Shreveport native Roberta Brown was living in Houston when she found herself unemployed and without a place to stay. Eager to get back on her feet, she learned about Houston’s Dress For Success affiliate, a national nonprofit with the mission of helping women break the cycle of poverty through programs that equip them with the skills to become gainfully employed. 

“Once I got back on my feet, they supplied me with the clothing needed to be successful in getting back into the workforce,” Brown said. “Those clothes that they provided me with helped me land a great job out there and helped me migrate back to the Shreveport area where I’m from.”

Beginning with Dress For Success’s Client Suiting Program, Brown visited the non-profit’s boutique where she was styled in professional attire for her job interview. Once Dress For Success clients obtain employment, they also are provided with a work appropriate wardrobe. Today, Brown is employed with Caddo Parish Schools and is an active member of organization’s Professional Women’s Group. 

Erica McCain, executive director of Dress For Success Shreveport-Bossier, said the organization is all about empowering women and building their self-confidence. Joining McCain in leadership is the organization’s Program Coordinator, Connie Rogers. Since 2005, the local chapter has impacted over 6,000 families in the area.

“The impact that we have on women is indirectly impacting their family. That’s what we want — to empower women to gain confidence and become sustainable for their families and feel confident going to work,” McCain said. “Everybody knows when you feel good and you look good, it translates into how you act, how you get promotions, how you acquire jobs, and how you elevate yourself to get jobs. That’s where we start with women — building that confidence and going from there.”

Dress For Success Shreveport-Bossier started as a women’s career closet at St. Mark’s Cathedral in 1996. The non-profit moved to the Highland Center and affiliated with Dress For Success Worldwide in 1999 and then operated as a program of Volunteers of America of North Louisiana. In 2013, they became independent.

The organization doesn’t just help women build a suitable wardrobe for job interviews — they provide a career center with computers for employment searches and staff and volunteers assist with resumes and writing cover letters. Once the client is comfortable in their new job, they are encouraged to join the non-profit’s Professional Women’s Group. 

“It supports them in the challenges of entering and reentering the workforce,” McCain said.  “We have different topics around financial literacy, how to be healthy, and how to obtain a home because that’s what you want to move them toward, being sustainable and building roots for their families.”

Another service offered through Dress For Success is the Women of the Workforce Program (W.O.W.). Twice a year, the 12-week program is open to 30 women and prepares them to enter the workforce following graduation from the course. Students are taught how to navigate online, search for jobs, write resumes, and apply for jobs. Women enrolled in W.O.W. also learn interview skills, financial literacy and networking skills. Guest speakers from the community lead classes every Tuesday during the program and once students complete the course, Dress For Success assists in finding them employment. The next W.O.W. program begins Sept. 4. 

Dianne Clark, president of the board of directors for Dress For Success Shreveport-Bossier, said one reason she is committed to the nonprofit is because of the work they do in assisting women that are victims of human trafficking. 

“We have a huge slave trade that runs through Shreveport because of the interstate. We have women we work with that have been victims of that,” Clark said. “They’ve never been able to make a decision. They’re told what to do, when to do it, how to do it. They are broken. They don’t believe in themselves because they don’t know who they are.”

Beyond suits and blazers, clients walk away with the self-confidence needed to be successful in a job or career and are given a support system of strong women. 

“The primary mission is to give women the opportunity to stand on equal footing when they go in for an interview. They need a wardrobe because most of these women don’t have the means to be able to provide that,” Clark said. “When you go out shopping and get a new outfit and you go home and put it on, you feel good. You feel special and that’s our goal — to give them every opportunity to feel loved and special.”

Dress For Success Shreveport-Bossier Professional Clothing Sale

10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 19
UC Ballroom at LSUS campus, 1 University Place, Shreveport
Open to the public. 

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Donate new or gently used interview appropriate women’s clothing and accessories (larger sized shoes and clothing are especially needed) to one of the following drop off locations. Clothing should be in ready-to-wear condition, no more than five years old and on hangers. 

  • Dress For Success Shreveport-Bossier
    1520 N. Hearne Ave., Suite 108, Shreveport
  • Azalea Cleaners
    732 Azalea Drive, Shreveport
  • Azalea Cleaners
    9227 Mansfield Road, Shreveport
  • Azalea Cleaners
    2850 Douglas Drive, Bossier City
  • Azalea Cleaners
    9220 Ellerbe Road, Shreveport
  • Azalea Cleaners
    1460 E. Bert Kouns Ind. Loop, Shreveport
  • SB Magazine
    9105 Ellerbe Road, Suite B, Shreveport