Dress for Success® Nashville in the News
The Nashville Business Journal's "Ms. Cheap" wrote an article on Dress For Success, the charitable service for disadvantaged women, coming to Nashville. The article that was published in the Tennessean is the following:
Today, I have a double dose of good news. First: Dress for Success is coming back to Nashville. And the double whammy is that it plans to bring a new ladies’ thrift boutique along with it.
If you’re not familiar, the Dress for Success organization takes donated ladies professional business clothing and accessories and gives them to women who need appropriate attire for job interviews.
For eight years, Dress for Success did good work here, outfitting literally thousands of Middle Tennessee women, but then it had to close in 2007 because of funding and staffing issues. But now, after more than a year of conversations, local organizers Natalie Hansen and Christine Groves have teamed up with the YWCA and should be up and running by early January with a “suiting” service for disadvantaged women, as well as a new thrift boutique that will be open to the public.
I can tell you that the new-and-improved Dress for Success will be well-received. Honestly, not a week goes by that I don’t get a call from generous women with nice clothes to donate. But hang on, ladies: Don’t start cleaning out your closets yet.
The reincarnated Dress for Success is NOT READY to accept clothing — and will not be ready until the organizers locate a suitable spot to set up shop — suitable in price and in location.
Staffed By Volunteers
The location requirement is for 3,000-4,000 square feet of space, which will be divided among the outfitting services, a career center and the retail store that will sell donated items that clients can’t use for interviews and work attire.
YWCA director Pat Shea explained that the new service will be “completely volunteer-led” with no paid staff, and that she sees it as a valuable extension of the services that the YWCA offers to women. She said the concept is to use the thrift boutique sales to offset the operating expenses of the entire program.
Hansen noted that the retail boutique model, with store revenue supporting the program, has been successful in several other Dress for Success affiliates. She said that it makes sense, because a lot of clothing items that are donated (maybe ball gowns or designer clothing) might sell well, but are not the sizes, categories or styles that the clients need most.
The way Dress for Success works is that the organization will “suit” women who are referred by nonprofit and government organizations that help women with job training and placement, including domestic violence agencies, homeless shelters and job-training programs.
Dress for Success will provide each woman with a business suit once she has a job interview set up. Then, when she lands the job, she can come back and have a volunteer personal shopper help her select a week’s worth of free business-appropriate clothing — business casual, khakis, whatever — for whatever her new job is, from the Dress for Success closets.
Hansen explained that the national Dress for Success organization, which claims 125 affiliates, requires that the first dressing be a professional suit, with the thinking being that a woman who goes to an interview in a suit will look and feel more professional and therefore have a better chance.
An Ongoing Relationship
The diverse job placement opportunities and the thrift boutique both mean that when the clothing drives kick off, almost any category of ladies’ apparel and accessories and all sizes will be welcome.
Hansen said there will be clothing drives in business settings and that she would also like to tap into the convention market by asking female conventioneers who are coming to Nashville to bring a suit to donate, with the idea that they would go home with a lighter suitcase.
The Dress for Success program is obviously about more than simply clothing — it is about empowering and improving the quality of life for women, which is one of the reasons Shea sees it as such a fine fit for partnering with the YWCA.
A big plus is that the relationship is engaging and ongoing — once the women get their interview and work clothing, they are expected to join the program’s Professional Women’s Group, which meets monthly to look at things like personal finance, home improvements, child care, how to be a good employee and a variety of employment retention programs.
“Its mission is 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,” Shea said.
“This fits perfectly with the YWCA’s goal to ensure all women are safe and self-sufficient,” she said. I know that Dress for Success was a labor of love for its local founder Suzanne LaFond years ago. And it’s clearly a true passion for the new leadership, with Groves, Hansen and Shea all fired up about the possibilities.
Me, too. I will keep you posted about when they want you to clean out your closets for them! Meanwhile, if you know of a good affordable location that is on a bus line and has enough space and parking, give them a call at 615-338-5054.