Spring is time for forward thinking. It’s that moment of the year to start fresh, begin something new, and get organized after a long winter. The spring season is also when many college graduates need to get serious about their job prospects, evaluate the way they present themselves, and consider what qualities employers are looking for. In addition to a positive attitude, top notch technical skills, and the willingness and ability to learn, a well put together professional appearance is in demand. As a professional employee, identifying the fashion trends that can be successfully incorporated into your work wardrobe is a good place to start, and maximizing use of what you buy can help when facing a tight budget. Even cleaning out your closet, getting rid of items that don’t fit any longer, or that you never wore, can help make room for a more solid, successful style.

Not every fashion trend out there each season is going to work for the office. In the financial and accounting professions especially, a more conservative style is a safe bet. Garish colors, loud prints and oversized accessories can be distracting, and a polished, poised and professional look is desired to set the tone for good service and professionalism in the workplace. You can still incorporate the latest trends, but knowing how to style correctly for work can be tricky. With that in mind, I decided to pair up with my sister Hannah Burns, a Buffalo State College fashion department graduate, and Goodwill Industries of WNY, Inc., for the chance to identify some of the top spring trends that can be incorporated into your work wardrobe. I’ll also share how cleaning out your closet to make room for new items can help your community.

The Background: Goodwill Industries of WNY, Inc. was founded in 1920 (at the time called Buffalo Goodwill). There are hundreds of Goodwills across the U.S. and Canada, founded on the premise of giving others a chance to live independent lives. In essence, the organization is about finding people work or helping others in specific ways. For instance, the Rochester Goodwill works with the blind population solely. Sales from their stores and revenue funds programs for those visually impaired or legally blind. Some Goodwills sell or fix automobiles in a tech shop to raise funds for special programs. There is a lot of variety and creativity throughout the network. But the end result remains the same, find people a job and give them the opportunity to live independent lives.

Goodwill Industries of WNY, Inc. now has nine local stores that generate revenue to support Goodwill initiatives, the latest just opened in early February in West Seneca, NY, a suburb of Buffalo. In addition to the retail stores, the organization also sells donated items that come in on an online affiliate site called www.shopgoodwill.com. On the site, more expensive collectibles/higher end donations are sold to the highest bidder online, similar to eBay.

“The site is exclusive to Goodwill agencies and was created by a Goodwill in southern California. The reason this site was created, as you may have guessed, is because we sometimes receive some really rare or quality items. If we were to ‘thrift’ those items away for a few dollars inside our store, it’s lost money that we could have allocated to help more people. Therefore, this site is an outlet for us to sell quality items and get more revenue in return. It’s pretty cool,” says Jeremy Juhasz, Goodwill Industries of WNY’s Social Media/Web Site Coordinator.

We’ll get back to the retail stores in a minute, but first wanted to point out that Goodwill also has a sheltered industrial workshop for people who face economic, social or mental barriers. There, they work to fulfill orders from local companies such as Safetec, Curbell and Niagara Ceramics. It’s outsourced work that’s easy and simple to accommodate the population described. This is something not a lot of shoppers even know they are contributing to, but it’s an important aspect to shopping and donating with Goodwill. Goodwill also provides important human services programs for the local community and employ case managers and counselors to work with individuals in need. Vocational services such as career exploration, transitional job training and veterans’ services-job placement and case management are just some of these offerings, along with support services such as clothing support vouchers to assist job seekers with interview clothing and job interview training. A lot of good is done in the community, and shopping or donating all helps to contribute to the spirit of helping people.

So, now knowing what Goodwill does, how can you help? First thing’s first, you can clean out your closet, organize and DONATE. Adam Glassman’s Closet Cleanout Tips are a great start to identifying what’s gotta go. Many of the items that you decide don’t fit into your closet any longer may be beneficial to someone else, so consider donating your gently used items that could be repurposed in someone else’s closet. Another great resource for closet clean out tips comes from Lorie Marrero, creator of The Clutter Diet. She also is a spokeswoman for a national Goodwill campaign that’s ongoing and you can find great info on her blog at http://www.clutterdietblog.com/

Right now Goodwill’s ongoing national campaign is called the Donate Movement. The organization has partnered with brands like Levi’s jeans to insert a ‘D’ symbol right in the clothes to signify ‘donate.’ This idea in some ways emulates the recycle symbol as synonymous with recycling. Here is a YouTube video detailing the movement from when the campaign was launched in 2010. You can also check out more details by going here.

Next, SHOP! You can take part in “Wearing it Forward” with help from The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc., during their semi-annual Goodwill Sale, which will take place March 7–22. Before shopping, individuals are urged to donate their used clothing and household textile items at Bon-Ton stores to benefit Goodwill Industries. Donors will be rewarded with discounts at any of Bon-Ton’s 272 stores and furniture galleries. Local donations will be sold at Goodwill Industries of WNY, Inc. stores, and the revenues will fund employment placement programs and other community-based services that help people gain dignity and independence through the power of work. Learn more about the initiative here.

Also, consider taking a look at your local Goodwill store for something new, you never know what you may find. Prices are low, and new items come in every day. Your purchases support people and your community, so by shopping, you’re doing something good for others.

Exploring our Local Goodwill. With the latest location a short drive from Freed Maxick’s downtown Buffalo office, my sister and I ventured out to see what’s new so I could get my “Freed Style” on and find a few spring trends amongst the treasures. Here’s just some of what we found, and a few of the spring 2012 fashion trends you may like to add into your wardrobe rotation. Note that not every look we created may be suitable for your office dress code, but use these looks as inspirations to interpret some of the trends. Another important note: each look was created with items solely from the West Seneca Goodwill location and totaled no more than $20 total! What a bargain!

Pretty in Pleats and Preppy Plaid– Look for pleated skirts that are feminine with a classic shape. Check out this adorable ensemble mixing another hot trend (stripes) with a demure navy pleated skirt (as seen on the left). The accessories make the look cute and quirky, but polished for spring. We’ve also paired a bright grass green top with a navy eyelet lace jacket and navy and white plaid skirt. Throw on some pearls for a sweet spring look.


Polka Dots– A youthful, fun pattern, polka dots can be paired with just about anything, including lots of the vibrant spring hues you’ll see in stores. Try throwing a bright or pastel cardigan over a black and white polka dot blouse or dress. Here we’ve paired a cute dotty dress with a slim fitting women’s denim shirt and black faux suede belt.


Stripes for Spring– Featured on many of the runways for spring 2012, stripes are casual, cute, and easy to wear. Stripes often bring to mind a nautical look, which is another timeless spring trend that keeps coming back each season. From horizontal, to vertical or diagonal, you’ll see stripes of all kinds, but keep in mind that different stripe directions are better for different body types, and not all stripe patterns are created equal. Everyone should know what type of stripe works best for their shape and why, so take a look at this handy guide to help you find your best look. Here we paired a turquoise and white vertical striped short sleeve cotton blouse along with a vibrant red knee length skirt. We’ve also pulled that same black faux suede belt to cinch the waist and added a pair of oversized sunglasses to the mix. Classic, red blue and white with a few accessories to tie it all together.


Safari/Tribal Trend– While a super loud animal print may be a bit over the top for the office, small touches of safari , tribal and animal inspired prints paired with desert, earthy color palettes is a nice way to interpret this trend. Here we paired a girly vintage bow tie print blouse (that’s an animal print actually!) with a tan skirt and soft beige button down shirt. It may be a little too casual for some offices, so to interpret this trend, try a leopard belt or shoes paired with a more conservative look, or a utilitarian structured jacket with a well tailored pair of pants. Throw on your aviator glasses when you hit the pavement outside in the sun this spring!


Mix and Match Brights/Colorblock– This trend was seen all over the spring collection runways and is a refreshing and eye-catching look after a long grey winter. To interpret this trend you can create outfits that use a pop of punchy color, mixing and matching vibrant tops, bottoms and accessories. Here we create a few different looks using brights paired together.


Spring Pastel Separates– Pretty pastels are on trend for spring with soft sorbet colors being paired together (as seen on the right). Also on trend are hues of orange and tangerine, and prints that pop like this polka dot blouse paired with another hot spring trend, brightly colored pants and colored denim (as seen on the left). Look for Easter egg-like colors such as lavender, nude pink or blush, pale yellow and icy blue to wear together.

I hope you have enjoyed some of the looks we have created and some of the advice to put your best foot forward this spring. If you are interested in Goodwill style, check out DC Goodwill Fashionista for more amazing looks and ideas! For more information on the suitable style for the workplace, check out this article from About.com, search “work clothes” on your favorite search engine for inspiration, and consider donating to and shopping at your local Goodwill to make a difference and look great!