Professional preening

Maddie Forshee

Free food, free clothes, and free career advice — it’s not a dream, it’s Dress for Success.

On Thursday April 3, the Grand Valley State University Women’s Center teamed up with the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Hospitality and Tourism Management students and other co-sponsors to host Dress for Success, an annual professional-dress fashion show and clothing giveaway.

Any and all GVSU students were invited to come watch student models strut their stuff in an array of different professional looks, get career pointers, and learn more about professional dress. When that was over, they were welcome to browse through racks of professional clothes that were donated specifically for the event.

“(Dress for Success) is a national movement that encourages different locations to collect professional clothing for people who may not have access to it,” said Jessica Jenrich, director of the Women’s Center. “Some people can’t afford these things and that can be a huge barrier to employment.”

The clothes were dry cleaned beforehand by Plantega’s Cleaners, a dry cleaning chain with six locations including Allendale and around the Grand Rapids area.

People were able to donate clothes at every one of Plantega’s locations, so some of the donations at Dress for Success came from as far as north Muskegon and Holland. The dry cleaner takes donations year-round to help out with the event.

“(The most important part is) the advice for going out into the real world and getting that first big interview,” said Jamele Favorite, one of the students that was on the marketing team for the event. “(Students will learn) how it will be, what to say and how to dress.”

Before the event, there were students lined up in the hallway outside of the Grand River Room, and once they signed in, each was given a raffle ticket.

Dress for Success was Great Gatsby-themed, so once people entered the room, cityscape cutouts and black and gold decorations could be spotted all over.

Before the event, there were tables set up by sponsors, student organizations, and organizations in the community that offer career services and even some coupons to whomever wanted it.

The actual fashion show was in two parts, and the student models were clothed by Younkers in the first part and Maurice’s in the second part.

As the models walked, representatives from each company talked about each outfit and gave tips for dressing professionally. Maribeth VerHuis, the emcee for Younkers, gave advice for what kind of tie looks best for different occasions, how long dresses should be, and general rules for casual Fridays, corporate and casual workplaces, business casual, and black tie occasions.

“Create the look you want to command the respect you need,” said VerHuis.

Between the two parts of the show, raffle ticket winners were announced by the students helping to run the event, but before the winner could receive their prize, they had to answer a career-related question.

The prizes for the event included Applebee’s, Best Buy, and Barnes & Noble gift cards, as well as Buffalo Wild Wings sauce packs, cases of Red Bull, and even free hotel stays. The grand prize was a Kindle Fire HD.

After the fashion show portion was over, students rushed to either side of the room to rifle through the racks and tables of clothes, jewelry and shoes that were being given away for free.

Many students came away with armfuls of new blazers, slacks and shoes, and grins on their faces.

“The requirement to look a certain way can be scary and expensive,” said Jenrich. “With this event, we’re trying to give that first step into the job search process, trying to make that transition a little easier.”