Make a Good Impression with Dress for Success!

by ZontaDoris

When you go to an important meeting–one that might change your income or career options–with a potential employer, someone who can recommend you for a promotion, or other key decision maker, do you pay enough attention to how you look?

If you haven’t considered how your appearance might affect your success in critical situations, maybe you should based on research cited in the Wall Street Journal.

A recent study by Assistant Professor Michael W. Krauss in the Yale School of Management, revealed that “clothes with high social status can increase dominance and job performance in ‘high stakes’ competitive tasks” according to the Wall Street Journal article. While the study simulation–negotiating the sale of a hypothetical factory–was a few pay grades above most of our situations, it did show that men who were formally attired were more forceful in the negotiation, unwilling to concede to lower prices. Krauss believes that “in winner-take-all situations, wearing more formal attire can send others a signal ‘about you being successful and real confident in whatever you’re doing.'”

Other research cited in the same article documented that wearing nice clothes leads to higher levels of abstract thinking and productivity. “Dressing up” may mean different things depending on the work setting. For men, it could mean wearing a suit, sport coat or a nice shirt and tie. For women, it could be a nice jacket coupled with a blouse and skirt or pants. Women wearing heels may also convey more self-assurance and confidence than those sporting flat shoes.

The magazine Real Simple offers ideas to women dressing for success. It acknowledges upfront that “Anyone who owns a power outfit knows that the right clothes can be a big confidence booster.” The article links to another that reviews how different workplace standards affect clothing choices. Except for highly creative employers (think technology development, website design, online marketing, etc.), most employers will not be happy with their female employees displaying bare legs (really? stockings? in Florida?), open toed shoes, jeans, cropped pants, leggings, shorts, or spaghetti strap tops and dresses in the workplace. 

dress_for_success_locao_2016-09-13_1408So what does a woman who has few clothes–and most of them tshirts, shorts, jeans, and sandals–and even fewer financial resources, do when she finally lands a job interview? In this area, she might seek a referral to Dress for Success Tampa Bay.

Suzanne Neff Mashburn, Dress for Success Tampa Bay Board Member

Suzanne Neff Mashburn, Dress for Success Tampa Bay Board Member

Suzanne Neff Mashburn visited our Club in August to tell us about the good work at Dress for Success Tampa Bay. Dress for Success works with 180 different agencies in the area. These include the Centre for Women, AARP, Salvation Army and the Florida Department of Family Services. These agencies refer clients to Dress for Success to receive attire appropriate for job interviews along with coaching on how to ace the interviews. Clients are assisted by personal stylists (volunteers) who help the women find the right clothes for their upcoming interviews.

How Clients Are Helped

Rule 1: Clients must show how they look in different outfits to personal stylists. Rule 2: The clothing must not show their backs, breasts, or bellies. Each client receives a full outfit with purse, bra, jewelry, Spanx undergarment (if needed), and toiletries. They also receive other DfS support to get or stay employed through the Going Places Network and the Professional Women’s Group. If a woman stays employed for 30 days, she can come back for six more articles of clothing.

What Dress for Success Needs from Community

Dress for Success makes use of all gently used clothing and financial donations. They most often need larger sized clothes in the 18-30 size range. They also need size 7 and above shoes, purses, and travel size deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. Also in short supply are scrubs (worn by staff in health care settings), khakis, black pants, white shirts, and deluxe shopping bags from Macy’s and Bonwit Teller’s for clients to carry their goodies home. DfS needs public transportation passes in Tampa Bay counties for their clients to use. Finally, DfS aims to set up a satellite office at the Sanderlin Center in South Pinellas County and a mobile unit to drive the DfS wardrobe to reach clients referred to them in outlying areas where public transportation is only a dream.

Everything Gets Used

High quality clothes donated to DfS not used by clients because of size or work situation disparities may show up for sale at a Semi-Annual Excess Inventory sale. The funds raised go back into the DfS treasury to buy necessary clothing items for clients.

In fact, Suzanne alerted us to some real bargains, such as $10 suits, $5 shoes or purses, and even less expensive jewelry, belts, & scarves that will be offered at the Semi-Annual Sale on September 23 (9 AM-7 PM) and 24 (9 AM-3 PM) at the Bayshore Baptist Church, 3111 W. Morrison Ave. in Tampa.

Volunteers Needed 

Suzanne invited us to volunteer with Dress for Success.  They need volunteers who can:

  1. serve as personal shoppers for clients
  2. do first impression interviews to build clients’ confidence and skills in real-life interviews
  3. sort clothes
  4. speak before their Professional Women’s Group
  5. serve on committees to host three events a year–Spring Fashion Soiree, PowerWalk in July, and the Fall Fashion Soiree


We loved hearing about Dress for Success’s services and programs.  We invite readers to join us in volunteering for Dress for Success.  After all, why shouldn’t every woman have the chance to “feel like Pretty Woman” at least once in her life?  We can make that happen through supporting Dress for Success with our gifts of time, $, expertise, and clothing!

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Picture of woman in torn jeans from Unsplash at Pixabay

The views expressed in this blog post are mine and may not reflect the stance of the Zonta Club of Pinellas County or Zonta International. — Doris Reeves-Lipscomb