May 29, 2015
For the first time in a long time, Darmicka felt confident. She and her son had been living in Our Place, the YWCA Central Alabama’s domestic violence shelter in St. Clair County, for several months and she was on one of the many job interviews she’s had since leaving her abusive past.
This time was different, though. Just days before the interview, she had participated in a workshop at the shelter that focused on dressing for success on a tight budget. She followed the advice, dressed conservatively and left her cell phone and oversized purse in the car during the meeting. She looked good, she felt even better and this time, she got the job.
“It gave me confidence,” she said. “It makes you feel good to know how to dress. I used to put on jeans and a T-shirt and tennis shoes and wonder why I never got a call back.”
BeBe Benjamin, a fashion blogger who lives in Pell City, conducted the “Occasionally Dressed” workshop with tips on dressing for interviews and other occasions. She and her daughter, Loris Hutchinson, write about fashion, fitness, finances and other topics at Nappy Model Inc.
For the workshop, Benjamin brought a suit she found at a thrift store for $4.99. The suit, which still had the tags, originally cost nearly $100. “We focus on dressing appropriately for every occasion, and we talk about where to find the best deals,” she said. “I’m a big thrifter. With the economy being the way it is, we’re trying to count every penny.”
Benjamin advised the women to stick to neutral colors like black, navy and tan. She also cautioned them to stay away from big, dangly earrings, bold makeup and lipstick. “A lot of times, we want to have the hair, the nails, the earrings and all of that,” she said. “We want the oversized purses with all the bells and whistles. But that’s not appropriate for the interview. You dress for the position you would like to have, even if you’re applying at a fast food restaurant. You walk in the door and you think management.”
Darmicka, who is also pursuing an online degree, said Benjamin’s advice made a big impression. “She did an awesome job. She said every woman should have a pantsuit in her closet or a simple black dress you can wear a blazer over,” Darmicka said. “She told us to sit up straight and don’t fidget and that we should buy a portfolio to carry our resume in, instead of just walking in with loose papers.”
Benjamin, who is making plans to return to the shelter with a follow-up session, was thrilled to learn of the difference she made. “I’m so excited, and I can’t wait to come back,” she said. “We’re at a stage where we want to contribute, we want to give back to the community.”
Many clients find the professional clothes they need at My Sister’s Closet, the YWCA’s boutique that offers professional clothing at budget prices. YW clients and those referred by other agencies receive vouchers to shop free of charge, while any bargain-hunter can save lots of money and help support the agency’s programs at the same time. My Sister’s Closet, located at 2324 3rdAvenue North, is open Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on the second Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
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