Purge with Purpose: An interview with Dress for Success



If you’ve read my earlier sanction on not cleaning out your closet (and holding onto everything you want to keep!) you might be surprised I’m encouraging you to do the opposite now. With everyone spending a lot more time at home right now and wondering what to do with themselves— this is the perfect solution.


After performing a very non-scientific survey of friends, it’s come to my attention that many people really, actually do want to unload workwear, simply because it doesn’t hold the same emotional value as that old prom dress or concert tee. And because that suit/button down/pencil skirt/pair of dress pants were kind of costly, we hold on to them hoping someone will appreciate them. 


Great news, I know someone who definitely will. Since 1997, Dress for Success has helped more than one million women by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. It’s so simple. Find and fold those pieces you know you’ll never wear again (make sure they’re in great condition), go to their affiliate page—and donate. You have more closet space and a woman who really needed a friend’s help just found that in you. Everybody wins.


Yes, they’re likely on hold right now, just like everyone else. Just bag up your stuff and put it somewhere safe. (You weren’t wearing them anyway!) Most of the work will be already done when everyone’s up and rolling again.


I spoke with Kat Connelly, Manhattan Branch Manager of Dress for Success Worldwide to find out how you can thoughtfully unload some of your most well-intentioned items for women who need them. 



What is the true impact these donations make?


Clothing donations play a major role in shaping our clients’ journeys with us. Our suiting service is their first touch point with our organization and it’s where their transformation begins. 


Oftentimes, our clients turn to us because they are facing barriers that hinder their ability to secure employment, which can take a toll on their self-confidence. But something magical happens when they are suited in an outfit for their upcoming interview. They see themselves in a way they haven’t been able to in a long time. There is a renewed sense of self and determination. They walk out of our doors feeling their best and ready to pursue their dreams.



Is it important to donate seasonally?


We provide suiting services year-round, so we welcome seasonal donations! We store clothing that may be out of season in a warehouse to keep our boutique organized and easy to navigate. 



What’s one of the biggest mistakes women make when donating their clothes?


We love the enthusiasm and philanthropic nature of everyone that donates to us, but we often receive items that are not appropriate for the workplace or gently used —i.e., they have holes in the seams, bleach stains, etc.


We like to encourage anyone interested in donating clothes to consider pulling from the front of their closet instead of the back. Are there clothes you bought but never got around to wearing during the year and likely won’t get around to wearing soon? Those are the items we love to see. We also encourage our supporters to ensure the items they are donating are work appropriate. If an item isn’t something you wouldn’t wear to the office, our clients likely can’t either. 



What happens to clothing that can’t be used?


We donate to homeless shelters and partner organizations such as The Salvation Army.



I have a friend who wants to donate all of her suits because she now works in a casual office. What would you say to someone who says, “No one needs ‘professional’ clothing anymore”?


The concept of “professional clothing” is evolving and varies from workplace to workplace. Office settings are becoming more casual, but classic pieces like wrap dresses, crisp white button-ups, pencil skirts and even well-tailored slacks and suits will always be in style.



How else can people get involved or volunteer, aside from donating clothes?


There are many ways. You can volunteer in our boutique or at one of our many professional development workshops, become a corporate sponsor or provide a monetary donation to help give women access to our programs and services. You can learn more at