Merlene Davis: Dress for Success clothing sale will benefit job seekers

Wagoner Lexington Herald-Leader

About two years ago Analisa Wagoner and Jennifer Monarch began efforts to bring an affiliate of Dress for Success to Lexington.

They thought a program that offers women career clothing items and career counseling could help them walk confidently through any door for an interview and a chance at a better life.

Wagoner and Monarch were awarded the affiliate in March 2013, lined up volunteers and donations, and opened an office in Eastland Shopping Center on Oct. 1, 2013.

Now, because local women have generously emptied their closets to help out, Dress for Success Lexington has secured more space next door and the organization will celebrate its growth by opening it for a sale this weekend.

"We are doing a lot of scrambling," said Wagoner, executive director of the local affiliate. "We're having to work nonstop to have everything ready for the sale. It is about to kill me. With any luck, it will come together."

Seems to me if they can go from an idea to needing more space in two years, setting up for a clothing sale should be a breeze.

Since opening a year ago, the nonprofit has counseled and clothed 100 women, 30 in October alone, Wagoner said.

The organization provides professional attire for economically disadvantaged women, and teaches résumé writing and computer skills to help them become self-sufficient. The women are referred by more than 30 local agencies that have partnered with Dress for Success. No one can simply walk in.

Dress for Success is an international organization with 138 affiliates in 17 countries.

This will be the nonprofit's second sale this year. The first was in March. But it is the first in its new 1,000-square-foot addition next door.

"A year ago we never could have envisioned moving into an additional space," Wagoner said. "We are humbled by the response from the community, and look forward to celebrating our new space with a big sale that will not only benefit our clients, but enable everyone to get some great deals in the process."

The sale is open only to clients on Thursday and Friday, she said. At 9 a.m. Saturday, VIP Early Bird bargain hunters can get a one-hour jump on the public and a special treat by donating $20 to the nonprofit.

Then everybody else gets in free at 10 a.m.

"At the last sale, we didn't have anything over $10," Wagoner said. "Designer items will be specially priced."

Some donations are not appropriate for the workplace, including jeans, evening wear and shorts, she said.

"Some might be funky and hip, but a little too brightly colored or fancy," she said. "Or we could have gotten a hundred things in size 2, and the majority of the women we serve are 14 to 20. We err on the side of conservative for work clothes."

There will be shoes, belts, scarves and some coats, she said. Some items still have the original price tags attached. "We have everything from Cato and Kohl's to Giorgio Armani."

Toward the end of the day, shoppers will be able to buy everything they can stuff in a bag for $20.

The money from the sale will go to buy fill-in-the-gap items that weren't donated, such as white button-down shirts, black ties and black nonskid shoes for servers, or steel-toed work boots, scrubs and plus sizes for other clients.

With the steady growth comes a need for more money and more volunteers, Wagoner said. The nonprofit is a part of the initiative that is going on now but, because of the sale, Wagoner said she hasn't had much time to promote it.

"We had women come in as VIPs last time and they didn't leave until 4 p.m.," she said. "They tried on just about everything."

That sounds like a good sale to me.