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Featured Foundations  1 2
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Black Tie International - Featured Foundation:
The Bottomless Closet




 By Mitzi Perdue

The Bottomless Closet



Chairman emeritus and honoree Edward Gardner, Arlyn Gardner with grandsons at Big Brothers, Big Sisters of NYC
Chairman emeritus and honoree Edward Gardnera and
 Arlyn Gardner with grandsons at Big Brothers, Big Sisters of NYC 2009 Sidewalks of New York Gala
 Photo by Gregory Partanio /  Manhattan   


 Want to know something that’s not going to happen?  With the possible exception of her husband, no one is likely to find
Arlyn Gardner looking like anything less than a fashion plate. 

However, two life experiences have given this beautifully dressed woman a unique perspective on clothes. These experiences explain her countless volunteer hours at Bottomless Closet, the charity that provides economically disadvantaged women with appropriate clothes for job interviews.

The first experience that influenced Gardner’s attitude on clothes happened when she participated in a Citizens Committee for Children training session. Its purpose was to give volunteers
a glimpse of life on welfare.

The trainees took the role of welfare recipients, while the
staff played the role of people interacting with them. Gardner remembers that, “They treated us as nameless people who
were annoying them. They talked down to us, ignored us,
and made us feel worthless.  We felt as if we couldn’t make ourselves heard.”

As the session continued, the trainees saw a world where people had never entered a real clothing store; their only clothes came from church closets, or perhaps the Salvation Army. Gardner remembers that after even a single afternoon in this simulated world, she experienced a sensation of helplessness and hopelessness.

“It was almost a paralysis,” she recalls. She was left trying to imagine what a steady diet of this would be like in the real world.

Almost immediately after this, she had a second life-changing experience.  Her friend, Reva Wurtzberger had just co-founded Bottomless Closet.  Gardner volunteered there, and in the process, got to witness the extraordinary difference that attractive clothes could make in a woman’s self-confidence.

“A woman who has been out of work may only own sweat pants, a sweat shirt, and really scruffy sneakers,” Gardner explains. “She might come in with her shoulders hunched over, and eyes downcast. But then, after we’ve helped her select a nice suit, shoes, handbag, and maybe jewelry and a scarf, she’ll look in the mirror and suddenly she’s standing up straighter. There’s a new spark in her eyes.  In moments, she’s been transformed.”

And that’s not the end of it. Bottomless Closet gives advice on how to handle the job interview, and volunteers there teach evening classes on such topics such as job etiquette or financial management.  Always, the clients find themselves treated with dignity and respect.

Gardner may dress beautifully herself, but for her, this is a small thing compared to something much more important: helping prepare women to get the jobs they want. Gardner knows that for the Bottomless Closet clients, the self-esteem that comes from looking their best can influence their job interviews, and this, in turn, can be a positive force in their entire lives.

Gardner loves this work.  For her, it’s instant gratification
of the best possible kind.


Bottomless Closet Wish List

The Bottomless Closet needs donated clothes and accessories that are in good condition and appropriate for work. They also need funds for overhead, and they would love to have more volunteers.  A special need is contacts with manufacturers willing to donate work-related attire, especially in the plus sizes.

Bottomless Closet

15 Penn Plaza

B Level; Suite 40

New York, NY 10001



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