Dress for Success Ottawa marks major milestone

Executive Director Katherine Clarke-Nolan (right) gives Client Ambassadors Rosalyn Blackett (left) and Joan Bailey (centre) flowers and hugs after their speeches at a recent Dress for Success celebration. DfS provides women with professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help them thrive in work and in life.
Executive Director Katherine Clarke-Nolan (right) gives Client Ambassadors Rosalyn Blackett (left) and Joan Bailey (centre) flowers and hugs after their speeches at a recent Dress for Success celebration. DfS provides women with professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help them thrive in work and in life. Photo by Andrea Cranfield.

It can be hard to build up enough courage to turn your life around but sometimes all we need is a little bit of help to steer us in the right direction.

Dress for Success Ottawa has been helping women change their lives since it first opened its doors in January 2010. The non-profit organization has now helped 1,000 women since it was started.

This milestone was celebrated at Urban Element on Parkdale Avenue on the evening of March 26.

Staff, volunteers, sponsors, city councilors, friends, family and clients gathered to pay tribute to Dress for Success Ottawa, which runs three programs to help women in need.

The first program is the suiting program, in which women meet with wardrobe consultants and personal shoppers and are fitted with interview and work appropriate clothing.

The second program is the dress rehearsal program where clients participate in practice interviews run by volunteers and then they’re given feedback on their performance.

The last program is the professional women’s networking group. Workshops are run thorough the year to develop employable skills to help women maintain or find more fulfilling employment.

“We do a lot of stuff, it’s a great place,” said Katherine Clarke-Nolan, the Executive Director at Dress for Success. “It’s so much more than the clothing, it’s really the building of self-confidence and empowerment and self-esteem so we run the gamut. We have people from 15 to 65, women from all ages and all walks of life who come in.”

Clarke-Nolan said it takes seven seconds to make a first impression and Dressed for Success is helping to take the worry of making a bad impression away.

The event at Urban Element proved what a profound impact Dress for Success has played in the people’s lives it has touched.

During her speech, Corrina Clement, Board Chair at Dress for Success, said, “It’s one thing to hope, one thing to want to do better but it’s an entirely different thing to have the courage to actually make it happen.

“All of the clients, all of the women who have come through our doors have had the courage to take that step so say ‘you know what? I’m going to need a little bit of help and I’m not going to be afraid to ask for it and I’m not going to be afraid to accept it when it comes.’”

Founding Chair Member, Marlene Floyd, spoke about being one of the people who started Dress for Success.

“I’ll never forget the first day that we opened our doors and it was this monumental feeling of being able to show to the world and to Ottawa what women can do when they come together and it’s a feeling that continues to this day. I had the pleasure of being there on day one, meeting with our first client and I had the pleasure of being there for client number 1,000,” she said.

Client Ambassador Rosalyn Blackett told the crowd that when she walked into Dress for Success last spring, she had no idea what would be involved.

“I just hoped to find some clothes for an interview and I haven’t looked back since,” she said. “My first experience was incredible. I came out of there feeling so loved and so a part of something bigger than what I’ve ever known. And the volunteers made me feel like I was special.”

Through tears, Joan Bailey told the crowd, “I have had bridges burned, so many doors closed and bolted, and Dressed for Success was my window. And basically that was my experience. I was at a point where everything was closed, and they came along and they were my window and here I am. The hope, the courage, everything is in this room and it’s only going to grow, so thank you.”

The Dress for Success gala – called Stepping Out – will be taking place on May 28. It’s a major fundraiser for the year and will be taking place at Lato, at Dow’s Lake. Tickets will be on sale soon. For more information about Dress for Success Ottawa, go to dressforsuccess.org/ottawa.

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