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Getting Our [Under]wires Crossed

We recently learned about a persistent myth regarding bras and the shelter system in this city – and decided to “bust” it wide open (pun intended).

“I’m noticing a trend that I wanted to mention to you,” said Board Member and Volunteer Jane O. to me on a recent morning while we were catching up at the water cooler. “I’ve had four or five clients in the last few months say to me that they could not accept an underwire bra to wear as part of their interview outfit because they’re not allowed to bring them into the shelter they’re living in. Could the metal possibly be considered a weapon, and they don’t want people using it to hurt themselves or someone else?” wondered Jane. To paraphrase Carrie Bradshaw, we couldn’t help but wonder.

Now, I have had many humbling moments since I started working at Bottomless Closet in January, but hearing this totally shocked me! I cannot imagine being without basic necessities like a bra or underwear. Yet it’s a common problem for many of our clients, which can be very problematic when going on interviews or starting a new job. How can you feel confident when you don’t have the most basic support you need?!

When I first envisioned this blog post – which I originally drafted as a call for donations of wire-free bras – I decided to contact the Coalition for the Homeless and ask them about the reasons behind this rule.

What happened next was quite unexpected. They said that they were unaware of any such policy (!), but I decided to double check with the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to make sure. Then, DHS promptly responded to let us know that there is no such policy in place prohibiting underwire bras in the NYC shelter system. And now we can say with relief that we’ve busted this myth and can educate our concerned clients! We’ll be sure to continue to share the correct information with our volunteers so that the news continues to spread among our clients, but we still have work to do.

Even though we don’t need to worry about stocking our boutique with wire-free bras now, we still need your help. We get plenty of donations of clothing, shoes, and accessories, but we don’t receive nearly as many donations of bras and underwear as we need to meet the needs of the thousands of clients we see each year. The added challenge with these types of donations is that they, of course, need to be brand new for sanitary reasons.

This is where you come in! If you’re interested in helping us provide our clients with undergarments, we’ve added a bunch of bras and underwear to our Amazon Wish List.  You can purchase them as a donation and they’ll be shipped right to us. You’re also, of course, welcome to make a monetary donation on our website here and we will purchase the bras. Your support helps us make sure that each client who comes through our doors has everything they need to feel confident as they reenter the workforce –– including the support and confidence of a good bra.

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