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North Hills Monthly

Mobile Boutiques Help Dress for Success Prepare More Women for Workforce

Sep 30, 2019 01:39PM ● By Kathleen Ganster

The North Mobile Boutique Celebration. Photo by Katie Marie Photography

For women entering or reentering the workforce, what to wear to a job interview might make the difference between getting the job or needing unemployment. And for those who have been out of the workforce or who are entering it for the first time, there are various other factors—personal branding, interviewing skills, and employment readiness support services—that can cause concern and anxiety. 

Dress for Success is an international nonprofit dedicated to assisting women who are entering or reentering the workforce. It serves women in 29 countries and nearly every major city in the U.S. Since 2005, Dress for Success Pittsburgh has been serving five counties—Allegheny, Butler, Fayette, Greene, and Washington—and has assisted more than 30,000 women in the region. 

“Our goal is to empower women with the clothing, connections and confidence to enter or reenter the workforce,” said CEO Tanya Mallory.

Dress for Success partners with nonprofits and other agencies who refer women that could benefit from their services. Clients work with volunteer personal shoppers who assist in selecting outfits and other accessories necessary to help with the professional look needed for an interview.

“Many of our clients always put everyone else first, and sometimes they are not used to someone taking time for them. We give them the chance to have someone focus on their needs to help them build confidence,” Mallory said.

The job search/interview appointment may also include other support such as assistance in setting up an email account, looking at job resources and building a resume.

“These may seem like simple things, but we give them a supportive place to build these essential skills,” Mallory said. 

In the past, women had to come to one of the four boutiques located throughout the region to receive services—there is a branch in each county with the exception of Greene County, whose clients would have to travel to the nearest office. For many women, transportation issues prevented them from utilizing Dress for Success services. Mallory said that they realized they could assist far more women by taking the clothes and services to them and started traveling to various sites a few years ago.

“But that was very labor and time-intensive; it would take a day to pack everything, a day for the visit and another day to unpack the stock,” she explained. “We were getting the job done, but it wasn’t very effective.” 

Thanks to planning and fundraising help from corporate partners and foundations, Dress for Success was recently able to purchase two mobile boutiques. 

“We originally thought that we could get one, but quickly realized that we really needed two, and we are so grateful to our area foundations and sponsors who helped make this a reality,” Mallory said. 

The mobile boutiques launched in late August. The South Mobile serves women in Fayette, Greene and Washington counties and is sponsored by Range Resources and Chevron. The North Mobile is sponsored by Macy’s and ADP and provides services to women in Allegheny and Butler counties. 

With the mobile boutiques, Dress for Success still visits partner sites, but they can take more items and it saves time with packing and unpacking. 

“We can serve 35 women at each mobile services event,” Mallory said.

Last year, Dress for Success was able to host 37 off-site events, a number that will greatly expand with the new mobile boutiques. 

“They were instrumental with helping me to get back in the working field,” explained Japhia S., a recent client. “They provided me with professional clothing, shoes and sometimes even makeup so that I had a professional appearance at interviews and, once hired, on the job.” 

Japhia had three successful interviews and two job offers. “I decided to take the job that I always wanted—to drive schoolchildren,” she said. 

Mallory stressed that the clothing is only part of Dress for Success. 

“Our ultimate goal is to ensure that each woman feels stronger and more confident as she takes the next step in her journey to financial independence,” she said. 

To learn more information about ways to make an impact in the lives of local women, visit https://pittsburgh.dressforsuccess.org.