As the founder and CEO of Dress for Success of Southwest Florida, Barbara Dell is proud of what the organization has been able to accomplish after a relatively short period of time.
She opened this region’s first Dress for Success boutique in 2010 in Fort Myers and seven years later, Dell and her team continue to work hard in a variety of ways to fulfill the mission: to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to thrive in work and life.
“We want to make women feel special,” Dell said. “We want them to feel good about themselves and to be empowered.”
Dress for Success SW Florida is one of 140 affiliates that exist today worldwide.
Dell, with strong support from the community through donations and volunteers, has grown the organization in a variety of ways, including seeing it expand its reach beyond Lee County and into Collier County. More than 3,000 have been touched in some way since the Fort Myers boutique opened.
Part of Dress for Success SW Florida’s success and growth can be attributed to its annual signature fundraising event A Fashion Night in Black & White. (Photo: Special to The News-Press)
Part of Dress for Success SW Florida’s success and growth can be attributed to its annual signature fundraising event known as A Fashion Night in Black & White, presented by White House Black Market (Chico's FAS). This year it takes place on May 12 at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa from 6 to 9 p.m.
In what has been called an evening of fun and fashion, attendees are asked to wear their finest black and white cocktail attire. Dinner is included and there are live and silent auctions.
Dell said Dress for Success SW Florida’s relationship with White House Black Market is an important one. The company is a founding sponsor for the May 12 event and is also a sponsor of the Shop for Success event held in November.
“The connection has been there for seven years,” Dell said. “They started helping us before we opened our doors.”
Donna Noce, president of the White House Black Market, is the keynote speaker for A Fashion Night in Black & White. She was the first president of the board for Dress for Success SW Florida.
“I could not be more honored to speak on a topic that is dear to my heart and at the heart of our brand,” Noce said. “Sharing the same message with Dress for Success, White House Black Market honors and embraces women, empowering them to feel confident and beautiful.”
At a Fashion Night in Black & White, attendees are asked to wear their finest black and white cocktail attire. Dinner is included and there are live and silent auctions. (Photo: Special to The News-Press)
And sharing her personal message is something Noce said she is looking forward to doing as the keynote speaker.
“I will speak about persistence, perseverance and lessons learned,” she said. “We all have successes and failures and each one is a learning opportunity. I’ll share my story in hopes that it will inspire others as they go through their own journeys.”
Dell said another speaker will be a Dress for Success SW Florida client who will tell her story.
“She found her way out of a domestic violence situation and she’s now a single mom and an entrepreneur,” Dell said.
This is the fifth year for A Fashion Night in Black & White. The money raised goes to the Dress for Success boutiques in Lee and Collier.
“It really is a fun girls night out that will help hundreds and hundreds of women in Southwest Florida,” Dell said. "It's about empowering women and never giving up."
New this year is a twist to the popular fashion show. The models for the show are 10 women who have been clients of Dress for Success. The clothes they will be wearing are from the White House Black Market summer collection and the company will be gifting them the entire outfit.
While nice clothing and shoes and jewelry are a big part of making that happen, Dell is quick to point out that what Dress for Success does for the women it has a relationship with goes far beyond what a future employer sees on the outside.
Barbara Dell is the founder and CEO of Dress for Success of Southwest Florida. (Photo: Special to The News-Press)
“The quality of our clothing is amazing,” Dell said. “Clothing, shoes, handbags, jewelry … but they also get help with their resumes. Or, it could be something very basic like a handshake. What we do is we make sure when they leave here they have what they need in order to be a good candidate.”
Dell is excited and proud to talk about the newest program started by Dress for Success SW Florida. It’s called Women Empowered through Employment Series. Dell said it is for women who are unemployed or underemployed and it’s free.
“It’s supposed to be starting in June,” Dell said. “It’s a corporate-driven program and the committee is comprised of employers in the area.”
Women who are interested in participating can call 689-4992.
“The level and the scope of our services have broadened and continue to evolve along with the times,” Dell said.
IF YOU GO
What: “A Fashion Night in Black & White” to support Dress for Success SW Florida
When: Friday, May 12, 6 to 9 p.m.
Where: Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa, Bonita Springs
Tickets: $125 per person
Tables: $1,200 for 10 people
Keynote speaker: Donna Noce, president White House Black Market (Chicos FAS)
Sponsors: Chico's FAS, Arthrex, Hertz, Walmart, Shell Point, Lee County School District, and Lee Health
How to donate/volunteer: ccnns.com