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Woman wardrobe with variety of pastel colors tops hung on hangers. Vertical composition.

An idea that can change lives often starts with courage and blind faith, as was the case of Dress for Success (DFS).

The worldwide organization is the brainchild of Nancy Lublin after coming to the stressing realization that she didn’t have clothes for a job interview post-graduation. A law student at the time, Lublin started the nonprofit in 1996 in a church basement in Manhattan.

Today, there are nearly 150 Dress for Success affiliates in 25 countries.

“That ‘acorn’ started Dress for Success,” says Robin B. Ervin, the director of Winston-Salem’s DFS.

The organization is much more than a clothes closet; it’s a fresh start and a new beginning. It’s where women of all ages go for help in making the first impression a lasting one — from a young college woman preparing for her first interview to older women who need to make a living due to a change in circumstances.

“Everyone knows we outfit women for jobs but there is more to us than a suit,” Ervin says. “Women that feel good about how they look project confidence that translates into job success, confidence, and financial independence. We empower women and often helping that one person changes generations and the trajectory of families. DFS is not a clothes closet — that is the means of how we help people — but we offer a hand up.”

You might be wondering how women find DFS. Referrals from nonprofit agencies get women in the door to shop for interview clothes. Nearby organizations like next-door neighbor The Winston-Salem Street School (located in the Winston-Salem Center for Education and the Arts) makes referrals. In January, one of their students, Ta’Natiqua, was outfitted with clothing for her interview. She got the job and came back for more clothes; DFS supplies new job recipients enough for a work week so the client doesn’t spend their first paycheck on clothes.

“Having new clothes helped me feel excited and ready for my interview. It boosted my confidence and helped me do better,” says Ta’Natiqua. “I now have a full week’s worth of clothes and won’t have to worry about what to wear to my job. That will make starting my job much easier.”

DFS also teaches interview techniques, resume writing, and other skills for successfully navigating the workplace and job hunt process. Future classes will teach other workplace skills such as dealing with various personalities on the job, team building, and more.

After a client picks out her outfit, there is only one thing left to do.

On this day, Ta’Natiqua put her hand in and pulled out a slip of paper from the “thought jar.” It read, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

She smiled as she walked out the door with her head held high and her shoulders back; ready for a new beginning.

Donations are encouraged year-round. Gently used apparel, purses, shoes (size 9 are in demand), and other garments are needed. For more information on how to donate, volunteer, special events, or to access the “Wish List,” go to facebook.com/dfsws or winstonsalemdressforsuccess.org.

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