Beyond The Suit 4

Dress For Success Cincinnati Fits Women For Their Futures

A successful job interview requires more than a power suit. Dress for Success Cincinnati not only dresses women for interviews, but also addresses the obstacles that keep disadvantaged women from taking their turn on the workforce runway.

With programs that empower women to succeed in business and break cycles of poverty, the Dress for Success Cincinnati runway is more like a bridge, leading local women to economic independence. Since 1999, this life-changing organization has transformed the lives of more than 16,000 tri-state clients with education, a network of support and professional attire.

One of 145 affiliates worldwide, Dress for Success Cincinnati shines as one of the top ten in programs offered and number of clients served.

Lisa Nolan, Executive Director of Dress for Success Cincinnati, shares about the impact it is making in the community.

“Research has revealed that two-thirds of all families living in poverty in Cincinnati are single-mother households,” Nolan explains. “Dress for Success works, one woman at a time, to break cycles of generational poverty.”

Clients are referred by more than 95 partnering agencies that work with women across 12 local counties.

“At Dress for Success Cincinnati, we are all about working with disadvantaged women,” Nolan says. “Most of our clients are low-income, but that is not a requirement. Sometimes they are disadvantaged in other ways: it could be women reentering the workforce following incarceration, recovering from substance abuse or alcoholism, domestic violence victims, or with mental illness. We work with a wide spectrum of women.”

She explains that one of the unique features of the program is that once a woman is a client, she is always a client.

“Our services are available to a client for life. She can come and go as she needs, but there is no timing out of our services,” Nolan says.

The Suiting program is the entry point for its clients, where referred women are offered an interview suit, then invited to participate in its additional programs.

At its downtown office, Dress for Success Cincinnati offers a Career Center, including a computer lab for preparing and printing copies of resumes and one-on-one appointments with Human Resources professionals, volunteers who fine-tune resumes and conduct practice interviews with clients. It also features a mobile unit that brings its services to women in the greater metro area.

The Going Places Network is a nine-week group program for job seekers, covering a different training topic each week to build skills and confidence.

“In 2016, 86% of the program participants were employed within 90 days of program completion,” Nolan shares.

“Once a woman gains employment, she is first eligible to come back for an additional ten pieces of workplace appropriate clothing,” Nolan explains, “and she is invited to join our Professional Women’s Group.”

The Professional Women’s Group is an ongoing support network, designed to help women navigate the work world.

“It meets at least once a month on Saturdays covering topics like how to get the next promotion, financial literacy, health and wellness, work/life balance—a variety of topics,” says Nolan.

More than 160 tons of clothing was gathered by Dress for Success Cincinnati in 2016. What doesn’t get saved for the Suiting program goes to Portaluca, a resale shop located Downtown. All proceeds go back to Dress for Success Cincinnati.

“We accept donations not just of employment attire, but any women’s attire,” Nolan shares. “We always have a particular need for plus size clothing.”

Don’t be fooled by its name—Dress for Success Cincinnati, like the women they lead, is about more than the power suit. It’s in the business of changing lives.

“We do so much beyond the suit,” Nolan says. “We recognize that the suit is just the beginning.”