Empower suit Featured

8:12am EDT November 26, 2002
In 1995, Dress For Success founder Nancy Lublin appeared on the "Today Show" to tell America that she planned to start a unique organization to dress women who had been out of the work force for several years for job interviews.

One of the millions of people who watched that morning was Ricki Weiss, who immediately called Lublin to ask her one question, "How can I bring this to Cleveland?"

Three years later, Dress For Success Cleveland was founded, and to date, it has clothed more than 5,600 women for job interviews. The Cleveland chapter is one of 73 affiliates in four countries.

However, says Traci Felder, executive director of Dress For Success Cleveland, the organization is trying to get the word out that it also does much more.

"We're not just about suits," she says. "Once the women get employed, they get to come back and get a second suit, and once they keep their job for 30 days, they're invited to our Professional Women's Group, which is our retention program. It's easy to get the job; it's harder to keep it."

The retention program provides nine required classes, including how to help improve credit, establish housing, behavior modification, and stress and anger management. Once those courses are completed, other elective classes are offered.

Dress For Success works with women who have been out of the job market for any number of reasons: economic difficulty, incarceration or a change in their personal life which forces them to become self-sustaining.

Women are referred to Dress For Success through any of the 137 public agencies that work with the organization.

The majority of clothing is donated, but some of the suits and accessories must be purchased based on special needs.

"We have wonderful vendors that really keep the costs down for us," Felder says.

Felder plans to expand the organization to include younger women entering the work force for the first time.

"We're about preventing the cycle from beginning," Felder says. "These are young women who maybe can't afford to go to college and are ready to get into the workplace, but have no idea how to create a resume. We'll be able to give them a six-week prep course." How to reach: Dress For Success, (216) 781-3372