writing, time management, professional etiquette and financial literacy.
Women can earn a Professional Development Certificate from the organization by completing all four of Career Wardrobe’s Gateway to Success Job Readiness Workshops and one Blitz Basics workshop, which are presented by volunteers who are trained and knowledgeable in a specific industry.
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“The crux of what Career Wardrobe is doing for women is based on, not a one time boost to their ego or self-confidence, but a permanent change in how they feel about themselves and what they’re able to do. So we very deliberately use the word empowerment a lot,” Cole said.
“We’re not giving women a handout but helping them to develop the skills and giving them the power they need in themselves to make a permanent change in their lives,” she added.
Work It! Workshop Helps Women Create a Professional Image
Last January, Career Wardrobe held its first Work It! Workshop, a day dedicated to helping women create a professional image in person and online. The organization is hosting the 2nd edition of the workshop on November 3, with goal of hosting two Work It! events a year.
For the event, Pagliarulo said they “try to pick a group of women that are diverse in their backgrounds and experiences but who are similarly committed to next level personal enrichment.”
Participants who are selected (about 30 were selected out of 50 applicants in January) will receive a professional outfit and makeover, one-on-one networking prep, a professional head-shot, and assistance in creating a LinkedIn profile.
Raising Funds to Help Women With Re-Entry
Also in November, Career Wardrobe will hold its an annual Empowering Tea and Fashion Show. This year’s fundraiser, set for November 9, will raise funds to help Career Wardrobe partner with other organizations that serve women in the re-entry population.
Career Wardrobe is reaching out to partners and expanding its work on this client demographic because “women who are transitioning out of incarceration are sort of left without a lot of resources that they need to get back on track,” Pagliarulo said.
To help celebrate this work, Alysha Reiner, who plays Fig on the Orange is the New Black and is a major advocate for women in prison, will speak at the event about the importance of women reclaiming their voices and telling their own stories.
The event’s silent auction will feature signed books that have helped women tell their own stories.
Career Wardrobe is located at 21 South 12th Street, Suite 110. The Wardrobe Boutique (a high-end resale store which benefits Career Wardrobe) is located at 19th and Spring Garden.
Empowering Tea and Fashion Show will take place on Sunday, November 9 from 1-4 p.m. at Hyatt at the Bellevue — more information can be found here. Applications for the November WorkIt! are available here and are due October 10.
For more information about all of Career Wardrobe’s programs, visit http://careerwardrobe.org/
Image c/o Career Wardrobe-30-
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