Five Days of Dressing for Success: Tamara’s dream to be free

Tamara T, speaking at The Dress for Success Transforming Lives Gala

Tamara Trotz, speaking at The Dress for Success Morris County Transforming Lives Gala

The minute I slipped that dress on, it brought the entire equation together. I thought: ‘maybe people can see my ambition now.’ I felt that people had no choice but to take me seriously. You see, I never felt that I was being taken seriously. And to know that the clothes were a gift to me, made me feel worthy in a new way. Dress for Success did that for me. ” ~ Tamara Trotz

Tamara Trotz is a remarkable young woman. She is a poet. At age 24, she is designing her life and her future with the grace and maturity of a woman much older than her years. Everything she is, everything she values and holds dear, Tamara received from her mother, whom Tamara lost last year to cancer. Her mother had just turned 50. When you meet Tamara you feel the love she has for her mother and you know that she is growing up with the same courage, strength, faith and hope that her mother had. This is Tamara’s remarkable story in her own words: how she grew up with 3 siblings and a single mother who was a victim of domestic violence, how she found her ambition at 15, graduated from high school and college, and learned to appreciate her outer self when she found Dress for Success Morris County. I only hope that I do Tamara justice …

I never really understood the difficulties my mom had endured until later in my life. Growing up was isolating and I was forced to grow up long before my years. I am the oldest of three girls (my brother is a few months older than I am) and I became the caretaker. I was six years old when I understood that my mother was being battered by my father. That was the point when I started to feel the need to protect my mother. She was an amazing, strong and capable woman and mother. She gave her children everything she had and took such good care of us; her life’s dream was to give to us. And I wanted nothing more than to protect her – always … Continue reading

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Five Days of Dressing for Success: PODCAST-The fashion/wellness connection

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Dress for Success Morris County Transforming Lives Gala 2013

Dress for Success Morris County Transforming Lives Gala 2013

At the heart of Dress for Success is the notion of transformation and empowerment. Women seeing themselves in a new light, often for the first time, standing taller, feeling better as they move forward in their professional lives. This is the connection between fashion and wellness. In this week’s podcast, I speak with Stefanie Conley, Executive Director of Dress for Success Morris County about being a witness to this process …

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Five Days of Dressing for Success: Telling the best story with social media

Karly's recent Instagram posted for Dress for Success Morris County: Three ways to wear a t-shirt

Karly’s recent Instagram posted for Dress for Success Morris County: ‘How to wear a white t-shirt to the office!’

Karly Richter got her start working in visual merchandising for Nordstrom, but soon realized that what was missing was the personal connection with people. Says Karly, “One of the biggest things that I missed from my experience was working directly with customers and making a difference in their personal lives. You can inspire people in the way you style a mannequin, design a beautiful window or create an easy shopping experience for them, but only when you are personally shopping for people, can you give them the confidence they need.” So, Karly, who had volunteered as a personal shopper for Dress for Success in NYC and fell in love with the entire experience, returned to Dress for Success Morris County, and has been in charge of developing its social media networks since October 2013. I met with Karly to talk about what she is doing now and why the addition of social media is making a big difference to DFS Morris County.

MKG: What does your job entail?

Karly: I post inspirational styling pictures for women going to work every day. Continue reading

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Five Days of Dressing for Success: How it works

Dress for Success Morris County - Transforming Lives

Dress for Success Morris County – Transforming Lives

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~ Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu (Chinese philosopher 604 BC – 531 BC)

There are three steps critical in shaping the mission, the vision and the core values of Dress for Success Morris County:

Step One: The Suiting Program – A free-of-charge shopping experience where women are welcome to shop the boutique with the assistance of a volunteer personal shopper, and select attire that will earn them respect in the interview process. Each woman receives one hour of dedicated time and may choose one suit or business casual outfit, several separate pieces, two pairs of shoes, a handbag, two pieces of jewelry, and a coat and extras, including cosmetics, pantyhose, etc. Everything is donated from individuals and corporations and only top quality items are chosen for the boutiques. Continue reading

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Five days of Dressing for Success: It starts with the mission

Stefanie L. Conley, Executive Director of Dress for Success Morris County, holding a Nanette Lepore jacket

Stefanie L. Conley, Executive Director of Dress for Success Morris County, holding a Nanette Lepore jacket

Let’s start the New Year right by focusing on the connection between fashion and wellness and self esteem. That has always been my intention for Turning Fashion Inside Out. There is no better service that recognizes this connection than the international organization, Dress for Success. For the next five days, TFIO will focus on the beautiful work that Dress for Success Morris County (New Jersey) is doing to help empower women in need.

For 7.5 years, Stefanie L. Conley has been the Executive Director of Dress for Success Morris County.  She says that the Dress for Success program is to “be there for women on their entire professional journey. It’s about helping women to regain their confidence. When they walk into the boutique they don’t see what we see – that they have so much to offer.”

Tune in tomorrow to see the how the journey works and the three-step process begins… Continue reading

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Fierce!

Ceylone's crown and sash - Mrs. New Jersey America

Ceylone’s Mrs. New Jersey America crown and sash

One question intrigues me … what drives someone to rise to be the best of himself/herself, regardless of what else is going on in one’s life? If you ask Ceylone Boothe-Grooms, she would say it is her imagination. Ceylone is now a grown woman with a full life: a former Mrs. New Jersey America and Mrs. New Jersey United States, a professional make-up artist, a motivational speaker and a wife and a mother of four children. But when Ceylone was just a child, she was a dreamer with a big imagination. Ceylone believes it is this single ability, to imagine and to dream, that propelled her life and continues to guide her today. You know what? I couldn’t agree more.

I first heard Ceylone speak at the December meeting for The Morris County Dress for Success organization and I was moved by her presence and her ability to connect with the women in the audience. I needed to meet her again, and hear more from this inspirational dreamer who made her visions a reality. We sat down today and talked about her life, her upbringing, and her desire to bring beauty and joy to people’s lives. Here is Ceylone …

I grew up in The Bronx at a time when the area was changing before my eyes. As a child, I remember the strong sense of community and the different cultures. I remember loving the smells of the local Delis. But as I grew up, people started moving out and new groups of people moved in. Eventually, the drugs came and that changed everything. What saved me was my family and my very strong mother. She taught me many important lessons, told me every day how smart I was, and that I have too much to do to be stopped by drugs. She gave me a sense of confidence and humility that has helped me connect with people … Continue reading

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Empowered!

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Dress for Success Morris County

I returned tonight to Dress for Success Morris County to share in its December monthly networking meeting (part two of the three-step process to help women in need pursue an independent life). DFSMC hosts this monthly meeting for the women, to have a chance to stay connected with friends (I was told that some have been coming for at least eight years) and to feel empowered to continue moving in a positive direction. It’s an evening that includes dinner, an informational keynote speaker and babysitting for their children. What I witnessed was an overwhelming outpouring of love and uplifting energy.

I arrived just in time to see the women finishing dinner and enjoying each others’ company. Everyone looked polished and professional, as they wore outfits that they had selected from their suiting and styling session with a DFSMC volunteer. But what was most noticeable were their genuine smiles being among friends and supporters. I met Simone, who told me that she had just landed a job and “felt like a queen!” To Simone, this job means freedom. “When I first came to Dress for Success Morris County I had no confidence. Now, I am full of confidence and this new job is power.” Similarly, Nancy described her remarkable transformation: “I had given up on myself and now, I feel like a professional again. By coming here – they give you anything you need – you get over your negative feelings and find your strength again.”

With a warm introduction, speaker Ceylone Boothe-Grooms took the floor; from the moment she spoke she made a connection with the audience. Ceylone’s message rang true for these women, all of whom like Simone and Nancy have had much to overcome: Believe in yourself. In Ceylone’s words, “We are women. By design we are fierce and fabulous! Confidence is powerful!” Perhaps Ceylone struck a cord with everyone when she told her own story; growing up in The Bronx in an environment filled more with drugs than dreams. She was forced to leave college early to work and help support her family. But she had strong parents who saw her potential and she herself began to dream big. It was then that she decided to hold her head high and change her thought process. By chance, she landed her first job in Alexander’s Department Store and later advanced to Macy’s as a makeup artist, all because of this belief in her dream and her unwillingness to give up. Today she is a national make-up artist and image consultant, performer, speaker, and former Mrs. New Jersey America (2011).

She was as if a spiritual leader, and the women reacted with applause and appreciation. There was something so moving about Ceylone’s message: first, believe in yourself and then, give yourself the best chance for success by dressing the part. When she finished, she answered makeup questions and provided makeup lessons.

I think we were all transformed tonight.

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Simone: feeling confident

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Speaker Ceylone Boothe-Grooms answering questions and providing a makeup lesson

 

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The secret to success

Dress for Success Morris County, New Jersey

“We are very selective with our clothing. Everything is clean, current and relevant.” Stefanie L. Conley, Executive Director, Dress for Success Morris County, New Jersey.

Stefanie L. Conley

Suzy, Volunteer Personal Shopper
Dress for Success Morris County, New Jersey

Tucked away in the basement of the Madison Community House is a gem called Dress for Success Morris County. Don’t let its size fool you; its mission is noble and its depth is far-reaching. This New Jersey chapter is just one of 100 Dress for Success affiliates, and the impact of this global non-profit organization now reaches twelve countries. What is the mission of Dress for Success? “To promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.” In other words, Dress for Success is here to assist women who have lived with severe hardship turn their lives around. Extraordinary.

I met with Stefanie L. Conley, Executive Director of Dress for Success Morris County. She said that the Dress for Success program is to “be there for women on their entire professional journey. It’s about helping women to regain their confidence. When they walk into the boutique they don’t see what we see – that they have so much to offer.” Stefanie also walked me through how the journey works as a three-step process:

Step One: The Suiting Program – A free-of-charge shopping experience where women are welcome to shop the boutique with the assistance of a volunteer personal shopper, and select attire that will earn them respect in the interview process. Each woman receives one hour of dedicated time and may choose one suit or business casual outfit, several separate pieces, two pairs of shoes, a handbag, two pieces of jewelry, and a coat and extras, including cosmetics, pantyhose, etc. Everything is donated from individuals and corporations and only top quality items are chosen for the boutiques.

Step Two: Monthly Networking Groups – An opportunity to network and be with other supportive women, including dinner (babysitting provided) with a keynote speaker.

Step Three – Career Center – One-on-one assistance in the areas of interview techniques, resume review, skill enhancement, job related internet searching and career coaching.

Beyond the shopping and the information and the coaching lies the magic behind Dress for Success: the transformation and building of self-esteem for women who need it most. Stefanie notes that you can actually see the the change: “When women come in to the boutique for the first time they are unsure and naturally wary.” Many have never had someone help them to feel their best selves. As a result of the personal attention they begin to believe in themselves and feel confident … the best part is that the kindness “comes full-circle; many women come back to mentor others and to help.”

Again, I say extraordinary! What do you think?

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