Tucked away in the basement of the Madison Community House is a gem called Dress for Success Morris County. Don’t let its size fool you; its mission is noble and its depth is far-reaching. This New Jersey chapter is just one of 100 Dress for Success affiliates, and the impact of this global non-profit organization now reaches twelve countries. What is the mission of Dress for Success? “To promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.” In other words, Dress for Success is here to assist women who have lived with severe hardship turn their lives around. Extraordinary.
I met with Stefanie L. Conley, Executive Director of Dress for Success Morris County. She said that the Dress for Success program is to “be there for women on their entire professional journey. It’s about helping women to regain their confidence. When they walk into the boutique they don’t see what we see – that they have so much to offer.” Stefanie also walked me through how the journey works as a three-step process:
Step One: The Suiting Program – A free-of-charge shopping experience where women are welcome to shop the boutique with the assistance of a volunteer personal shopper, and select attire that will earn them respect in the interview process. Each woman receives one hour of dedicated time and may choose one suit or business casual outfit, several separate pieces, two pairs of shoes, a handbag, two pieces of jewelry, and a coat and extras, including cosmetics, pantyhose, etc. Everything is donated from individuals and corporations and only top quality items are chosen for the boutiques.
Step Two: Monthly Networking Groups – An opportunity to network and be with other supportive women, including dinner (babysitting provided) with a keynote speaker.
Step Three – Career Center – One-on-one assistance in the areas of interview techniques, resume review, skill enhancement, job related internet searching and career coaching.
Beyond the shopping and the information and the coaching lies the magic behind Dress for Success: the transformation and building of self-esteem for women who need it most. Stefanie notes that you can actually see the the change: “When women come in to the boutique for the first time they are unsure and naturally wary.” Many have never had someone help them to feel their best selves. As a result of the personal attention they begin to believe in themselves and feel confident … the best part is that the kindness “comes full-circle; many women come back to mentor others and to help.”
Again, I say extraordinary! What do you think?