Dress for Success Charity Group
The Dress for Success Charity's Program in a Nutshell
- Land a job interview.
- Request a referral to your local Dress for Success chapter from your social worker.
- With referral in hand, make an appointment.
- Know your dress, shirt/blouse, jacket, pant/skirt, and shoe sizes.
- Arrive at your appointment on time!
- Meet your personal shopper.
- Leave Dress for Success ready to nail the interview!
What Is The Mission of Dress for Success?
The mission of Dress for Success is (from their website): “to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.” In other words, Dress for Success gives clothes and, sometimes, even accessories to women who have been unemployed for a long time (or never employed), who have fallen on hard times and receive welfare or other assistance but are trying to improve their lives by moving into the world of work. Dress for Success also provides a career group, a professional network for these same women as they move into the workforce. Lastly, through their Career Center, this non-profit organization offers career guidance, the opportunity to enhance technological skills, and even job search assistance.
How the Dress for Success Program Works
However, a woman, although disadvantaged, cannot simply call up her local Dress for Success organization and make an appointment. First, women must be officially recognized as “disadvantaged” either by being in the system, through a government agency (state unemployment or welfare agency) or through another non-profit working with economically disenfranchised people.
When a woman who is transitioning from long-term unemployment, homeless or domestic violence shelters, or welfare assistance gets that sought-after first interview, the government agency, job training program, educational institution, or shelter she is working with will refer her to Dress for Success and set up an appointment.
You Get a Personal Shopper for the First Interview Outfit
The appointment is an empowering, uplifting experience. Imagine the first time you ever landed an interview for a placement you really wanted, whether it was at your first-choice college or your first job. Did you immediately run to your closet to pick out the perfect outfit? Did you have the means to celebrate by going to the mall and choosing a brand-new, top-to-toe interview outfit? Didn’t it feel empowering, as if you were on top of the world? That’s what Dress for Success does for women who have lost a lot of self-esteem by losing their economic independence.
You go to your appointment and you meet with a personal shopper, a Dress for Success volunteer (who is usually really sharply dressed herself). Your personal shopper will ask you about the position you will be interviewing for, your clothing and shoe sizes and even your preferences (do you favor skirts or pants? What color palette do you prefer? Are you open to all the neutrals, grey, black, navy, brown?). No one at Dress for Success condescends and you are treated the way Saks Fifth Avenue or Barneys treats their special personal shopping clients, even if you are getting your clothes for free.
A Suit for the First Interview
After this quick chat, you and your personal shopper will go and find a jacket and pants or skirt that match, suit-like, as well as a few shirts or blouses that go with the base outfit. These are all gently used clothes donated by professional women, so don’t be surprised to see top end designer labels like Jones New York and Ralph Lauren. Also, because they are gently used, the personal shoppers have no idea whether the clothes have been altered, so even though the rack may say the jacket is a 12, it may have been taken in to fit the exact body type of the original wearer. In any case, you are then brought to a dressing room, where you try the clothes on to find the best fit. They have several full- length mirrors for you to see yourself in your new glory. When you have chosen the outfit that makes you feel and look your best, your personal shopper will take you to the shoe department where you will hopefully find a pair of shoes to go with your outfit. Lastly, if available, your personal shopper will help you choose a handbag or purse from their selection and some accessories to pull your new-for-you outfit together.
Nail the Interview and Get the Job!
At the end of your visit, your personal shopper will wrap everything separately in tissue paper, just like the high-end department stores, and put it in a two-handled shopping bag for you. She will smile and wish you good luck and, though you may have walked in a bit hunched-over from worry or frustration, you will walk out with a skip in your step, a smile on your face, feeling ten feet tall and on top of the world! After the first interview, when you land a job, you can return to Dress for Success in order to receive additional clothes (either a second suit or separates that you can mix and match) so that you have the base for a professional wardrobe to get you through the first few weeks as you transition into full employment. Dress for Success, as a charitable organization, is itself successful because it has discovered the not-so-secret, fairly straightforward formula to helping others: being down and out is an external – not an internal – condition, a circumstance not a personality trait, so treat her (or him) as a whole person, the way you yourself expect to be treated by others in your world.