From job interviews to Greek life to career fairs, college life is packed with events requiring business-professional attire, but finding formal clothes can be difficult on short notice. Suits and dresses can get pricey, and bargain hunting can be time consuming.
Toppel Career Center – whose motto is “Hire A Cane” – not only helps students find jobs and internships but gives them a chance to “dress for success” through an initiative called “Sebastian’s Closet.”
Created in September 2015 as the result of a collaboration between Toppel and Student Government, Sebastian’s Closet allows students to borrow professional attire that has been donated from the greater UM community. The closet, housed at Toppel, offers a variety of professional attire, including suits and shirts for women and men.
“We understand that not all students have the financial means to be able to afford the clothing, and so our idea is to really address that need,” said Edmund Cruz, director of Career Education at Toppel.
About 400 students, including Michael Brennan, have used Sebastian’s Closet since it opened.
Brennan, who rushed Alpha Kappa Psi, a professional business fraternity, said he scrambled to find a suit after not bringing one of his own to college. He said he asked friends but found few people who had brought a suit and none who had one in his size.
“I was unsure at first,” Brennan said. “I always thought that programs like Sebastian’s Closet would lend me a suit, but that it would be 10 sizes too big or six sizes too small.”
A few days before the event, Brennan had run out of options and finally decided to take a shot at finding one at Toppel.
“Within 30 minutes, the student assistants at Toppel had me looking like a million bucks,” Brennan said. “I was pleasantly surprised with a suit that fit perfectly. I later nailed the interview, got a bid and became my pledge class president all while wearing Sebastian’s suit.”
Before the project came to fruition, Toppel had been collecting ties for students to use for years, Cruz said. Sometimes members of the Toppel staff would give students the clothes off their backs to help them through job interviews and career fairs.
Now the professionally stocked closet can be accessed by students all year long, even during the summer. During the 2016-17 school year, the initiative was expanded to include larger and smaller sizes, as well as business-casual attire.
The closet is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Clothes can be borrowed for up to seven days on a first-come, first-served basis.
Featured photo courtesy Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker.