Dress for Success New Orleans

Dress For Success New Orleans offers businesses the opportunity to help local women put their best foot forward.
Director of Operations, Lori Byargeon; President of the DFSNO Board, Meaghan Bonavita; and Director of Programs, Brianna Reddeman

We all do it. We can’t help it. When we meet a person for the first time our reaction to him or her is frequently based on their overall presentation. Is his suit dreadfully out of fashion or fabulously fashion forward? Is her blouse wrinkled or sharply pressed? Are his shoes shined or scuffed? Over time, a person’s actual personality and character will probably change our initial reaction, but in the beginning, clothing and appearance, for better or worse, guides our assumption about this person’s personality, character and worth.


Are looking to work directly with women in the community to improve lives and self-esteem.

In the case of employment, it could very well decide whether we hire this person or not.

This is in part what drove second-year law student Nancy Lublin to use a $5,000 inheritance from her great-grandfather as a gift that would keep on giving. Lublin teamed up with three nuns and, identifying a crucial need that was not being filled, founded Dress for Success in the basement of a church in Manhattan in 1996. The idea was to help women who once faced personal hardships to feel successful and valued, earn their own money, build new lives and look confident while doing it.

Since starting operations, Dress for Success has expanded to more than 152 cities in 28 countries and has helped nearly 1 million women work toward self-sufficiency.


6 ways a company can partner with Dress for Success New Orleans

1. Host a gathering or event with proceeds going to DFSNO.
2. Sponsor a fundraising event.
3. Provide volunteers for events, sales or educational opportunities.
4. Host a Professional Women’s Group Networking Night.
5. Host a workplace clothing drive. Note: To ensure that an article of clothing or suit is appropriate, ask yourself if you would feel comfortable wearing it on an interview.
6. Plus-sized fashions are always in demand.

“Dress for Success for me has meant an introduction back into society after I hit rock bottom,” said Katherine Madere, an active participant in Dress for Success New Orleans (DFSNO). Madere currently works as a volunteer coordinator at Longue Vue House and Gardens. “When one is coming back from really hard times and searching for a job, a budget for nice clothes is really far down the list of essentials. The thing is, especially for women, being able to dress nicely is a large part of feeling good about going out into the world.”

Each Dress for Success affiliate location is a member of Dress for Success Worldwide but is also an independent nonprofit organization with its own policies, staff and board of directors. All affiliates work to fulfill the overall mission of helping women become more self sufficient, while taking into account each city’s cultural traditions and resources.

DFSNO partners with a diverse group of nonprofit and government agencies—including Job One, Grace House, Eden House and Café Reconcile — to refer women to its organization once they have secured a job interview.

“We serve 40 to 50 woman a month,” said Lori Byargeon, director of operations. “There is no specific type of woman who comes here. They are all different education levels, ages and races. So many women of all different statuses are only two paychecks from being homeless.”

Helise Madden, this year’s DFSNO Client of the Year, graduated from college with a degree in psychology. She and her husband started a business and were becoming successful. Madden said she saw herself as a future leader in her community. Then she was injured and everything changed.

Madden’s back had a constant stabbing pain and she used prescription medication to find relief, but eventually her life became completely unmanageable because of a growing drug dependency.

“I had lost my business, my husband, my home and my daughter,” she said. “I was pulled over and arrested. I was done. I committed myself to an intensive rehabilitation center for six months. I did the impossible…I found sobriety and hope. Through this rehabilitation program, I learned how to cope with my disease, and when it was time to begin looking for a job, I was introduced to Dress for Success New Orleans.”

Dress for Success’ help doesn’t stop once a woman is outfitted for a job interview. Once a job is secured, women are invited back in to pick out a week’s worth of work appropriate attire to get them started out right.

“There is no specific type of woman who comes here. They are all different education levels, ages and races. So many women of all different statuses are only two paychecks from being homeless.”

Lori Byargeon, director of operations

DFSNO is a volunteer-driven organization run by a wide variety of people who donate their time and talents.

“We have career women and retired women who generously share their knowledge,” said Meaghan Bonavita, president of the DFSNO board. “When a client comes to the store to be suited it’s not just about the outfit. Our volunteers talk with them and share their knowledge. As they are working as personal shoppers they are also doing mini-career counseling sessions. It makes the whole process a lot easier and much more comfortable. Our volunteers work with clients to help them choose an interview outfit as they also provide guidance and support for the upcoming interview.”

The organization’s assistance doesn’t stop once a woman walks out with an interview outfit. Once a woman gets a job, she is welcome to return and receive help putting together a week’s worth of clothes.

“They get skirts, blazers, shoes and blouses — all things that work together as separates and all that help clients increase their confidence,” says Brianna Reddeman, director of programs.

Dress for Success New Orleans also offers ongoing workshops on topics such as financial literacy and leadership.

“We focus on helping clients remain employed and provide them with strategies to succeed,” said Reddeman, “We want them to feel stable in their new jobs so we continue to help them develop their professional skills. It helps them stay motivated and optimistic.”

The Professional Women’s Group also offers women the chance to meet regularly to support and encourage one another. These meetings continue to build their confidence, increase their networking opportunities and give them a chance to discuss workplace-related topics.

“I live a life of service and it gets better all the time,” Madere said. “I often say about Dress for Success that it’s not really about a suit; it’s about saving a soul.”


Dress for Success

Mission: To empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

Website: DFSNewOrleans.org
Location: 6117 Magazine Street, New Orleans 70118
Annual Budget: $300,000

Major Fundraising Events:

May 11, 2018

Suits and Salads Luncheon

This annual event will take place at The Hyatt Regency Hotel New Orleans at 11 a.m. Guests will be treated to cocktails, raffles and a silent auction. The luncheon features a Dress for Success client testimonial, as well as a keynote speaker and fashion show.

November Date T.B.D.

2018 Fashion Gala

This event usually includes participation from local boutiques and designers who display mannequins dressed in the theme of the evening.

Upcoming Volunteer Events:

Dress for Success New Orleans relies on its volunteers who help suit clients and work on resume building and interviewing skills. DFSNO also has two storage units that volunteers help to keep organized. Volunteers help DFSNO run its various public sales throughout the year along with tailored opportunities to larger groups. If you would like more information, please contact Brianna Reddeman at (504) 891-4337 or Brianna@DFSNewOrleans.org

“When one is coming back from really hard times and searching for a job, a budget for nice clothes is really far down the list of essentials, said Katherine Madere (top). “The thing is, especially for women, being able to dress nicely is a large part of feeling good about going into the world.” Helise Madden (bottom) lost her business, home and family due to an opioid addiction. With Dress for Success New Orleans’ help, she found a job four-and-a-half years ago and is still employed in the hospitality industry. Madden was DFSNO’s Client of the Year in 2017.

Success Stories

Katherine Madere

“When I first interviewed for my first job at Longue Vue House and Gardens the women of Dress for Success were right there with me,” said Katherine Madere. “Even with my qualifications and education, if I hadn’t had them there believing in me and holding my hand as I reentered the world in sobriety, I don’t know where I would be.”

Madere was chosen as Client of the Year in 2015 when she was promoted to her current job as volunteer coordinator at Longue Vue. “These two amazing organizations have also allowed me to give back to my community,” she added.

Cheryl Butler

Her life was at a dead-end when Cheryl Butler left Chicago to take her son to Alcorn State University in Mississippi.

“I decided there was no reason to return to Chicago and so I stayed in New Orleans where my father lived,” said Butler. She began working with Job One and when she got an interview, she went to Dress for Success to be suited. Butler now works for Strategic Staffing Solutions and loves her job.

“I couldn’t have done it without Dress for Success,” she said. “They helped with so much more than a suit. I learned life skills and finances. Life can sometimes hit you hard but this program can change your station in life.”


Locally 284 unique women were served in 2016

42.4% secured employment

Each year DFSNO has increased the number of local women served.

The organization has helped many clients secure jobs in big companies including: Peoples Health, Whole Foods, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Hyatt Regency Hotel New Orleans, Commander’s Palace and Harrah’s Hotel and Casino.

DFSNO has partnered with more than 49 local referral agencies including: Grace House, Eden House and New Orleans Women and Children’s Shelter.

75% growth in volunteer base, from 102 to 108 volunteers in 2017

2,516 hours donated by volunteers in 2017

Nationally 73,000 women received support from Dress for Success

100% of participants in the Going Places Network — DFS’ workforce development program — gained professional skills, accelerated their job search, and had access to resources such as the career center and job specialists for one-on-one career coaching

76% of participants in the Professional Women’s Group — DFS’ employment retention program — remained gainfully employed after one year

100% of Financial Education participants collectively saved over $13,000 and paid down over $4,300 in debt, which laid the foundation for critical emergency funds

60% of Financial Education Program participants improved their credit scores