Dress for Success

Partnerships suit businesses, nonprofit and women on the rise

By Kevyn Burger

With the state’s unemployment rate holding at a low 3.7%, Minnesota’s career-conscious workers are thinking more about getting promoted.

Looking the part continues to be a critical factor for advancement. So does knowing how to act and react in the workplace — and it’s true on every rung of the career ladder.

The Twin Cities chapter of Dress for Success continues to link women who are well ensconced in their careers to women who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Twin Cities chapter of the international nonprofit provides donated business attire to women who are interviewing for a job, and then outfits those clients with a week’s worth of professional attire once they land a position.

“We have worked with 3,500 women since the chapter began in 2010,” says Stephanie Silvers, executive director of Dress for Success Twin Cities. “We know that first impressions do matter. If a candidate isn’t wearing the right thing, they might not get the opportunity to prove themselves.”

Reflecting the surging economy, last year was the chapter’s busiest year yet for outfitting clients; some 1,000 metro area women came through the program.

Dress for Success provides more than clothing. The organization helps women prepare resumes, uses volunteers to put them through mock interviews and offers classes in strengthening their performance once they are employed.

“We’re getting results with a six-month class we offer women who have new jobs,” Silver says. “We work on strengthening their workplace knowledge, emotional intelligence and financial literacy. That’s what helps them stabilize their employment and builds their capacity to be successful. As they get into their careers, we also want to make sure they know how to use the money they’re making to build their futures.”

Silvers believes that attention can help get clients to the next level in their careers, and helps propel them into the middle class.

“When they come to us with the business attire program, the average annual income for a woman who comes to us with a job is $16,000,” she says. “If they stay with us, we watch their incomes rise to $25,000 to $35,000. That’s huge.”

On Friday, April 29, Dress for Success Twin Cities will hold its largest fundraiser of the year. Tickets for the benefit luncheon, to be held at Aria in the North Loop, are available for $100. Attendees will hear from women who have found career success with the assistance of the nonprofit.

“Our partnerships with businesses and volunteers are vital,” Silvers says.

As an example, she cites the relationship between Dress for Success and Versique, a Minneapolis-based consulting, executive search and digital marketing firm. For the fifth year in a row, Versique is in the middle of a professional clothing drive, collecting donations from its employees and the public.

Last year, the Versique effort represented the single-largest donation to the local organization, resulting in 90 large bags of clothing, seven full clothing racks, and over $4,000 in financial donations for Dress for Success Twin Cities.

If you’re thinking of purging your closet, Silvers notes that donations of current, gently worn career wear and accessories are always valued; separates in sizes 16 and up are in greatest demand.

“And we are always looking for good handbags,” she adds.