Penn State’s Professional Attire Closet helping build both confidence and careers

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CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) – First impressions go a long way, which is why Penn State is making sure its students don’t fall short when it comes to dressing the part.

When walking into the university’s Professional Attire Closet, students will see everything from suits, ties and dress shirts, to jewelry and handbags; all the essentials for students to dress for success.

“We never want to see clothing as a barrier to a student getting that internship or a job that they deserve,” said Career Services Program Coordinator Matthew Stein.

Each academic year, students that might be in financial need or limited geographically, are allowed to pick out one free outfit.

“We don’t ask questions of why you’re here but naturally I think you know some students might feel a little timid walking in to kind of take a hand out if you will,” noted Stein.

But the atmosphere closet intern Maimouna Fall and program assistant Vickie Clauer create once you walk in, changes everything.

“Sometimes it’s the first time they’ve ever had a suit, so we of course help,” smiled Clauer.

The real transformation though she says, takes place in the changing room.

“It’s amazing when they come out… Ya know the posture, everything looks different. A lot of times they’ll take a picture to send home to mom and dad,” said Clauer.

For intern Maimouna Fall, she says there’s nothing like seeing a student out and about, in the exact same outfit she helped them pick.

“It kind of brings life to the outfit. Because they have the full thing on, they’ve got a clean haircut. So seeing them actually approaching employers in that setting…and then when they see me they’re like remember this is me,” said Fall.

Once starting out with just 2 small racks of clothes, Clauer says the closet they have now is all made possible by the unending generosity of alumni, faculty and staff, as well as the community.

“Because of all the donations we get each week, the campus mail carrier will say it’s just like Christmas,” laughed Clauer.

Stein gives an example of one individual sending two boxes filled with professional clothes that had a shipment cost of $36 each.

“And inside was a handwritten note that said ‘For the students of Penn State,'” said Stein.

Along with seeing the community come together to help one another, Stein says the best part about the closet for him, is seeing the clothes come full circle and be paid forward.

“Sometimes they come back with their clothing they’re like in a position where they can afford their own clothing, they’re like listen, I want to pay this forward, it’s let me be successful, I want to give it back to another student,” said Stein. 

Items and sizes that the closet is currently in need of:

Dress pants sizes for men: Waist 28-34
Shirt sizes for men: 14-16
Small jacket sizes for men: 34-42

Sizes for women: 0-6
Suit jackets sizes for women: 2-10

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