Given a Second Chance: The Bottomless Closet

Saturday, 29 August 2009 22:41 Written by  Bonita Holmes

Through the double doors on your right, there is a sign that reads, “We’re More Than Just Clothes.” Located below the sign there are women’s shoes and business attire that appear to be in perfect condition. The atmosphere is reminiscent of a boutique, maybe even an exclusive retailer tailor-made for women of a higher class. Realistically, however, it is a place where impoverished women are a priority, treated with respect and given just a bit more hope to move forward.

Established in 1991 by four women who saw a need in the lives of poor working women, The Bottomless Closet (TBC), a non-profit organization, has provided top-quality apparel to women in need for over 18 years.

“We don’t stock anything that isn’t absolutely perfect,” says CEO Jude Andrews, who expressed that most of their clients are referred through the 50 to 60 agencies with which they work in collaboration. All of their clients are on some sort of public aid and are referred by the Illinois Department of Human Services. Clients are never charged for any of TBC’s services, which not only include clothing but also shoes, purses, jewelry and other necessities.

TBC provides business professional clothing for women sizes 0 up to the 30s. Some of the women “[have] never worn a suit before,” says Andrews. “It’s amazing to see their expressions when they see themselves dressed up like that.” Even though The Bottomless Closet provides clothing for women of all sizes, they’ve found it difficult to obtain clothing in larger sizes. “Larger sizes are really important to us,” says Andrews. “We’re always scrambling for clothes.”

Many of their clients come from all walks of life, but rarely does someone come in directly from the streets. A vast majority of the women are single parents, heads of household, recently released from prison or in rehabilitation homes, which is why TBC not only provides them with clothing, but they also provide them with workshops on how to build their self-esteem and a series of other self-empowering topics.

TBC has accomplished a great deal since its debut in 1991, including being the first workforce development organization of its kind. Sixty-five percent of the 13,500 women Bottomless Closet has assisted over the past 15 years have gained employment. In addition to that, over 26,000 pieces of clothing were donated over the last year and more than 600 individual women of very diverse backgrounds were helped in that same time.

The Bottomless Closet’s Chicago office is located on 445 N. Wells Street, Suite 301. For more information, please visit their website at

Bonita Holmes

Bonita Holmes

Bonita Holmes, a native of Chicago IL is a sophomore at Columbia College Chicago majoring in journalism with a concentration in News Reporting and Writing. She has worked for many publications such as New Expressions and The Mash, and she plans on changing the scope of media.

Bonita can be reached at