Saturday, December 20, 2014

spéciale de la mode: Dress for Success Helps Women Gain Confidence

Ever thought what would happen if your clothes were lost in a house fire and money was scarce? Or what would you do if you had to flee an abusive relationship and leave most of your belongings behind?

While these scenarios may never happen to you, Loretta Harvey, the Boutique Manager at the Central Virginia chapter of Dress for Success, informed me of the above examples of how the local group is helping women in unfortunate situations.

Dress for Success is a worldwide nonprofit organization whose core mission is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support, and career development tools to help them thrive in work and in life.

As a volunteer Personal Shopper, I understand why Career Center Manager Sandra Thompson is forever chanting the slogan of Dress for Success, which is “It’s way beyond the suit.”

In my fashion, volunteering as a Personal Shopper with Dress for Success is utilizing fashion  for its finest purpose: empowerment!

According to a 2013 study by the International Monetary Fund, “Women, Work and the Economy,” female labor force participation has remained low, around 50 percent. Being that women still fall under the categories of under-represented and under-served, each woman who is referred to be assisted by Dress for Success stands a chance to positively curve that statistic. 

Dress for Success Worldwide began in 1996, funded by a $5,000 inheritance that founder Nancy Nublin received from her great-grandfather. After the local chapter in the Central Virginia area folded six years ago, current Regional Director Shantell Malachi worked passionately to open the doors again in 2012. Volunteer committee organizer Sarah Hobgood reports that since the Central Virginia region re-established the chapter, it has served over 300 women in the area. Even though they are still in the beginning stages – their headquarters is in the basement of the Boulevard United Methodist Church – they are rapidly increasing their impact in the community. 

Dress for Success, which is eligible for contributions through the Campaign of Virginia Campaign (CVC), recently took another step forward to help women in need gain renewed hope in their journey with its first accessories drive. The drive at my department began Nov. 17 and ran through Dec. 5. 

I figured this would be the perfect time of the year for people to edit their closets, and called for black dress shoes and heels (especially, but not limited to, those above a size 9), handbags, and new hosiery. Scarves, jewelry and other accessories were also collected. In those three weeks (not including Thanksgiving break), I was able to collect over 750 items valuing over $4,600 based on Salvation Army Donation Values.

Although I was only calling for accessories, I still accepted donations of clothes and was able to stock the Boutique with more great garments, and was also able to gather items for our Dress For Success Fashion Show where we will have a competition for designers to take the clothing items that we cannot use to give for women to wear for work, and recycle those pieces into a couture piece of fashion which will be judged by a panel of judges. This is one of three competitions we have for our designers. I was very impressed by the items that I collected and look forward to seeing what designers create when we hold the show on April 17, 2015 at the Canal Club in Richmond, Virginia.

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