`Someone’s Future is Hanging in Your Closet’: Fitting Futures

Sixty percent of interview rejections are based on grooming and appearance.

That’s according to the Women’s Alliance, a national organization that provides attire, training and related services to low-income women seeking employment. The statistic is a daunting one for women who can’t afford business attire for interviews.

“It’s important to look your best,” says Emily Marshall, president of Junior League of Evanston-North Shore (JLE-NS). So, in the fall of 2009, the organization launched Fitting Futures, a program to outfit underprivileged women with appropriate business clothes that have been donated to the Junior League’s thrift house located on Chicago Avenue in Evanston.

Once a month, women in need are invited to attend a four-hour fitting, where they are given everything from business suits to blouses and shoes, all donated by North Shore residents.

“With bigger people that do this, like Dress for Success and Bottomless Closet, we aren’t looking to compete. We are just looking to help people,” says Gina Gooden, committee chair of Fitting Futures.

Fitting Futures finds its clients through partnerships with other community agencies, including Youth Job Center of Evanston, Howard Area Community Center, Community Economic Development Association of Cook County, Jewish Vocational Services and Mary Lou’s Place, the battered women’s shelter run by the YWCA of Evanston North Shore.

The clientele of Fitting Futures are mostly single mothers, most of whom have only a high school education.

“Over 70% of our program participants earn $1,000 or less per month. And the jobs they are looking for are primarily in health care, retail, customer services, and office, administrative, clerical positions,” says Marshall.

Fitting Futures continues to expand its services.

“Last year, we did a new project called Job Readiness Day. It was a day of pampering for these women. It’s wonderful that we give them tips and clothing, but a lot of times it has to do with self-confidence. Clothes can only go so far.”

The day included a speaker talking about overcoming obstacles, participants writing goals on note cards, (“They took their goals home and took them very seriously,” says Gooden) and getting makeup consultations, manicures and massages.

Make a clothing donation to Fitting Futures at the Junior League’s Thrift House at 920 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, or at their headquarters in the Winnetka Community House. You can also call to arrange a pick up.  The group needs suits, solid tops and solid tanks and business-appropriate shoes.

Marshall says, “One of the organization’s taglines is, ‘Someone’s future is hanging in your closet.’ It’s an easy way to help someone in need.”