Published: May 18, 2011
"A lot of women have never worn a suit before," Vaughn says. "A lot of them don't know how to match up an outfit, they don't know how to put the blouse, accessories and so forth together. A lot of the women that come through here, the shoes on their feet are the only shoes they own, so it's our job to show them how to put things together and look nice."
Angela James, 38, steps out of the dressing room wearing a crisp white shirt, dark black pants and shiny black high heels. She wants to be a nurse, went to school for it for a while, but dropped out when she got pregnant years ago. "Had little setbacks," she says. "But I'm going for success."
She has no dress clothes, not even new clothes of any kind, and now she's wearing an outfit she'd never have been able to afford on her own. The new look swells up her pride, and as she looks in the mirror she free-associates her feelings. "I feel very different," she says. "Important. More businesslike. More independent. I feel like I'm encouraged, you know? Strong. I know when I walk in there they're going to look at me differently. This is nice."
The women bustling around are thrilled with their free outfits, though the real gift, whether or not each realizes it, came an hour ago with the lessons on résumé-writing, interview etiquette and social skills. But their reaction is understandable because the new outfit is their chance not to be dismissed just for their appearance when they first walk in for a job interview somewhere. The rest is up to them. But at least now they can get into the door.
"We call it the Cinderella effect," Vaughn says. "We totally transform people, even their body language. Their head is held down, and when they leave their head is up, and they have a smile on their face."
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