Glamour Vans: Dress for Success Goes Mobile
By increasing its reach with two mobile boutiques for professional clothing and career services, Dress for Success Pittsburgh aims to empower more women than ever before.
Ebony Griffin wears a uniform every day for her job in security. Recently, however, she wanted to make sure she had an appropriate outfit for a business meeting or interview, in case one comes up.
That’s how the 38-year-old Garfield woman became the first client for Dress for Success Pittsburgh’s clothing consultants at one of its new mobile boutiques.
“They answered questions that I had; they were very helpful and knowledgeable about fashion,” she says. “They weren’t just telling you, ‘It looks nice.’”
Two Ford Transit-350 vans are now lined with clothing racks, shoe racks and accessories for the nonprofit organization to provide free clothing consultations and career-readiness services on the move.
Dress for Success Pittsburgh helps women achieve economic independence through support and employment readiness, in addition to free professional clothing. According to the organization, research shows the two largest barriers to employment for women in the region are childcare and transportation; 34 percent of clients say they rely on rides from family and friends as a primary way to get around.
“One of the things our program focuses on is meeting women where they are,” says CEO Tanya Mallory.
The mobile boutiques launched in late August; one will rove to events in Allegheny and Butler counties and the other will reach those in Fayette, Greene and Washington counties.
After setting up the mobile boutique at Hosanna House in Wilkinsburg, the Dress for Success consultants advised Griffin about appropriate colors and patterns for interviews, what would be seasonally appropriate for fall and professional presentation during an interview.
The Bloomfield-based affiliate, established in 2005, is one branch of the international Dress for Success organization. Dress for Success can be found in 154 cities in 28 countries.
“[Seeing] the relationships between women through this work has really been an eye-opening experience for me,” says Mallory, who has led Dress for Success Pittsburgh for two of her six years with the organization. “That’s why I love this work.”
Dress for Success operates four brick-and-mortar locations for consultations: its Pittsburgh headquarters, Butler, Uniontown and Washington.
In 2018, the organization served more than 3,500 women, with about 600 — or 17 percent — visiting mobile events.
Prior to establishing the mobile boutiques, the organization would stuff staff members’ personal vehicles with new and gently used clothes donated from professional women.
“It was the clunkiest and least efficient process ever,” Mallory says. “But sometimes when there’s a need, you just get the job done.”
Mallory says the launch of the mobile boutiques, funded in part by corporate sponsors and local foundations, will allow the organization to reach more women than ever before.
“I’m really excited to see what comes next,” she says. “I was so pleased to see that every county that we serve saw the importance of what we do to help women and the services we provide.”
Dress for Success clients can now find clothing for interviews and career-readiness services at convenient locations with the nonprofit’s new mobile boutiques.
Dress for Success