Well Suited for the Job

By Kristen Augenfeld

Anyone successful will tell you that making a great first impression is key to being hiredfor a new job. When going for an interview, outward presentation is what is first noticed. With a mission statement of “promoting economic independence of disadvantaged women,” Dress for Success provides unemployed women with clothing and coaching to look their best while searching for employment.

Founded in New York City in 1997, the not-for-profit organization opened its Boston branch in 2001. Women are scheduled for an interview with Dress for Success after being referred to by various other non-profit and government agencies such as shelters, immigration services, and job-training programs. They then receive one suit for interviews, and when work is found, are invited to return to collect separates that may be mixed and matched, providing staples for a professional wardrobe. Accessories such as shoes, handbags, scarves, and jewelry are also distributed when available.

Support for Dress for Success comes in form of volunteering time, clothing donations and financial contributions. “We never have a shortage of clothing,” says Kim Todd, the executive director of Dress for Success Boston. Though most come from individuals, regular donations arrive to the Commonwealth Ave. boutique from Talbot’s, Sara Campbell, and Modern Shoe Company. Financial contributions are used to maintain the shop and sustain support programs.

Dress for Success focuses not just on physical appearance, but also in building the confidence of the women who step through their doors. The Professional Women’s Group program, founded within the organization, provides life membership to group meetings that provide a support system for the transition into the working world. About twenty-five regular members attend the monthly gatherings in Boston. “Dress for Success focuses not just on physical appearance, but the confidence of the women who step through their doors.”

Since 2001 Dress for Success has served more than 3,500 women, with 700 being dressed last year alone. “Our goal is to reach 1,000 this year,” Todd says. (Eighty-five affiliates around the world, in such countries as Ireland, Jamaica, and the Netherlands, in forty-eight states with various branches per state.) The Boston boutique is one of three in Massachusetts. Volunteer inquiries can be addressed at the organization’s official website: dressforsuccess.org.

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