Phoenix College opens “Bears Closet” a dress for success career and active wear clothing boutique—free to students


NEVN Photography

Bears Closet team inside Dress for Success Boutique. Left to right; Alicia Middleton, Amy MacPherson, Genevieve Winters

Timothy Slone, Reporter

Career Services, along with leaders from Phi Theta Kappa have joined forces to offer a career and clothing program—free to students—called Bears Closet, located on the Phoenix College Campus.

Amy MacPherson, co-adviser of Phi Theta Kappa told Northeast Valley News that for her, it all began in 2019.

“I wanted to start a program that offered ‘sustainable, and stylish clothes’ to students on the Phoenix college campus for free. But with COVID-19 shutting down college campuses the idea for donation program was put on hold,” MacPherson said.

Even before the idea of Bears Closet, Phi Theta Kappa kept meeting with the Climate Action Network and the conversation centered around a clothing initiative focused on clothing recycling, renewing and sharing.

“We kept having these conversations—from the Climate Action perspective, there is enough clothing on this planet right now to clothe every man, woman and child in this country for a week. We throw hundreds of pounds of clothes away in the landfill every week—and these are perfectly good clothes not ruined clothes,” MacPherson said.

But the original vision for the Phoenix College Bears Closet, as it is today, came several years back when Director of Career Services, Alicia Middleton began to start the necessary conversations with interested campus leaders.

Middleton wanted to provide a comfortable and inviting place for students at Phoenix College to get quality career clothing as well as fashion tailoring.

“When I first started in 2017 I wanted to have a dress for success closet where students were able to go and get clothing for an interview and then take a week of clothes— for their first week. This is why I wanted to have something, on campus. We ordered the closets, and then COVID happened,” Middleton said.

“I’m a team person and I knew I needed a team,” Middleton said.

Middleton immediately reached out to others during the COVID limitations so the closet could open once students were back.

MacPherson and Phi Beta Kappa colleague and co-adviser, Genevieve Winters helped Middleton put the Bears Closet plan into action.

Once the team secured a space, the word got out, and the clothing donations came flooding in.

“My dream was to put together not just a career clothing experience but a boutique feeling, like shopping,” Middleton said.

Bears Closet premiered its grand opening on March 29.

The closet has a small “boutique” feeling and offers high-quality tuxedos, suits, dresses, and active wear—all donated.

Many items are brand new and there’s a still a huge number of items that need to be sorted, sized and organized. Volunteer help is welcome and the team is also looking into paid student staffing.

“The goal is to have a system where people come to donate pieces of unwanted clothing and then take clothes back with them,” MacPherson said.

Alicia Middleton in front of Bears Closet boutique (NEVN Photography)