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Melissa Norden: Executive Director of Bottomless Closet

Bottomless Closet provides free professional clothing, resume reviews, workshops, and coaching to women reentering the workforce. This January, Bottomless Closet is celebrating their 25th anniversary of helping thousands of women in New York achieve professional and personal success. Thanks to their work, women coming from troubled backgrounds are able to enter the workforce with confidence. Learn more about Bottomless Closet here!

Can you tell me about the women who utilize your services?

Our clients come from all kinds of backgrounds. Many have been in homeless shelters, are formerly incarcerated, domestic violence victims, and live below the poverty line. For clients who have never shopped in a store before, having that elevated experience in a supportive, happy boutique makes them look at themselves differently. You see how the clothing changes their perspective of themselves and builds confidence, since many of these women have never been asked what they wanted to wear before. Our mission is about empowering women to get into the workforce and achieve success, which starts by outfitting them for job interviews and continues with workshops and coaching.

What do women experience at a Bottomless Closet appointment?

When clients come to us, they will get 1-2 career appropriate outfits on their first appointment for their job interviews that are free and theirs to keep. Half of our office space is a boutique that is stocked with clothing and accessories that are all donation based. The second half of the appointment is resume review, where we help women play up their skills and tell their story. Some women come to us with perfect resumes and a graduate degree, and some come with a high school diploma and three bullet points on a piece of paper. When women get a job, they come back to get 2-3 more work outfits and a coaching appointment to talk about success in their job to ensure they are prepared.

What kinds of workshops and coaching do you offer?

Our workshops cover financial management, digital literacy, personal enrichment, and professional development. We cover things like banking, investing, buying a home, how to ask for a promotion, how to make a LinkedIn profile, as well as things like yoga for stress relief, how to find a work wardrobe on a budget, and how to be an entrepreneur. Everything is designed to support their path to self sufficiency. We offer interview training so women can feel confident talking about their story and experience. They go into interviews knowing their rights, knowing their worth, and feeling like their best selves. These women come to us with a lot of baggage that is not easy to overcome, and I have been so inspired by their motivation to learn and reach their goals.

What are some of Bottomless Closet’s success stories?

Success looks different to everyone— for some it’s affording their own apartment, for others it’s being a role model for their children. Rose immigrated from Jamaica alone as an older woman and worked as a home health aide until she got sick and became wheelchair bound. She was living in a homeless shelter when she became our client, and was always the first person to show up to every workshop. She graduated from our financial management and professional development program, and went on to get a job and become a US citizen. We worked with a woman named Zoe, who was a serious substance abuser for decades and was incarcerated. Now, she works as a substance abuse counselor. Hearing our clients’ success stories is everything to me— they are so impressive and inspiring.


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