Dress for Success, always about more than clothes, opens a site in Covington

Women in Northern Kentucky will get a boost up the ladder of economic independence with the opening of a Dress for Success satellite in Covington.

For more than 20 years, Dress for Success Cincinnati has provided a network of support, professional attire, and development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. The Covington site launches with a grand opening 3-5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16 at its partner agency, Life Learning Center, located at 20 W. 18th St. To celebrate the new styling studio on its second floor, leaders from the city and Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, as well as the public, will attend the grand opening.

Dress for Success is about much more than clothes, says Lisa Nolan, executive director and a former litigation lawyer in Cincinnati. “Helping a woman feel special finding that interview outfit is going to make her feel really confident,” Nolan says.

“Once she gains employment, she's also eligible to come back for employment styling, where she'll receive 10 pieces of workplace-appropriate attire, and that is whatever is required at her specific job that she's going into, whether it's scrubs, steel-toed boots, whatever it may be,” Nolan says.

After the initial styling, women explore the nitty-gritty of achieving career success in a variety of programs. “We have our HigherHer program that includes a Career Center where women can work one-on-one with a career specialist,” Nolan says.

They’ll help her chart her path, work on her resume, and address barriers that she may have, whether it’s child care or transportation. Financial coaching is offered as well.

An EmpowerHer program meets on Saturday mornings. “First and foremost, it’s about the sisterhood and positive network,” during sessions that explore health and wellness, financial wellness, and work-life balance, Nolan says.

More than 20,000 women have been served by Dress for Success since 1999. When Dress for Success was located in downtown Cincinnati, a fair number of women from Northern Kentucky attended styling and career sessions. It moved to Norwood in 2021, which coincided with discussions of opening the Covington satellite.

Life Learning Center’s team is excited about the Dress for Success grand opening. It will expand on the current “Hanger Closet” which already helps women find a job interview outfit.

“When clients come to us at Life Learning Center, they're probably experiencing the worst moment in their life,” says Laura Berkemeier, development director. “A lot of them are coming to us straight from incarceration. In fact, a lot of times they are
coming literally straight from the jail.

“One of the big things that we do to help them get back on track and start living up to their highest potential is helping them build back dignity that they might have lost through these different challenges they've experienced,” Berkemeier says.

Life Learning Center works with several hundred employer partners to help match people to the right jobs. Participants are paired with knowledgeable, cheerful stylists. The clothes are gently used or new, and largely come from donations.

Berkemeier says their Hanger Closet got a boost during the pandemic when so many started working at home and donated their clothes.

If you’d like to help women gain self-sufficiency, go to the Dress for Success website for information on donating money, volunteering, or donating clothes. Call the Life Learning Center at 859-431-0100 to find out how to donate.
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Read more articles by Nancy Daly.

Nancy Daly is a veteran Kentucky and Cincinnati journalist. An "Army brat" who found a home in Kentucky, she is a University of Kentucky graduate. Her hobbies include reading, photography, watching streaming TV, including "Succession" and "Andor," and playing Alphabet Game on Zoom with five siblings across the globe.