One new outfit completely changed Joylyn Day’s life.
In 2012, the Durham resident made a decision to end a decadelong abusive relationship. Unemployed and with three small children to support, Day reached out to Dress for Success Triangle. It proved to be a life-altering choice.
“I am a sexual abuse survivor,” said Day, 31. “The relationship took away my confidence as well as my social skills. I was withdrawn and only could speak to people if they spoke to me first. Coming to Dress for Success really opened me up.”
Dress for Success Triangle is one of 130 affiliates in the United States and around the world helping women change how they see themselves and empowering them to gain meaningful employment. The local chapter was founded in 2008 by Pat Nathan and has grown to two locations in Raleigh and Durham.
The first step is a new look, said Executive Director Beth Briggs. Clients spend their first meeting being outfitted from head to toe in professional attire. Volunteers help them select a business suit, matching shoes and accessories. All items are donated and free to their recipients.
“They walk out feeling good and looking great,” Briggs said. “It suddenly changes how they feel about themselves. We treat our clients with a lot of dignity and respect.”
“It was my first business suit,” Day said. “I remember saying I looked like a grown-up. It made me stand taller, and I felt better in my skin.”
Briggs said the group’s typical client is a single mom in her mid-30s with two or more children. Clients are usually referred to the program by job placement or community service agencies. This year alone, Dress for Success Triangle has assisted 1,800 local women.
The program also provides image coaching, resume support and job placement assistance. Dress for Success Triangle is supported by more than 350 local volunteers in the business community who conduct mock interviews and provide mentoring and networking support. Its 10-session job-acquisition program, Going Places Network, gives clients an opportunity to learn interview skills and performance expectations from local female professionals. Clients wear their new interview suit to class to help create a professional mindset.
“I loved those sessions, and I don’t think I missed a single class,” Day said. “It gave me confidence to interview for corporate positions.”
Not long after completing the program, Day was offered a temporary position working as a client services coordinator for Dress for Success Triangle. The job became permanent in October, and she is now saving for a mortgage with the hope of moving her family out of public housing.
“I thought I would be stuck earning minimum wage,” Day said. “I had lost all hope, but now I am more hopeful about my future.”
Briggs said 73 percent of the women who attend the program land a job thanks to their newly acquired skills. After attaining employment, clients may return to the group’s boutique at Durham’s Northgate Mall for a week’s worth of additional job-suitable clothing.
Dress for Success Triangle accepts donations of gently used business clothing at several area locations (see list at dressforsuccesstrianglenc.org). It also needs purses, shoes, belts, scarves and other accessories. Volunteers to assist with dressing clients, to staff the boutique or to serve as professional mentors are also in demand. Area corporations and businesses that are willing to partner with the organization for employee referrals are among the greatest needs, Briggs said.
“The women who come to us are discouraged,” Briggs said. “They are unemployed and have had a lot of rejection. We empower women and give them the confidence they need to be successful.”