Lutherans in the Twin Cities

‘Dressing to kill’ does not violate one of the commandments

Suitably Yours provides quality clothes for female job seekers who might not otherwise afford them

Competition in the job market is as intense as it has been in decades. Even
the slightest perceived imperfection can diminish one’s chances for a
position. Burning energy worrying about one’s attire does not breed an air of
confidence. One agency, operating out of Lutheran Social Service’s Center for
Changing Lives (CCL) is committed to relieving that stress.

Suitably Yours is a partnership of Mount Olivet Lutheran Church and Messiah
Lutheran Church, both ELCA congregations in south Minneapolis. It was
established in 2000 to serve and assist low-income women who are entering
or re-entering the job market with business- and interview-appropriate
clothing, according to its volunteer coordinator, June Kroog, a member at
Mount Olivet.

Suitably Yours collects lightly-worn professional clothing that can be re-used
by people in need of nice clothing for their jobs or interviews. Volunteers
help clients find up to three outfits at no cost.

Originally housed in Messiah’s old building, Suitably Yours had a couple of
rooms in its community center. As community use of Messiah’s building
increased, the private space necessary for trying on clothes shrank. But then
something great happened, says Kroog.

The Center for Changing Lives offered a small space to Suitably Yours. “It’s
less square footage [than the Messiah space], but we have invested more into
how the space is used,” Kroog said. “The space is fabulous, so visible and
bright.

“And it’s air conditioned here. For the women trying on dresses, that makes
the experience so much more appropriate.”

Its location at the CCL provides new ministry opportunities as well. In mid-
May, GrandFamily Connection, an LSS program supporting grandparents
raising grandchildren, staged an event to “pamper” these elders. Salon Lili of
Eden Prairie provided five hair stylists. In addition, the grandparents could
receive manicures, shoe polishing, foot messages, and a dessert buffet.
Suitably Yours was able to help provide nice clothing for the event.

“Grandparents are quiet heroes in our community,” said Kroog. “These lovely
people go through a lot as they give their hearts and special care to their
grandchildren and they deserve a night like this.”

Clients who come to Suitably Yours are referred by someone at a social
service agency, including LSS programs. Participants can remain relatively
anonymous, a great benefit, according to Kroog.

“We want to keep the experience as close to a regular shopping experience as
possible,” she explains. “In addition to the clothing, we want them to leave
with dignity and having had fun.”

Kroog recounts the story of one woman searching for clothing who
mentioned that she didn’t like her figure. Volunteers helped her find clothing
that accentuated her beauty, Kroog said, and helped her try it on. Afterward,
the woman told the volunteer, “I look like a CEO.” Kroog explained that this
experience can be transformative for some people.

Clothing donations currently are accepted only at Mount Olivet Lutheran
Church, 50th and Knox, Minneapolis. Clothes should be clean and on
hangers. There shouldn’t be stains or mending required. All clothes should
be no older than two years. To find items on the wish list, visit the Web site,
www.mt olivet.org/suitablyyours.

Anyone interested in volunteering at Suitably Yours can call 612/ 767-2204.
The program accommodates client schedules, and so volunteers are needed
at various times.

Suitably Yours is located on the first floor of the Center for Changing Lives:
Lutheran Social Service, 2400 Park Avenue South, Minneapolis.

“I’ve always liked clothes,” Kroog admits. “Suitably Yours is an opportunity for
me to use my vanity {regarding clothing] for some good,” she adds with a
captivating laugh.