Boutique Offers Image Boost
Jill Bryce, Gazette Reporter

ALBANY - October 25, 2007 - A new Dress for Success boutique opened Wednesday to help disadvantaged women get a job and career by providing a free suit and a boost of confidence for the job interview. The boutique on Sheridan Avenue, near the Capitol, already has a couple hundred suits along with handbags, scarves and jewelry that have been donated for the new store.

Dress for Success serves clients by referral only, and women must have a job interview scheduled before receiving clothing, said Kathleen Cloutier, executive director of Albany Community Action Partnership, which is overseeing the program.

"What we try to do is outfit a woman with a suit. If she gets a job, she can come back and mix and match to create five outfits," said Cloutier.

Local agencies such as America Works, Career Links and social services agencies refer women. Cloutier estimates about 200 referrals will be made this year, once the word gets out to agencies working with low-income women.

"I think we have all experienced it -- job interviews are first impressions," said Cloutier. "I interview all the time and anyone coming in with a suit impresses me as someone who wants the job. It helps the woman feel confident, if she is looking good she can sell herself better."

There is no fee for the suit or the full week's worth of clothing. The new suit is just part of this program. Dress for Success Albany provides educational programs that focus on developing economic and self sufficiency.

"The unemployment rate is fairly low. People can find a job. It's how they get into a career that's difficult," said Cloutier. "That's what we're trying to do -- get them on a track where they will be in a lifetime career."

Professional women's networking groups offering workshops and a career center are part of the program.

"Having the right clothes for a job interview or the first weeks of a job is important to build a woman's self-esteem and confidence," said Albany County Legislator Mary Lou Connolly, chair of the Social Services Committee. "Dress for Success goes beyond this first step to offer clients additional job retention and mentoring programs."

Cloutier said the response for donations has been phenomenal. Albany County employees held a suit drive and Dress for Success participated in a Met Life national suit drive.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 29 and 30, a suit drive will be held in downtown Albany at Ten Eyck Plaza at 40 N. Pearl St. From noon to 8 p.m. Nov. 1, California closets in Latham is holding a suit drive at its showroom at the Peter Harris Plaza on Troy-Schenectady Road. From 9 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays, donations can be brought to Dress for Success on Sheridan Avenue. All suits should be dry cleaned and on hangers. Any clothing that Dress for Success does not use will be donated to the City Mission, which has a clothing boutique that offers free clothing.

Copyright (c) 2007 The Daily Gazette Co. All Rights Reserved.

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