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Last in two-part series
With the high cost of living and lack of jobs, dressing in style on a shoestring is no easy task for Queens families. This is especially true for women who find themselves unemployed and striving for economic independence: single moms trying to put dinner on the table or others who are alone with no support system.
Fashion takes on a whole new meaning and becomes a powerful tool as nonprofit organizations jump-start hope and careers for those struggling to better their lives. The organizations offer hope, comfort and reassurance, while providing multi-dimensional services that focus on creating self-sufficiency. Through a comprehensive program that begins with business attire and interview prep, and continues with professional development, financial management and personal enrichment, women can get back on their feet in no time.
Bottomless Closet, a Manhattan-based nonprofit, develops affiliations with dozens of job developers, employment training programs, and other nonprofit organizations across the city that provide work-readiness and skills-building training to women transitioning into the workforce. Clients are referred by partner organizations once they’ve secured a job interview.
Mariateresa Taussi, a Long Island City resident, was referred to Bottomless Closet last year by a non-profit called Hour Children.
“I found this organization which helped me — a woman with no financial possibilities — to once again reach confidence and security in a city like New York,” said Taussi, an Italian immigrant. “Feeling surrounded by love and friends is extremely important for me, as I am alone in this country — with no family and no support system. The volunteers make me feel important, beautiful and appreciated. They are all the support I need.”
Taussi, who is assistant manager at the antique store of Hour Children in Long Island City, attended all of the Bottomless Closet workshops in March 2010. She said she’s now seeking a second job that will make her financially independent “without any worries.”
“No matter what the world says about age, I feel you’re never old if you look at life as a continuous adventure,” she said.
In Italy, Taussi was an international adviser, and in the United States she has worked on Wall Street. “But life is sometimes strange — there are cycles you experience,” said Taussi. “Bottomless Closet… made me feel myself again, ready to fight and be at the top.”
With almost 200 attendees, Bottomless Closet’s first Real Women on the Runway Fashion Show in Manhattan on June 9, featured clients Taussi, Laurelton resident Johanne Perpignand, and others, walking down the runway in fashionable attire provided by TJ Maxx and other brands. “They were walking towards a better future,” said Heather Fisher, account coordinator at K Public Relations LLC, who is looking forward to making the Bottomless Closet show an annual fashion and fund-raising event.
Perpignand, a single mom, said, “I started with Bottomless Closet in early 2009, and was referred to them by a program I was involved with called First Steps. On my first visit, everyone was very friendly and kind, and treated me with respect. I felt nothing but love.”
Formerly an administrative assistant, Perpignand came in every time the Closet had a workshop. “Coming here helps me a whole lot with my confidence, and also gives my self-esteem the boost it needs; I feel at home here. They help shape me for the better,” she said. “I can cry and laugh with them, and I don’t ever have to worry about being judged. That’s a great feeling.”
Bottomless Closet prides itself on building deep and long-lasting connections with their clients, viewing the clothing as the first step towards developing these on-going relationships.
“This is a really unique organization,” said designer Nicole Miller while supporting the ladies who “strutted their stuff” at the June fashion show. “Being dressed well gives our clients great confidence when they’re trying to get a job and get back into the workforce. Some come from a bad home situation. So, I applaud Bottomless Closet for its many success stories.”
It takes teamwork and compassion to help people succeed and rise above their circumstances.
Clothes are only the beginning — building self-assurance and helping find your voice is the ultimate goal.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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