Goal of Penn Student’s Threads for Teens: Build Girls’ Self-Esteem and Style

Allyson Ahlstrom has won many accolades, appeared on national TV shows and met dozens of celebrities as founder of Threads for Teens, a non-profit organization that gives new, donated clothes to impoverished teens.

But the University of Pennsylvania student says that the most exciting part of her fashion philanthropy is helping to empower teenage girls by making them feel better about themselves with new outfits and professional styling at no charge.

 “I’ve met so many amazing people – Trya Banks, Nick Cannon – but, I really like meeting the girls and hearing their stories,” Ahlstrom says.

Her Threads for Teens clothing boutique near her home in Santa Rosa, Calif., and Threads for Teens summer tours allow girls in need to pick out two “brand-new head-to-toe” outfits each. Her nonprofit also helps out at back-to-school time, providing girls backpacks filled with school supplies, and in the spring, helping girls get new or gently used prom dresses.

The 19-year-old Wharton sophomore started Threads for Teens when she was a freshman in high school. She wanted to be a fashion designer and was inspired to blend her love of fashion with her desire to help others after reading Generation Change: Roll Up Your Sleeves and Change the World by Zach Hunter. The author, a teenager himself, wrote about service projects that others his age were doing across the country.

The Threads for Teens project was born.

Ahlstrom sent out more than 300 letters to solicit clothing donations, eventually outfitting 13 girls, three more than she’d hoped to help. Since then she has served more than 1,600 girls through the bricks-and-mortar store and a mobile boutique.

The threads and accessories that the girls receive are donated by about 40 national stores like Urban Outfitters, American Eagle Outfitters and Claires. 

This past summer Ahlstrom went on a 14-city tour that kicked off on July 14 in Los Angeles and ended on July 29 in Boston. The clothes are hung on racks in a tricked out, pink, semi-truck transformed into a mobile boutique, complete with fitting rooms.

Social workers and those affiliated with social service agencies nominate the teens getting the new outfits.

On an average visit, a girl will be treated to two tops, two bottoms, a formal or summer dress, pair of shoes, necklace, bracelet, purse and other accessories as well as seasonal surprises. The deserving girls leave their Threads to Teens experience with more self-confidence because they look better.  Ahlstrom has seen firsthand how girl’s self-esteem grows with a few new outfits.

“There’s this one girl who I met in Detroit. After coming to the mobile boutique, she told me that she decided that she wanted to go to college,” Ahlstrom recalls. “She said if a 14-year-old could start a project like this, [she] could break the cycle of poverty”

In addition to serving girls, the Threads for Teens mobile boutique invites community members to visit to learn more about the organization and the importance of girl empowerment.

Ahlstrom hopes to open a boutique in Philadelphia by the end of the semester to bring her initiative from her hometown to her new home away from home.

She says that finding the right location is the hardest part of opening the store. With her mother and a small team of workers running the California boutique, Ahlstrom is location scouting while pursuing her studies and activities outside the classroom.

Information is available about Ahlstrom’s project including Philadelphia store opening updates, tour information and more on the Threads for Teens website at http://www.threadsforteens.org/or Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThreadsforTeens.



Story Photo