Fashion for a Cause

More Than Cloth and Thread

What you really give when you donate a suit to Dress for Success Houston between now and March 7.

By Sarah Gabbart March 4, 2014

Everyone remembers her first suit. Mine was from a mid-range chain store, bought with my parent's credit card, so that I could have something to wear to my first internship interview. It was nice, new, and fit me exactly right. I looked in the mirror and though "I'm going to get this internship!" and I did. I'm lucky. Very, very lucky and grateful for it.

Some folks, though, make their own luck. People like Judy P. She's a dynamo. A firecracker. She speaks like Sheryl Sandberg with a polite, Southern twist. Her purpose is as steady as a freight train: constant and unstoppable. A Dress for Success Houston client for almost two years, she's charted her own path to the career she loves with the help of classes, professional development support, and a new-to-her suit. When asked how her new career ensemble felt the first time she put it on, Judy’s answer was humbling.

“I felt like I was one of you guys. I could walk into an office building and no one would know that my suit came from a donation,” Judy said. “I got the interview and the position, because I looked the part. No one knew I had a donated suit, donated shoes, and a donated handbag.”

Judy, second from right, and her fellow Professional Women's Group members. Photo via Dress for Success Houston.

A new suit, Judy found, was more than just a professional ensemble. It was a game changer.

“I see myself now as a more powerful woman. I have a voice. When you’re poor, you tend to be embarrassed. When you’re embarrassed you don’t speak up. People don’t expect you to have a voice. We all deserve a voice.” 

From March 1st to 7th, Dress for Success Houston is holding the Send One Suit Drive at locations across Houston. Local women are encouraged to donate a clean, gently used, currently in-style suit, gently used conservative black or brown handbag, or $75, which will outfit a client head-to-toe.

“I’ve been involved [with Dress for Success Houston] for 18 months. In those 18 months I have changed as a person. I don’t see the world the same way,” said Judy. “As a person who has used non-profits before, I was amazed at the quality of the place and politeness of the staff and volunteers. I didn’t feel like nonprofit—it was really nice. The clothing was nice. It was all brand new. They treated you really well and [your volunteer stylist] took the time to help you find what fit you.” she said. 

Photo by Joe Aker. Provided by Dress for Success.

Judy was referred to Dress for Success Houston after completing the job-training program at Goodwill. She was told that the organization could help her earn her degree and pursue a career in social work.

Once she landed a job, Judy gained entrance to the Professional Woman’s Group the organization facilitates. Through that program, members learn how to manage their finances, stay healthy, and excel in their careers. 

“If you’re a janitor or a CEO, you’re still a professional. You’re on time, you’re clean, you have a good attitude,” she said. “Even if you’re in the lowest job, it doesn’t mean you don’t come to work on time and present yourself professionally. We’re trained to move beyond entry level into a real career.”

Photo by Joe Aker. Provided by Dress for Success.

To donate a suit or other professional clothing item, visit a participating location like The Tinderbox, Stages Repertory Theatre, Texas Art Asylum, Iko Iko, bevello, and the Houston Heights Woman's Club. You can also donate to Dress for Success Houston directly by visiting 3310 Eastside St, Houston, TX 77098 or donate directly on the organization's website.

For Judy and other clients of Dress for Success Houston, you're giving much more than cloth and thread. 

"Tell the community: when you open your closet and give us a suit you’re giving women the bricks we use to build our lives. When you give us a suit, you’re giving us the wings we need to fly.”

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