By Emily Williams
As the saying goes, you dress for the job you want, not the one you have.
For many women, the clothing that suits the job they want is out of reach due to its cost. With that in mind, the YWCA of Greater Birmingham initiative My Sister’s Closet offers gently used clothing at a more than fair price.
Located in Downtown Birmingham next-door to the YWCA, My Sister’s Closet offers upscale and contemporary clothing from a casual sundress to a career-worthy business suit.
Clothes are offered at a discount, with all of the money feeding back into the YWCA’s programs, which offer support to local women and children in need. But the store also gives away clothes for free to women in need through the YWCA.
Three-year volunteer Cindy Doody of Mountain Brook said that seeing women pick out current fashions for free is one of the many rewarding experiences of her work at the store.
“It’s not just clothes, they pick out purses, jewelry, shoes,” she said. “They can accessorize, as opposed to just picking out a dress.”
According to Mary Jane Gibson, coordinator of volunteers and My Sister’s Closet, the store gives away far more of its clothing than it sells.
Though she has many favorite memories helping customers look their best, one that stands out was when a customer asked for help picking an outfit for her first job interview in years.
“As we talked, it was apparent how nervous she was about her interview, which was the following day,” Gibson said. “As she tried on outfits, I conducted a mock interview with her and gave her feedback on her responses, trying to ease her anxiety.”
In addition to finding the perfect outfit and accessories, Gibson said the customer left the store with more confidence than when she entered. The next day, the woman stopped back by the store and told Gibson that she had gotten the job.
The YWCA also coordinates Dress for Success and Making a Good First Impression talks at various local organizations in conjunction with the shop.
Open on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the store is run by staff and a large group of community volunteers who work with customers, hang clothing, price items and more. My Sister’s Closet is always flushed with new fashions to be organized, Doody noted, which are first donated and sorted at the YWCA so that the more upscale pieces are sent to the store.
“I have met and become friends with some incredible people who work and volunteer for the YWCA and My Sister’s Closet,” Doody said.
She added that it’s also the mission of the store that brings her back, supporting the YWCA as a whole to meet the needs of local women and children within the community.
“If a person feels good about their appearance, it gives them confidence and pride in themselves,” she said. “Acquiring these clothes allows someone to feel like they have a chance and an opportunity to succeed.”
In addition to day-to-day goings on, one of Doody’s favorite volunteer days is when she gets to help out with the some of the YWCA’s annual events, like Prompalooza.
“The event provides new and fashionable prom dresses to girls who might not otherwise be able to get a dress,” she said. “It is wonderful and rewarding to see the joy of these young girls, who come with their friends and parents to find the perfect dress.”
At this year’s event, held in March, Doody saw a long line of girls gathered outside of the store an hour before it even opened. With hundreds of gowns donated specifically for the event, she thinks just about everyone went home with something they loved.