What would you do if you were a first year law student and your great-grandfather left you a $5,000 inheritance? Furnish your apartment, pay your next tuition bill, buy a car? It must have been a no-brainer for 24-year old Nancy Lublin. In honor of her grandfather, Poppy Max, a polish immigrant who stowed away on a ship to America in hopes of creating a better life, she took the money, teamed up with three nuns in Spanish Harlem, and the Dress For Success program was born in the basement of a Manhattan Church.
“Dress For Success is a not-for-profit organization that promotes 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.”
I initially learned about DFS from one of Janna’s clients who volunteers for the organization. I had the unique opportunity to discover first-hand how the program works when I spent day in the Austin office.
As you step into the DFS building, an instantly inviting vibe greets you in the reception area. Steps beyond, you pass through a threshold feeling as though you’ve just entered a lovely clothing boutique. Professional suits, dresses, jewelry, accessories, shoes, and undergarments line the perimeter of the room. Private dressing areas are provided. And volunteers greet each client with warmth and positivity.
Typically DFS serves women who may be disadvantaged or have low-incomes. Some may have jobs, some may be searching for jobs, but the common thread is that they are seeking a better life. These women have unique situations which prevent them from being able to afford professional or work-appropriate clothing.
So how is a woman supposed to get a job without going on an interview? And how is a woman expected to go on an interview and make her best impression without appropriate attire?
And how can a woman who lands a job, but who doesn’t have enough professional clothing, be expected to feel comfortable in the workplace? That’s where DFS comes in.
After working with volunteers for only an hour and a half, a DFS client leaves with an armload of professional attire, but more than that–she leaves with the knowledge that there is an organization that sincerely cares about her plight and her future.
“The attention and encouragement that I received during my visits to Dress for Success were so uplifting. I count my visit to your organization as one of the pivotal turning points on my road to rebuilding my life.” –Laurie, Austin, TX (courtesy of Dressforsuccess.com)
Dress for Success provides each woman with a business suit when she has a job interview. When she successfully lands the job, she returns to DFS for up to one week’s worth of business-appropriate separates. She also receives an invitation to join the Professional Women’s career development and networking groups.
“As a volunteer image consultant, I get to see the change in a woman’s posture and the delight on her face when she sees herself in the mirror wearing a new professional outfit created just for her.” –Emily Tietz, DFS Volunteer
Since its humble beginnings in 1997, Dress For Success has expanded to 140 offices in 19 countries. It has served 850,000+ women and has 10,000+ volunteers. Its mission: To empower women to create their own economic independence.
Dress For Success depends entirely on donations and volunteers. So the next time you are considering weeding out your gently used professional clothing, remember DFS. The clothing you share today could lead to a better future for someone tomorrow.
Although there is no local program currently in Central Texas, client referrals and donations can be made to offices in Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and Corpus Christi.
DFS Austin/Judy Chambers/https://austin.dressforsuccess.org
DFS Houston / Nancy Levicki /http://www.dfshouston.org
DFS San Antonio / Pamela Taylor /http://dfssa.org
DFS Dallas / Janie Bodner /https://dallas.dressforsuccess.org
DFS Corpus Christi / Cathy Riojas /https://corpuschristi.dressforsuccess.org
Personal note: So many thanks to my great friends who donated clothing to send to Austin. May all your kindness come back to you.