KOKOMO, Ind. – Imagine being offered a job interview, but not having appropriate clothes to wear to it.
This is a reality for some Indiana University Kokomo students.
The Women in Business (WIB) and Student Marketing (SMO) organizations teamed up to solve the problem, opening the Cougar Closet this week. The closet, located in the Main Building, Room 180, provides free professional attire for students who need it for special events, internships, job interviews, KEY trips, and more.
“This could really open up a lot of opportunities,” said Lia Roudebush, WIB vice president, adding that with the expenses of being a college student, the cost of a professional outfit may be out of reach.
“If you’re worried about what you’re going to wear, it’s stressful,” the Noblesville resident said. “If I don’t feel confident that I will fit in, maybe I shouldn’t go. If you get rid of that stressor, people will be more willing to take those opportunities and be ready to perform at their best.”
The closet, which will be run by student volunteers, is open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It includes neatly-organized racks of two and three-piece suits, dress shirts, dress pants, shoes, ties, skirts, and other clothing items for men and women.
Reese Johnson, committee head for the Cougar Closet, said all items are available free to students who need them.
“IU Kokomo offers so many opportunities for internships and professional experiences. We want to alleviate the stress of having to buy the attire to participate,” she said. “We don’t want anyone not to be able to afford to go to an interview, or have something to wear for networking experiences.”
She said the closet also is a sustainability effort, as textile waste accounts for 5 percent of all landfill space, and within the U.S., the average individual throws away 70 pounds of clothing per year. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 85 percent of textiles are not recycled.
“Being able to reuse the clothing helps eliminate textile waste that we accumulate every year,” she said.
Gloria Preece, assistant dean of the School of Business, said the closet is a service learning project for the two student organizations, giving them experience as they drive environmental and social impact using management and marketing principles.
The Cougar Closet received grants from IU Kokomo’s Women of the Well House and from the IU Regional Economic Development (RED) fund for start-up costs. It accepts donations of gently used professional attire for men and women, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays.