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Monday, December 13, 2010

Miss America and the Bottomless Closet

Just when I was getting a bit to jaded with the gift shopping and one too many fashion events with the same crowds, I was unexpectedly surprised and positively energized  from an event co-hosted by LookBooks for the Bottomless Closet organization.

The svelte Miss America - Caressa Cameron, the perpetual blonde Richie Rich and the charming Derek Warburton were also there to imbibe cocktails and check out the racks of colorful Joseph Ribkoff clothing line which  sponsored the event.  It turns out  Miss America wears Joseph Ribkoff - often as the brand's ambassdor. Ribkoff She told us the clothes from the line were " travel ready, not very heavy and the pieces were comfortable" which would be key points for a Miss America I presume.

Derek Warburton,fashion personality behind Derek Loves Shopping, helped coordinate the fashion show with bloggers turned stylists for the night and surprised us when he told us that he was homeless once. He joined Bottomless Closet over two years ago to with a program called Makeover Mondays which is "about being inclusive, not exclusive".

There was, of course, the catwalk and radiant models who were styled by bloggers for the event in  the Joseph Ribkoff clothes. The models were truly terrific and roused real cheers and applause from the audience as they paraded down the catwalk for us in their new outfits. 

The models were all Bottomless Closet clients and I had a chance to speak to several of the ladies to find out about the program. 

The Bottomless Closet organization was started 14 years ago in New York City.  It's mission was to help women in challenging situations find support through various workshops to find employment and prepare for the process. Through donations and volunteer support, the Bottomless Closet provides appropriate clothing for interviews and after job placement, provides three additional outfits. It truly is an incredible organization and to be able to see real women whose lives had been changed profoundly and positively. Shirley Rivera, a client, told me that she went to the workshops and was going back to college for her Master's degree in Business Administration and credited the program for helping her. 

I also met the effervescent Bonita Taylor who had gone thru the program and was "just two classes from a degree". She was going back to Baruch to finish up her education. She told me "everyone was so nice at Bottomless Closet" and  "Derek - he treats you like he knows you for life. No insecurity, hands-one and very personable" and she was also surprised to find out that he had been homeless at one time. 

Last, I met Sareena who was a client of Bottomless Closet and also a domestic violence survivor. She was quite young, only in her mid twenties. She had escaped her marriage and ended up in a shelter for 3 long month . Now, she was also a volunteer at SAKHI, an anti-domestic violence organization, which claims "saved my life". Sareena was in the process of going through the Bottomless Closet program and looking for employment. What struck me most about Sareena was her sense of quiet strength and calm which she told me she learned through her experience. She was articulate and self assured and felt the two organizations had been instrumental in her shaping her life.

What I loved about the event was meeting the clients of Bottomless Closet who were confident and brimming with pride.  They  truly evoked the positive spirit of the season. 

Join these incredible men and women tonight at their Blogger's Soiree fundraising event.  The evening will be filled with fashion and mingling among the city's philanthropists, bloggers and fashionistas.  

If you can volunteer or donate, please do. It may be the most rewarding gift you can give in this festive season.

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