Career Closet offers students free businesswear

Just a short walk uphill from the Baker University Center bus stop is the Career Closet, located in McGuffey Hall.

After checking in on the first floor with an Ohio University email, students can climb a short flight of stairs to the well-lit Career Closet, though it’s more like a small room. Garments are hung on wall-mounted racks and neatly organized by pattern, type and length. A full-length mirror faces a window, and a moonlit bathroom as a dressing room is nearby.

“The Career Closet provides students with business and business-casual attire for job interviews, career fairs, formal events, or other career-related events, both on and off campus,” says Career Closet’s informational website.

A fashion lover’s dream, the Career Closet is a haven for students on a tight budget. He is a valuable resource on campus. It’s stocked with tried-and-true branded items, and some clothing items still have retail tags attached.

The original Career Closet opened in 2015 and has evolved since then. Regional campuses, including Lancaster OU and Zanesville OU, have followed suit.

However, having a classy outfit on hand isn’t just about having a superficial image. “Enclothed cognition,” a term coined in a study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, describes how clothing affects the “psychological processes” of the wearer. And clothed perception says that people have a habit of mimicking the characteristics represented by their clothing. Dress like a boss, act like a boss.

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Lisa Williams, associate professor of retail and fashion merchandising, said she thinks it can be difficult “for people who can’t afford (business attire) and don’t have them in their closet to feel they would be considered for a job because of their clothes.”

Samantha Kruse, a young journalism student, said clothing can make a real impact. Kruse is a minor in retail fashion merchandising and is one of the fashion directors of thread magazine.

“I think clothes definitely affect your confidence,” Kruse said.

Scientifically, Kruse is right. As a post from the White House black market noted, what’s worn can increase the chances of a promising outcome. Clothing can affect not only how you feel about yourself, but also how you are perceived by others. A study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science entitled “The Cognitive Consequences of Formal Clothing” supports these claims.

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In the Career Closet, students can put together a self-confident outfit for the job interview free of charge. The atmosphere is welcoming and the student staff are there to help. It is not necessary to return what was taken. However, if the clothing is no longer required, a return is always welcome.

“That’s definitely helpful, rather than … bring it to goodwill or something, bring it back here for the students,” said Payton Karaffa, a senior who studies integrated health studies and works in the Career Closet.

The Career Closet draws visitors daily, but career fairs will lead to a surge in last-minute shoppers. Williams advised that people putting together outfits for such events should do some research about the company and learn about its vibe.

“Even if (a company) is casual, I would still dress professionally,” Williams said. “Something that is clean and neat looking and more like business attire. Renting or buying (the outfit)…is a great way to show you’re serious about the position.”

Demyaca Sheppard, a senior studying retail and fashion merchandising, had never heard of the Career Closet. After learning of its existence, Sheppard said she would visit the Career Closet to find outfits for interviews and business attire for class presentations.

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“By all means, wear an outfit that makes you feel safe and comfortable,” Kruse said. “But also (find) professionalism in that attire. Workwear has finally normalized and… it’s becoming more street fashion, which is really cool. Try to make it your own.”

Kruse had some innovative ideas for promoting the Career Closet, including mobilizing the OU’s social media teams. She specifically noted how popular TikTok and Instagram Reels are. Sheppard recommended OU promote it in emails, and Williams considered working with the retail and fashion merchandising program.

The Career Closet works with donations of cash gifts and workwear. All sizes and styles are needed, and student donations are sincerely appreciated.

For more information, visit the Career Closet website here or contact Career Closet at 740-566-8888 or [email protected] The Career Closet is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm. It is not necessary to make an appointment.

“Come over,” said Karaffa.


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