They came. They browsed. They contoured.
More than 70 women veterans and servicemembers enjoyed a day of boutique-style shopping and preparing for success as civilians during CalVet’s Northern California Operation Dress Code in Walnut Creek.
The women combed through racks of donated blazers, pants, blouses, dresses, and other business-quality clothing to wear to job interviews or work. They found shoes, handbags, jewelry, and other accessories. They enjoyed hair styling and makeovers. They attended workshops where they learned how to access their earned veterans benefits and could participate in a live hiring event provided by Amazon.
By the day’s end, these women veterans became the proud owners of more than 2,000 pieces of clothing collectively. The cost of this experience? Completely free – consider it prepaid by virtue of their military service.
The annual event returned to Northern California for the first time since its inception in 2014. Operation Dress Code has been a regularly occurring event for military women in San Diego since 2015 and will return there this November.
“My team and I were very excited to bring the highly successful Operation Dress Code back up to Northern California,” said Virginia Wimmer, CalVet’s Deputy Secretary of the Women Veterans Division. “The time and effort were well worth it! But, we couldn’t have done this without the support of our fabulous partners who are deeply committed to assisting women veterans. A special thanks to Operation Dress Code, Wounded Warrior Project, the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls, WinLikeAGirl and Amazon for their support.
“We’re also grateful to the military women who participated and for all they’ve done in the military and beyond.”
Among them was Denise Fogh of Dixon, who spent 26 years as a nurse in the Air Force before retiring in January 2021.
“I got good advice and tips, preparing myself not only for interviews but also to promote myself, Fogh said. “I got three outfits – power outfits. I’m excited!”
Army veteran Brittany Nolan came with no expectations and left with total gratitude.
“Everybody here has been so friendly and kind,” said Nolan, who served from 2008 until 2013, but joined the Reserves in 2018. She’s currently drilling at Moffett Field in Sunnyvale. “This is cool. It’s just about women. We served, too. We were important. We’re seen and we’re heard.”
For Army veteran Jeanine Thomas, the timing of the event couldn’t be better. She started a new job this week as an Office Technician (typist) with the California Department of Water Resources in Byron.
“This helps me dress for success in my new employment,” Thomas said. “This brings together a whole package of inner confidence. It brings all the skills to the surface and adds another layer of completeness.”
Santa Rosa’s Jessica Guerra, a Marine Corps veteran, now works as a behavioral interventionist working with autistic children. She works primarily in an in-home setting and found the kinds of apparel she needs.
“More business casual, but professional,” said Guerra as she searched for a necklace to match. “Can’t wear clothes without jewelry!”
Some of the women shopped on their own. Others teamed up with volunteers or CalVet staffers who helped them create their ensembles.
Sitting on a chair among several in a row, Air Force veteran Frank Camacho of Vacaville came to help his wife, Sotera, also an Air Force veteran.
“As a driver and pack mule,” he joked, with bags of clothing at his feet. “It’s all to support her. I always want to make her happy.”
He, and Operation Dress Code, succeeded together on that front.
“This makes me feel so special,” said Sotera Camacho, who works for the U.S. Department of Defense. “It’s going to help me out with my career. I work in (human resources) and I face a lot of people. I want to feel comfortable, and I got that comfort today.”
The volunteers and CalVet employees enjoyed the event as much as the women veterans themselves. Air Force veteran Bruce Humphrey staffed the checkout table.
“As a veteran, I believe in giving back to the community,” said Humphrey. “This was a wonderful opportunity to help people transition into civilian life. The most memorable part is the gratitude of the people as they’re going through the line. Every person here deserved their kudos.”
And finally, one participant promised to return to the next Northern California Operation Dress Code as a volunteer.
“This is the best thing that’s happened to me,” said Navy veteran Virginia Requillas, about Operation Dress Code. “It’s a very good resource. I’ve been going to all the classes. Military people have a stigma when it comes to asking for help. Next year, I plan to give back and volunteer here.”
To view the Operation Dress Code event video visit https://youtu.be/JXQiw9Ej-pg.
CalVet would like to thank its Northern California Operation Dress Code
partners and participating organizations:
California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls
Operation Dress Code
Wounded Warrior Project
Paul Mitchell, East Bay
Susan Difuntorum, Smiles & More Photo Booth
California Employment Development Department
Las Positas College Veterans First Program
Pump Up a Cure, Inc.
VA Northern California Healthcare System Women’s Health Program
Contra Costa County Veterans Service Office
VA Oakland Regional Office