Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Career closet gives students access to professional attire


When Adora Hicks, a Career Advisor with the Career Center, first heard that the center would be building a closet of professional clothes for UA students, she thought it was a cool idea, but didn’t realize just how much she’d be involved. 

Now, Hicks is the go-to lady in charge of Crimson Closet, reaching out to local businesses and citizens to see if they have anything they want to donate – including calling up stores that are closing and asking if she can come by and get some items from them. 

“Next thing I knew she’s pulling up to little horseshoe here with mannequins in her car,” said Mary Lloyd Lowery, Director of Career Education and Development.  

The mannequins used to be owned by Altar’d State in Midtown Village, but now they stand in the Crimson Closet, a collection of business professional attire available for students to check out in the Career Center. The concept of the closet originated with the Student Government Association, but when their new space didn’t have enough room for it, the Career Center modified a room in their office and took the project over.  

The closet is stocked through donations, and students who wish to borrow items can simply come in, try on a few outfits, pick the one they like and bring it back a week later. If they find they need it longer they can request an extension by email, Hicks said.  

“Sometimes the way you dress is the way you feel, and going into an interview you already have different emotions,” Hicks said. “Sometimes it can just be looking in a mirror and just having that suit on, having that skirt on provides you with the confidence and positive feeling you need to go out and do very well on that interview.” 

Students are often unsure what “professional attire” can look like, according to Hicks, so the closet also allows career advisors to teach students about what the normal attire is for their industry.  

“We’re trying to make it student-friendly and make it a good experience when students come inside to check out clothes,” she said. “We do realize that often times the anxiety level can be very high for students trying to have an interview and we try to lessen that just by offering them a nice suit or skirt, whatever professional attire that they need.”  

So far, many of the closets users and donors have come through word of mouth advertising. When they were preparing to open the closet, Lowery made an announcement at her church and caught the attention of a woman in the congregation. Her husband had just retired and she was getting ready to donate many of his professional clothes.  

“She came up to me after church and she said ‘You know what, you’ve caught me at the perfect time because they are literally from the dry cleaners,’” Lowery said. “She was thrilled to know that this could go to UA students. She was happy to give it away anywhere, but I think it meant a lot more to her to know tangibly where this was going.”  

While the closet is already open, the Career Center will have a grand opening for it on Sept. 12 along with a fashion show. The timing of the opening celebration is meant to coincide with preparation for fall career fairs on Sept. 27 and 28.  

“Whatever the barrier may be, financial or ‘I have a suit but I left it in California,’ we want to remove that barrier,” Lowery said. “We know they’re going to stand on their own two feet when they’re talking to an employer – we can try to prep them for that – but we don’t want the barrier to be ‘I don’t feel like I have the right thing to wear.’ Whatever brings them into this room we want to try to help them,” Lowery said.  

The Career Center is currently accepting donations of all professional business attire in their office on the third floor of the Ferguson Center. According to Hicks, the items they’re currently most in need of are solid colored blouses and other clothing for women size 12 and up.

The goal, Hicks said, is to eventually build up enough inventory that students who come into the closet can take home their chosen outfit and not have to return it.  

“Eventually we do want students to walk away just to keep the particular item that they check out,” she said. “That is the long-term goal here with the closet is not just coming in and borrowing something, but keeping it because that may be the same outfit you use for the first day of work.” 

One of the students who has already made use of the closet is junior Nicholas Thacker. A double major in dance and business and an employee at the Career Center, he needed a suit for some professional headshots and hasn’t worn one since his high school prom. He said he came in, picked out a blue suit, a white shirt and a tie, took the headshots and brought it back. 

“It’s a gateway closet,” he said. “It helps you get to where you need to go, with being ready for headshots, being ready for a job interview, being ready for your career, and puts you on the right foot forward. When you start on the right foot you end on the right foot.”  

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