Dress for Success

April 6, 2021


What a brilliant idea the non-profit Dress for Success is. We all need to dress for success. At the bakery to dress for success, we wear our hair back, wear the correct shoes, and remove dangling jewelry so it doesn’t get caught in machinery. Many years ago, when women were seeking opportunities for professional employment like secretaries, bank tellers, teachers and receptionists, they were required to dress as if they were going to an event like a baby shower, or perhaps out to dinner. One of my unmarried aunts, Catherine Quill, had a job as an executive’s assistant. As a young girl, I thought her life was so modern and exciting. Going downtown every day to work in an actual skyscraper was incredible, not to mention eating lunch at any of the hustle and bustle places that businesspeople ate lunch in. When my Mom and I cleaned out her apartment after she died, we were amazed at just how many high heeled shoes, suits, tailored dresses, gloves, scarves, and purses that she owned, all perfectly arranged in her giant walk-in closet. A few of the boxes still contained barely worn hats and gloves she had purchased at Mabley and Carew on her lunch break. How do I know this? Because inside each box she had written a tiny note. For instance, “I couldn’t resist these kid skin gloves I saw on my lunch break at Mabley’s. What a great sale. The date was included: September 14,1948. There were at least 25 such boxes in her closet.


When I read about the Taft Museum’s latest exhibition of Stuart Wietzman’s shoe designs, I thought of my glamorous Aunt Catherine Quill and Dress for Success. The thing is, we still need to pull ourselves together, put our best foot forward and make the best impression we can when seeking a new job. Our present pajama bottoms from the waist down and attractive blouse and earrings from the waist up is not going to work soon. As a business owner, I look at how a person carries themselves when they apply for a job. Is their hair combed and neat, did they bother to wear clean clothes? Not everybody does. For some people it's challenging to get their hands on something that looks polished and professional when the need arises. You’re nervous enough at a job interview. Looking good brings confidence and sometimes can give you the edge to get you the job. That is what the organization Dress for Success was created to provide.


Until the show at the Taft Museum is over in June, BonBonerie will be making Stuart Weitzman inspired shoe cookies with a percentage of the sale of each cookie going to Dress for Success. One of our cookie decorators, Geneva Columbus, is also a fashion maven. She has designed a lot of the cookies and has also volunteered to assist in styling some of the clients at Dress for Success who may be looking for some guidance. Geneva wrote the following paragraph about her own passion for fashion:


“I still remember the beginning of my true love affair with clothing. It all began in the summer before I started junior high school. I was 11 years old and for the first time in my life I stepped into a vintage clothing store. I wanted to look cool and retro for my new school year. I never knew that it would lead to a life-long love affair with fashion! It has now been 24 years and I have an immense clothing and shoe collection that is color-coordinated and covers a span of about 80 years of various styles! What I love most about it all is coming up with new ways to make a unique outfit that makes a major fashion statement. For me it's like art and the shoes and clothing are the paint on the canvas or person they are applied to!”

                                                                                                            -Geneva Columbus


At BonBonerie, our clothing serves the work we do. There have been times when we’ve had employee parties and I don’t even recognize some of the women who work all day wearing their bandanas, t-shirts, and chef pants. I‘m amazed how much their clothes and hair styles have transformed them, including Geneva, who can make your head turn with some of her fashion forward outfits.


Please go see the shoe exhibit at the Taft Museum, then come up to the BonBonerie and get a cookie or two in honor of all your aunts, sisters, moms, and grandmothers who dressed for success when women began their long and arduous journey into America’s professional work force. If you buy a cookie or two you may be helping the next generation of young women to Dress for their Success too.


Visit the Dress for Success website here

Learn more about the Taft Museum's Stuart Weitzman exhibit here


Sharon Butler