Erin Wolfram, with the University of Kansas Career Center, enters a small room in Summerfield Hall on the KU campus, where she is suddenly surrounded by hundreds of suits, dresses, shirts and ties filling floor-to-ceiling racks. The Professional House of Garments is filled with clothes waiting to help students dress for success as they prepare for job and internship interviews.
The PHOG, a reference to legendary basketball coach Phog Allen, connects donated professional clothing with KU students.
The facility, housed at the University Career Center in Summerfield Hall, is aimed at combating a financial challenge many students face. Wolfram said students are often working part-time jobs or in unpaid internships that don't leave them money to pay for much more than room and board.
"Clothing, especially suits, is not something that students are really thinking about that they're going to have to pay for," Wolfram said.
That poses a problem when it comes time to interview for a job or summer internship.
"All of a sudden they have an interview, they need something to wear and they don't have it," Wolfram said.
That's where the clothing closet comes into play. The donated suits, dresses and more can equip students for a critical part of the job interview: the first impression.
Wolfram said many employers can choose whether they want to pursue a candidate in as little as 30 seconds, and clothing is a big part of that.
"First impressions are huge in interviews," Wolfram said.
More than 100 students have visited the clothing closet in recent months. It opened in 2011 and was based on a similar program at Kansas State University.
This time of year is a critical time for the clothing closet. Wolfram expects a rush soon as students prepare for career fairs in the early spring.
"We're definitely looking for donations now to help replenish the closet for students who come in when they get back from winter break," Wolfram said.
The PHOG accepts donations at Summerfield Hall, room 206, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
KU isn't the only school in Kansas with this type of service. Similar clothing programs assist students at Pittsburg State University, Emporia State University and Kansas State University.
Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @kprkoranda.