San Diego

Dressing Up for Civilian Life After Military Service

Over the last three weeks, Operation Dress Code collected clothes, jewelry, shoes and makeup for these women veterans

Military members can find the transition from wearing a uniform to everyday clothes tough once they leave the service, but a local non-profit is hoping to change that.

Operation Dress Code partnered with Courage to Call to bring its annual Dress Code Boutique Day to the University of San Diego's Hahn Center.

Over the last three weeks, Operation Dress Code collected clothes, jewelry, shoes and makeup for these women veterans.

"We've been overwhelmed by the number of things that have been donated," said Randee McLain, Director of Operation Dress Code in San Diego.

The organization provides women with free professional clothes, styling tips and professional headshots.

"We also got massages downstairs, LinkedIn Profile, HR representatives, and it's all free for these women," McLain said.

McLain herself is a 10-year Navy Veteran police officer and small arms instructor who now works as a social worker. She said after wearing a military uniform for so long it can be hard to dress for the civilian workforce.

She first heard about the event in Sacramento and quickly became involved in establishing an annual event in San Diego, knowing San Diego's military veterans needed the same type of help.

"Really, it's women helping women; and really that is taking down one more barrier to success in the civilian world," McLain said.

Veterans said this type of event helps make figuring out what to wear so much easier.

"I definitely had to do research because business casual was foreign to me," said 9-year Navy veteran Christine Martinez. "And so, I did a lot of research, and what's great with this event is you have stylists who help you pick out the things."

Martinez is studying at National University to become a nurse. She attended Operation Dress Code in 2018, and this year, she returned to volunteer her time.

"Everything that is not utilized today will go back to our clothing closet to our mental health system, our Courage 2 Call Program that operates a clothing closet 24/7, 365 days a year," McLain added.

Dress Code Boutique Day is designed to help women transition to new careers by providing them with professional clothing needed for civilian life.

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