“Lena, what are your favorite colors? What makes you feel comfortable.. pants or skirts?”, asked lead volunteer and suiting stylist Joanne Steffen, a confident and poised woman, in the most welcoming, hospitable tone of voice this morning when introduced to her 10 am client.
“Purple and black.”, Lena replied. “And I prefer pants.”
“Perfect!” , Joanne continued, “This is simply a style conversation so we understand your preferences, what works for you and will make you feel good at work!..”, she said smiling with an air of warmth and friendship, connecting her to the determined, yet consciously uncomfortable woman standing in front of her dressed in a pink tank top, black workout shorts and jogging shoes with her long, thick black hair tied loosely in a bun atop her 5’4″ frame.
Joanne whisked Lena away to her private dressing room inviting her to settle in and make herself comfortable with the same enthusiasm as a Saks Fifth Avenue personal shopper wardrobing a high-end client. The goal was simple. Personal transformation and powerful self-esteem building.
Please allow me to introduce you to Dress for Success Southern Nevada.
“Founded in 2009, Dress for Success Southern Nevada (DFSSN) is the local affiliate of the international nonprofit that empowers women to achieve economic independence by enabling them to build a career and become self sufficient. The organization assists local women in the Las Vegas valley looking to get back on their feet by providing professional attire, a network of support, and career development tools to help them thrive in work and life.”
Lena, a native New Mexican, arrived in Las Vegas via Colorado only four months ago and is beginning a new journey of rebuilding her life by kick starting her career. Transition. The in-between. Her new job assignment? A full-time position as an auditor for a small, local casino. A single mother of two grown children, Lena spent the past twenty-four years as a school bus driver to make ends meet. “I was able to take my kids with me to work when they were growing up”, she said as she popped out from behind the dressing room curtain in her first pair of black trousers and flat black shoes. “I grew up on a ranch, we don’t wear skirts and heels..”, she chuckled at the sight of a brightly colored turquoise maxi skirt I thought would compliment her lush, golden skin tone, which at this point was glistening with perspiration. “I’d be afraid the wind would blow and my skirt will be up next to my face!”, she laughed candidly as I placed the skirt on the go back rack outside her room.
Joanne’s skills as a retired nurse and President/CEO of a large, national managed health care practice emerged as she handed Lena a few moist wet wipes to clear her brow and cool her neck. Plugging in a fan outside the two dressing rooms, Joanne continued to focus on Lena’s comfort first, assuring her sense of enjoyment during the somewhat daunting, albeit highly rewarding process of selecting 15-16 different flattering and professional outfits for two week’s worth of employment.
We zoomed back and forth into a large area of generously donated clothing at the rear of the commercially located office space on W. Desert Inn, all meticulously sorted by volunteers and thoughtfully merchandised by size, style, and sleeve length. Racks of clean, patterned and solid colored dresses, linen, cotton, and wool suit jackets, camisoles, skirts, and trousers hung neatly separated by size rounders beside shelves of shoes of varying heel heights. “15-16 different outfits in 90 minutes?” , I kept thinking to myself in astonishment. “These stylists are practicing an art form! And they are volunteers!”
Yes. You read that correctly. Volunteers.
*(BIG HUGS to all the volunteers in the world. YOU ARE AWESOME! Each life is worthy and you ARE making a difference!)*
Best part of being a personal stylist at Dress For Success Southern Nevada… no previous experience in fashion industry required! If you know how to put an outfit together that is polished and professional, mixing your creativity with the available, donated resources, and have a passion in your heart for lifting a woman’s confidence and self-worth you can join this amazing team! They have volunteer openings to help style clients, sort donations, file paperwork, and even help by sewing or letting out seams!
Dress for Success Southern Nevada hosts several annual events like the “Power Walk”, which is how volunteer stylist leader Joanne Steffen first became involved. “I saw Paula Lawrence, executive director, on Fox 5 talking about the upcoming event and having just retired, realized I could donate my entire professional wardrobe.” she stated. ” I believe women need to improve their self-esteem. They often feel beaten down, and it’s our job to lift them up”, she replied passionately when asked what she loves most about her volunteer work over the past three years with the organization.
We wrapped up the styling session in the accessories room, where Lena was encouraged to pick out a couple of necklaces to coordinate with her new suit jackets. “I haven’t worn jewelry in such a long time”, she said while slipping a sterling silver fashion necklace with brightly colored purple gemstones in the shape of a cross around her neck. “I really like this one!”, she smiled. “Great! It’s going home with you along with all your new outfits, your new purse, 2 pairs of shoes, shapewear, and professional tote bag for work!”, peeped Joanne from around the corner as she loaded up her treasures in fresh garment bags organized by outfit on hangers, including labeled tags inside items to help Lena distinguish colors for those she couldn’t decipher due to her color blindness.
How to Get Involved
Donate: Take a look through your closet… Any articles of clothing lingering that no longer fit you? Lost weight or gained weight and need to clear some space in your home and your mind for that matter? Perhaps you’ve graduated into a new decade of life and would like to let go of old age-inappropriate items? Or maybe you just want to detach from a former identity… and recreate a new persona. Through this giving, you will be both a blessing to another, and to yourself.
“Really small sizes like 0-2 as well as larger sizes 16+ are the greatest needs by our clients”, mentioned Joanne at the end of our visit together. “We can suit up to 10 women a day, based on our volunteer schedule, and often the women we serve show up wearing the only pair of underwear they have, if any at all.”
Volunteer: It takes a village of compassionate hearts to create ripples in the world. Have a couple of hours to invest to impact the lives of women directly in your area?
Lena, inspired by her new wardrobe which will impact her confidence as she heads into her new job next week, knowing she has a full two week’s worth of new clothing.
Joanne, inspired by Lena’s change in attitude after their two-hour transformation session.
How to Make Last Changes.
Reminds me of a concept Tony Robbins refers to as the Six Steps For Creating Lasting Change taken from his bestselling book, “Awaken The Giant Within“:
1. Decide What You Really Want and What’s Preventing You From Having It.
2. Get Leverage: Associate Massive Pain to Not Changing Now and Massive Pleasure to the Experience of Changing Now.
3. Interrupt the Limiting Pattern.
4. Create a New Empowering Alternative.
5. Condition the Pattern Until It’s Consistent.
6. Test It!
“We do not care where you have been, we only care where you are going”, is the guiding principle in this organization.