South Park Magazine

Dressing for success

Alicia Porterfield in an ensemble from Dress for Success.
Alicia Porterfield in an ensemble from Dress for Success. Todd Sumlin

Dress for Success, which has helped thousands of Charlotte women gain confidence, work skills and economic independence, is in the spotlight again during this year’s Southern Women’s Show.

The Look At Her Power event, which features Dress for Success clients showing off stylish professional outfits, is scheduled for Sept. 15 during the women’s show. “It’s such a great, uplifting event that really illustrates how you can change lives,” says Dress for Success Board Chairman Sue Breckenridge.

The Charlotte organization, which is part of a national network, provides disadvantaged women with attire and tools to find employment. It served 800 new clients last year, says. And the nonprofit continues to help more women than ever, especially during these hard economic times, thanks to clothing donations and financial contributions.

“We strive to not only give our clients a professional wardrobe, but also a feeling of confidence and enthusiasm,” says Marilynn Bowler, a Dress for Success volunteer and a board of advisors member. “It’s a very uplifting experience for women, many of whom haven’t had a lot of people standing behind them to lift them up.”

The Charlotte affiliate opened in 2000, but closed in 2005 due to a lack of sustainable funding. “This happens with a lot of nonprofits, but this one really touched the hearts of a lot of women,” says Breckenridge. Determined to save what they believed was a worthy cause, a core group of women, including Joan Zimmerman, CEO of Southern Shows, Inc., and Marcia Simon, president at Paul Simon for Women, reopened Dress for Success in 2006.

“It’s a good illustration of how passionate women can be about this cause,” says Breckenridge. Dress for Success volunteers teach clients computer skills, job interview techniques and financial responsibility. Once a client lands a job interview, they can receive two business outfits. If they get a job, they can get up to five more outfits. The nonprofit also offers employment retention and mentoring programs.

This month features two highlights: In addition to the Look At Her Power event, presented by Wells Fargo, Neiman Marcus will welcome the public to its Fashion Night with a runway fashion show, beauty demonstrations, cocktails and music. It’s 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 8.

Want to Go? Event: Look at Her PowerDate: Thursday, Sept. 15Time: 6 p.m.Location: The Park Expo & Conference Center2500 E. Independence Blvd.Tickets are $30, or $40 at the day of the event. For details and ticket information: