Dress for Success makes a difference

By Mallory Darida
UNC Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

The store at Northgate Mall was bustling with eager shoppers Saturday, Nov. 20.

Women perused overflowing racks of blouses and pantsuits.

Peggy Whitley considers a blouse at Dress for Success’ sale on Saturday. The proceeds of the event help the organization provide for women seeking self-sufficiency in the community. (Staff photo by Mallory Darida)

Shoppers with arms filled with clothing waited for the dressing rooms.

Lines the length of the store led to the busy cashiers.

But this wasn’t the usual Black Friday shopping spree; Dress for Success was holding its Excess Inventory Sale.

“It may be busy, but there are a lot of great bargains,” shopper Melody McNair said.

Dress for Success is an international non-profit organization with two local branches that opened in Durham and Raleigh in the last two years.  They provide career development tools, professional attire and a network of support to disadvantaged women, said Pat Nathan, founder of Dress for Success in the Triangle.

“Our goal is to provide every woman in the Triangle who is living in poverty and trying to obtain employment with access to our career development and employment services,” Nathan said. “Our goal is to break the cycle of poverty in our community.”

Excess Inventory Sales are held three times a year and are the largest source of funding for the organization, Nathan said. The sales generally take place Valentine’s Day weekend, tax-free weekend in August and prior to the Thanksgiving holiday.

“It’s a great opportunity for the community,” said Doretha Hamidullah, a returning customer purchasing pants, suits and blouses at Saturday’s sale.

These sales are completely run by volunteers and require yearlong planning.

Linda Winston tries on some new heels at Dress for Success’ Excess Inventory Sale on Saturday. (Staff Photo by Mallory Darida)

People donate clothing throughout the year. The items that are not work apparel, along with surpluses in certain sizes, are placed on racks at the Excess Inventory Sales, volunteer Donna Molina explained.

“I heard about Dress for Success a few years ago,” Molina said. “I had some free time and wanted to give back to the community.”  She attended a training program for volunteers and began serving in Raleigh.

Dress for Success also provides a Professional Women’s Group to its clients, supporting them in obtaining and maintaining careers. The group discusses relevant topics such as rules of the workplace and managing finances. The organization’s career center gives women valuable assistance in job searches, resumes and interview techniques.

Dress for Success has helped more than 550,000 women in their pursuit of self-sufficiency, Nathan said.   The Excess Inventory Sales throughout the year allow these programs to occur.

“The sale was very successful, raising enough funds to cover the organization’s rent for several months,” Nathan said. “Funds will also be used to procure plus size clothing for clients.”

Women are referred to Dress for Success by more than sixty agencies in the Triangle that help women overcome a variety of barriers, Nathan said.

“There’s a great quantity of good quality clothing,” said customer Jan Little. “Dress for Success is something I’m happy to support.”

Peggy Whitley, a shopper at the sale, said she is thankful to Dress for Success for helping her family. The organization assisted her pregnant granddaughter by giving her a nice suit for her newly obtained job.

“They really have great clothes for dressing successfully, as long as you know how to put it together,” Linda Winston, a returning shopper, said.