As workplaces return to operation in person, many students need a professional wardrobe for an influx of job fairs, interviews and internships. Tucked away on the second floor of Western Washington University’s Old Main is a room full of professional clothing ready to be used.
The Career Closet, part of Western’s Career Services Center, offers free professional clothes for students and alumni. From shirts to shoes, they have the essentials students and alumni need to start a professional wardrobe.
Over 250 people have visited the Career Closet since 2018, said Britta Eschete, an administrative assistant at the Career Services Center.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase in students seeking professional attire as more in-person networking, conferences and presentations occur,” Eschete said.
The closet offers ready-to-wear clothing in a wide range of sizes that follow workplace standards. Currently, there is no limit to the number of items students can take, Eschete said.
“Helping students find clothing that meets these expectations will help them feel confident and make a great first impression at their interview or event,” Eschete said.
Kaleigh Carroll, a Western graduate, used the Career Closet to find clothes for her internship.
“I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I'm gonna have to go to an office and wear semi-professional clothes,’” Carroll said. “I looked at my closet and realized, ‘OK, all I have are jeans and yoga pants, and that's probably not going to fly in the office.’”
Carroll heard about the closet from a friend while searching for professional clothes without breaking the bank.
“I definitely saved a ton of money, and I still wear some of those clothes at the job I have now," Carroll said. "So 10 out of 10 for the Career Closet.”
Many students are entering a professional workplace for the first time. While at her internship, Carroll worked alongside people who had already been in the field for decades.
A professional outfit helped her feel more confident when working.
“It helped me just broadcast that confidence that maybe I didn't have all the time in the office,” Carroll said. “That helps people assume that I knew what I was doing all the time, or that I was a little bit older and experienced than I was.”
How you dress makes an impression, said Dawna Drum, an associate professor at Western, who regularly donates to the Career Closet.
“I had a teacher once when I was in high school and she always said, ‘Dress for the job you want, not the job you have,’” Drum said. “Which I kind of liked because if you want a more professional position, look like it when you go [to] that interview.”
She recommends the Career Closet because it creates a welcoming environment for students to try on clothes and grow their professional closet.
“You don’t have to be embarrassed to go in there. It’s not like people are gonna give you funny looks,” Drum said. “I mean, that’s why they’re there.”
Students can visit the Career Closet in Old Main 280 by making an appointment on their website. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Jenna Millikan (she/her) is a campus news reporter for The Front this quarter. She is in her second year and is planning to major in journalism and minor in political science. When not reporting, she enjoys cheesy movies, reading and drinking too much coffee.
You can reach her @firstname.lastname@example.org