Dress for Success: Launching careers and lives

Emily Brown (left) and Sandra Burelli help clients choose winning clothing. Photo by Jennifer Baguss


Sometimes clothes really do make the woman

Creating opportunities by dressing for successful employment

Story and photos by Jennifer Baguss

Tucked behind Capital City Luggage on Wellington St. West at Ross Ave. is a small boutique that is creating opportunities for disadvantaged women all over the city.

Dress for Success Ottawa is an international non-profit organization with the aim to provide economic independence for women. With a head office based in New York City, Dress for Success has over 120 affiliates worldwide.

Emily Brown, of Wellington Village, has been with the company since it opened in January of 2011. She oversees the Suiting Program at the boutique.

“We provide suiting for women who are disadvantaged and looking for work,” says Brown.

“We provide women with two outfits for interviews,” says Brown. “We get them in business suits or separates. We go head to toe; shoes, handbags, accessories and even makeup.”

Dress for Success’s Kitchissippi location has also started a pre-employment program that is completely unique to this chapter.

“We saw a need for it,” says Sandra Burelli, the co-ordinator of the Dress Rehearsal program.

“We now provide workshops on resumes and cover letters,” says Burelli. “It’s a pretty unique program. We pair a woman with an HR or hiring manager downtown and provide a mock interview,” says Burelli. “So women go through the whole process.”

Since opening in 2011, Brown estimates Kitchissippi’s Dress for Success has suited over 450 women.

“We work with job-ready women who are referred to us by various community organizations such as woman’s shelters, victim services and community health centres,” says Brown.

Dress for Success also offers women access to workshops and programs after finding employment. Each woman referred to Dress for Success automatically gets lifetime access to the Professional Women’s Group.

“We provide them with workshops in a variety of different areas,” says Burelli. “From surviving to thriving, managing money, getting out of debt, health and wellness and personal style.”

“We actually had a free yoga workshop a few weeks ago,” says Burelli.

“It’s a support source and networking source for all of these women who have been through the same things,” says Burelli. “It gives a sense of community.”

Depending on donations from the community to run the boutique on Wellington, Dress for Success has set up two nights per month to accept donations, the first Monday evening of the month and the third Tuesday afternoon.

Other than suits and blouses, Brown says there are important items the boutique looks for in donations.

“We are always in need of camisoles to wear under suits,” says Brown. “We also look for wide shoes and petite sizes, really anything that is business appropriate.”

“We are also always accepting statement jewellery and new toiletries such as shampoo, deodorant and make-up,” says Brown.


Dress for Success will be having their semi-annual Hidden Treasures Clothing Sale on April 20 from 10am – 1pm at their boutique on Wellington St. West. Visit dressforsuccess.org/Ottawa for more information.

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