Style + Grace

Top Buttons teaches girls self-worth through fashion

photography by Tiffani Jones

For Sarah Powers, founder and CEO of Top Buttons, the revelation of her passion came to life while standing in a checkout line at Sam’s Club. The mother of four small children, Powers has always had a passion for the well-being of young girls and had been wondering how she could harness that passion to help the world without taking time away from her family.

“I was in Sam’s with my family,” she says, “and my kids were all staring at a magazine in the checkout line. There was a lady on the cover; she was surrounded by inappropriate headlines. I ended up buying [the magazine] to remind myself of what the media and fashion industry are willing to do for profit. My kids couldn’t believe I bought it, but I didn’t want to forget [what I felt]. I still have it.”

Powers is especially aware of how girls represent themselves on social media as well as the societal pressure for girls to be provocative. She has also personally experienced the struggle for modesty while shopping with her own 11-year-old daughter; there aren’t a lot of appropriately modest clothing choices available for girls and young women. Messages from the media tell girls their worth is in what they look like. This was the concern that inspired Powers to add a new voice — a positive, encouraging voice — to the mix. And Top Buttons was born. Leaning on the science of enclothed cognition, the “systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes” (sciencedirect.com, 2012), Top Buttons teaches girls how to dress the way they feel. Top Buttons’ Vice President Katie DeLoach is a licensed mental health counselor who specializes in working with young girls and talking about how their clothes make them feel. DeLoach says, “You’re a walking billboard. Before you say a word verbally, you’ve sent a message by what you’re wearing.” Top Buttons began as an online magazine devoted to teaching girls about fashion, contextual modesty, and that there’s an appropriate time and place for most types of clothing. Top Buttons educates young girls on how to make the most of their clothing choices, using fashion as a vehicle of expression without compromising morals.
Visiting the Top Buttons online magazine is like visiting any major clothing store’s blog. It’s full of stylish girls and women, and hosts articles about what popular young starlets are modestly wearing on red carpets and in their personal lives. On the website you can learn all about this season’s fashions, how to pair things together, beauty tips, and what the latest stars are wearing. It’s a hub for fashion and style and is a beautiful, positive, social-media resource for young women. Powers has assembled a team of staff and interns who share her passion for girls and their well-being to help maintain the Top Buttons vision. Many of the Top Buttons
photos are of their interns, young women from Florida Southern College, Southeastern University, and Polk State College who are helping in an area they’re passionate about and receiving valuable experience in working with a nonprofit.
The Top Buttons team doesn’t just run a high quality blog, though. They’re also active in the community and work with multiple local nonprofits to help teach girls about contextual modesty. They’ve hosted clothing “pop-up shops” at places like Girls Inc., Parker Street Ministries, PACE Center for Girls, The Dream Center, and church youth groups. At these pop-up shops they talk to girls about what’s popular and what’s appropriate for them.

Together, Top Buttons and the nonprofits with whom they partner are working on the whole person with local girls. Not only are these girls receiving counseling, help at school, and emotional support and encouragement, but they’re also learning about self-confidence and body positivity through the help of Powers and her team. They want every girl to have a chance at success no matter their background.

TOP BUTTONS BOUTIQUE

The ladies at Top Buttons have big plans for the future. Their vision is to help girls prepare for big life events, like job interviews and prom. In June, Top Buttons opened a boutique in Dixieland where girls can shop the gently-used items with the help of a Top Buttons stylist.
They are currently working on a referral system and hope to see 30 girls a month.

When girls visit the boutique, they’re given a unique and memorable shopping experience. Each girl receives a personal stylist and a voucher for $100 worth of clothing and accessories. Together with their stylist they peruse the aisles of fashionable, donated, clothing, make-up, handbags, and accessories for girls of all shapes, sizes, and styles. Power’s own 11-year-old daughter is a stylist in training and helps girls select their new outfits.

Messages from the media tell girls their worth is in what they look like. This was the concern that inspired Powers to add a new voice  – a positive, encouraging voice – to the mix.

While the girls try on and model their selections, the stylists discuss with them how clothes should feel and fit. Next, Top Buttons’ makeup artist and hair stylist, Yolanda and Christi, give the girls tips and tricks on what colors and styles work best on them. Each girl receives a small box of beauty products tailored to their taste, age, and personality. The positive attitude in the boutique is infectious! Girls and stylists leave the Top Buttons boutique beaming with pride over a day well spent, with the girls receiving a new outfit but also plenty of encouragement and fashion education from the fabulous Top Buttons team.

How to Get Involved

If fashion or empowering young women is a passion for you, then Top Buttons would love for
you to be a part of their organization. There are several different levels of involvement available:

DONATIONS

Top Buttons accepts donations of gently-used female clothing for preteens, teens, women, and plus sizes. They also accept gently-worn shoes and accessories of all kinds. These donations can be dropped off at the Top Buttons Boutique at 1074 South Florida Avenue, Suite #101.

VOLUNTEERS

Young women and ladies who would like to help with clothes sorting and organizing can contact the Top Buttons Team through their email: info@topbuttons.org.

INTERNS

Top Buttons loves having interns to help with social media, photography, and more. For more
information about internships, email the Top Buttons team at info@topbuttons.org.

BUSINESS PARTNERSHIPS

Businesses are encouraged to collaborate and support Top Buttons through corporate sponsorship. Through sponsorship, businesses can receive styling services and fashion education for their employees. For more info, email the Top Buttons team at info@topbuttons.org.