First Impressions will provide students with professional attire free of charge

First Impressions, a nonprofit clothing store for the students of Central Michigan University, gives students the apparel to dress for success free of charge.

When it comes to dressing for a job interview it can be a bit pricey so First Lady Elizabeth Ross decided to open First Impressions.

Ross said the idea has been in her head for a year and a half since attending a spouse program of the organization, American Association of State Colleges and University (ASSCU).

“At maybe my first meeting, one of the spouses talked about how they were trying to start a clothing store and so it sort of stayed in the back of my mind,” Ross said. “And I do know people have nice suits and things that they outgrow.”

Since that meeting, Ross thought about the idea and talked about it with Steven Johnson, vice president for enrollment and student services, and they began to put the plan into action. They soon began the process of accepting professional clothing donations from various groups on campus and off campus.

Julia Sherlock, director of Career Services, said the Office of Career Services stepped in and were excited to be included in this initiative.

“It’s a great learning tool on how to make the best first impression as students prepare their professional selves,” Sherlock said in an email.  “Students have already requested assistance with wardrobe items and have been very appreciative of the store offerings.”

Ross said the store has quite a collection and she’s amazed at the selection they have as far as the range of sizes as well. The store offers a variety of apparel from dresses, skirts and tops to suits, jackets and shoes. The store also has a collection of ties.

“We have a little bit of everything, so it just depends, maybe we can enhance somebody’s wardrobe if they have certain pieces and they need a blouse or they need a jacket to go with a pair of slacks,” Ross said.

The best part about First Impressions is the professional clothing available in the store is given free of charge for students.

The only thing students have to do is fill out an application of the sizes for the pieces of clothing they need, and write a short 200-word essay about how First Impressions can help enhance their professional image while filling out the day, time and place the event you need it for will take place.

After students fill out the application, if the store has it in stock, students can come in and try it on. If it fits, students are more than welcome to have it.

“The extent and depth of this initiative does not exist anywhere else that I am aware of,” Sherlock said. “When researching the idea, we came across a smaller operation at one college that served as inspiration. At other schools professional ‘closet’ for students to access consisted of a suit coat and/or a tie that could be borrowed for an event and that was about it.”

Sherlock said an impression is made during the first seven seconds of an interview, and the way you dress sends a message to the employers deciding if they want to hire you or not.

“If you are not appropriately dressed for the occasion you would be sending the wrong message such as you are not prepared or didn’t value the experience,” Sherlock said. “It’s important to feel confident and prepared as students transition from college to career. Appropriate attire signals to the interviewer that you are prepared and ready to perform on a professional level.”

The attire offered by First Impressions not only helps students look classy for a job interview or professional night out, but it helps boost their confidence so they can walk with their heads held high and shoulders back because they know they’re dressed the part.

“You dress for success,” Ross said. “And if you’re dressed appropriately, then I think it enhances your confidence. I think a person presents him or herself more confidently when they’re dressed appropriately and feel good about what they have on because after all you will be representing the company if they choose to hire you.”

First Impressions is located on the first floor of the Bovee University Center across from the Down Under Food Court.

The store is open and staffed from student volunteers from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays. Appointments can also be scheduled on Mondays and Fridays. The grand opening of the store is tentatively scheduled for January of 2014.

For those interested in contributing to First Impressions, the store accepts gently used professional attire and cash donations, and people are welcome to make the donations at the Career Services office in Ronan Hall.