Attire To Inspire: Women Helping Women Dress For Success

Becki DeGeest, Multimedia journalism

Women browse through silent auction items donated to Dress for Success Red River Valley of the Upper Midwest by local vendors at the organization’s first annual fundraiser event “Attire to Inspire.

MOORHEAD, MINN. — Women from the Upper Midwest area were invited to come together for an event in Moorhead to have fun, help each other, share stories and learn about the organization called Dress for Success.

What was a fabulous and fun event for a “Ladies-night” out had a great impact with an exceptionally good cause. The event, Attire to Inspire, was put on by Dress for Success Red River Valley of the Upper Midwest and was the group’s first annual fundraisers. The organization found success in its first and well-done attempt at raising awareness in the community towards what they do, who they help and how community members can help out, too.

The drink of the night a “Glam-Tini,” with proceeds going to benefit Attire to Inspire.

Part of the Dress for Success mission is to promote the economic independence of through a referral-based process for disadvantaged women. Women can be of any age and come in to the organization.

At the event there were multiple ways people could help out. Attendees were told about ways they could donate clothes, were encouraged to bid on items in the auction, buying the drink of the night the “Glam-Tini” and ways to financially support the organization.

“The average woman that comes to us is in her early to mid-thirties and is a single mom with two or three kids,” Executive Director of REACH Kristin Krile said. “We also have women who are retired or at retirement age coming to us.”

Attire to Inspire impresses and emboldens many

The night kicked off with a cocktail hour giving time for the ladies of Dress for Success to talk to the ladies attending the event. Meanwhile, a silent auction with the goal of raising money to support the cause garnered much attention. There were many desirable items in the silent auction all from local businesses in the Fargo-Moorhead area like: one-night stay at the Hotel Donaldson, one-hour massage packages, varieties of gift packages, WE Fest tickets and more.

As the silent auction came to a close, it was time for the a fashion show, where the models got to strut their stuff on the catwalk and show off the kinds outfits that Dress for Success puts together along with local clothes shops in Fargo. Wrapping the night up perfectly was a client speaker, Melanie Gilbert, who gave her own personal testimony along with how Dress for Success has helped her along through her difficult times.

Sephanie Goetz models her attire to inspire the audience at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in Moorhead, Minn.

Client gives personal testimony

Melanie Gilbert, who is one of the organization’s clients, came to them through a referral after receiving a call for an interview. Things were going well for Gilbert, who had always been the primary breadwinner for the family at the time she was employed and had a good position, when she got pregnant with twins and made the decision to be a stay-at-home mom. That’s when things began to change.

“I decided to pursue one of my bucket list items by becoming a yoga instructor, so while pursuing my dreams and being a mom everything else in my life was kind of falling apart,” Gilbert said. “Since June I have lost my home to foreclosure, I have been hospitalized for a week in the psych ward from having PTSD, it got so bad I actually had a psychotic breakdown, under legal advice filed for bankruptcy, I was literally losing everything in my life. When people talk about being a ‘hot mess’ I’m like, ‘Honey, I got a black belt in crazy.’”

Melanie Gilbert, Dress for Success client speaker.

Feeling abandoned by everything in her life, Gilbert decided it was time for change.

“My options were to try to stay at home as a stay at home mom and endure or I could go back to work and take care of my family and I can hold my head up and be excited about life,” Gilbert said.

She started applying for jobs, and then started receiving interview offers. However, she didn’t have clothes for interviews and all she had for clothes were yoga pants. With no money to pay for new clothes, she was then referred to Dress for Success where she worked with Liz Fevig Hager, the Program Coordinator of the organization, and went through  the three-step process towards success.


Dress for Success provides help using a three-part process

“There are three parts of dress for success,” Fevig said. “There is the dressing, where a woman who’s transitioning in life is both going to go on an interview or she’s just received a job and she doesn’t have the means to outfit herself. They then come to us, and then we outfit them one to three outfits if they are going to go on an interview. If they come to us because they’ve just gotten a job they get up to a week’s worth of clothes.

“Then there is the interview piece. They have the opportunity to do mock interviews, and Gate City Bank’s Jodie Schreier does our mock interviews for us and they get a chance to practice.”

The final step is through the Professional Women’s Group program where women are provided with online training for help with job retention, networking and can take classes on various things to help them succeed in the workplace.

“One example could be ‘things you really should know, but your boss might not tell you’ or something like proper makeup application,” Fevig said about the Professional Women’s Group programs.

Through the final step, Dress for Success is also trying to go beyond expectations by helping women with networking and maintaining their new job.

Gilbert, who went through this process, could not be more thankful.

“It was a relief to not have to worry about my clothes, that there wasn’t going to be a stain or a rip in them.” Gilbert said in regards to her own clothes. “They’re nice clothes, so that was nice, but it’s not about the clothes, it’s the confidence that came with the experience. You’re not a number where someone shouts ‘next’ and that’s really important.”

The first Dress for Success affiliate started in 1987. The Hawley affiliate in 1988 started a division for the Upper Midwest and have been serving women ever since growing in size and growing in creating opportunities for women.

Women at the Dress for Success event “Attire to Inspire,” were encouraged to donate and volunteer for a helping cause.

Where you can donate:

Fargo Boutique                                      Hours:

502 1st Ave. N.                                      Mondays 11:00 am to 1:00 pm

Fargo, ND                                             and by Appointment

Phone 701.478.8076


Photos taken of local models in their Attire to Inspire

(Edited by Daniel Ziebol, MSUM Multimedia journalism)


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