If you’re a law student, how do you dress for the job you want on the budget you currently have?
I’ve worked in Seattle University School of Law’s Center for Professional Development (CPD) since 2008, and during that time I’ve encouraged students to “dress for success” and “be the best dressed person in the room” and, yes, “dress for the jobs they want.” But what do these platitudes mean when confronted with a tight student budget? Suits are expensive and getting properly fitted and styled sometimes comes with additional costs.
Meanwhile, attorneys don’t always know where to donate their gently used work clothes. Last year, Dorsey & Whitney partner Nelson Dong reached out to CPD to find out if we’d be interested in professional attire donations from lawyers in his firm. Thanks to Connie McEachern, who coordinated the donation drive at Dorsey, the firm had many great items to donate and wanted to make sure the clothes got into the hands of law students who could use them. We gratefully accepted and began collecting additional items from other community partners while brainstorming ways to distribute the clothes. Ultimately, we decided we wanted students to be able to shop without spending a dime—which became the slogan for CPD’s first ever winter pop-up shop.
Pop-up retail is everywhere, from temporary stores within permanent, established shops, to flash retail space in underutilized buildings. Pop-up shops can generate excitement and get people through the door who may not normally come in, so we decided a pop-up clothing boutique in our office suite was the perfect way to give students access to the donated suits, separates, and accessories. Even better, the price on every item would be $0.
The clothing we received from attorneys, faculty, family, and friends was sharp, but it can be hard to envision how even the highest quality items can come together without professional displays and advice. What’s more, a suit that’s tailored for someone else may need a little bit of work. So we brought in professional stylist Brianne Trafton to help students put outfits together and make plans for the kind of tailoring their items might need in order to be just right.
The result was a SMASH!
More than 80 students came into our transformed office suite for our pop-up shop debut and nearly everyone walked away with at least one item of professional clothing! Many were able to find a full ensemble. The shopping was paired with a festive holiday vibe and a great time was had. At an event about a month after the pop-up shop, a student came up to me to show off his new (to him) sport coat and tie and to tell me that until the pop-up shop he hadn’t felt ready for networking. This success story, along with many others, has prompted us to make the CPD pop-up shop an annual event.
So much goes into finding jobs; it can be overwhelming for students. While they’re busy focusing on writing the perfect cover letter and building confidence for that next interview, taking on the task of finding the right attire might go by the wayside. You can help!
CPD accepts donations year round. If you’re looking for a new home for your gently used, on-trend suits, professional separates, shirts, and ties, please contact Junsen Ohno, firstname.lastname@example.org, or me, email@example.com, to coordinate. This year’s pop-up shop will be at the end of November, the last day of classes for our students. Please help them dress for the jobs they want!