Emerging from Billingsly Student Center’s Connor Ballroom with several neatly wrapped clothing items on hangers, Lisa Deese calls her shopping trip a success.

“There was a personal assistant to walk you around and help pick out clothes,” the senior nursing major says. “And for the girls, there were shoes and all kinds of accessories … hand bags, jewelry, scarves – it’s the full ensemble for a woman, which is great.”

Deese – who says the clothing will come in handy for job interviews and an upcoming Model EU event – was among more than 200 students who attended Dress to Impress on March 15. The annual event helps students and alumni expand their professional wardrobes to prepare for the Spring Career Fair, job interviews and other activities. Donated clothing filled the racks lining the ballroom, with volunteers available to help visitors pick out items to wear.

Dress to Impress Spring 2017

The program is a joint effort between Missouri Southern and the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Network.

Alex Gandy, director of Career Services, says donations for the third annual Dress to Impress were plentiful this year.

“We had more shoes donated than ever before,” he says. “Shoes are a very expensive item … one of the bigger obstacles for students when they’re going into the professional workforce.
“We also had a lot of great suits for guys. Dr. Al Cade (who passed away in 2015), his old wardrobe was donated to us. That was very, very special.”

All items that were not selected by students were donated to Crosslines Ministries. The non-profit organization in Joplin maintains a collection of professional clothing for those that they serve.

Martha Getz, communications coordinator for the chamber, has volunteered for Dress to Impress every year since the event was launched.

“It really is a transformative experience for a lot of these students,” she says. “Several commented this morning that all they have in their closets are T-shirts and jeans. They’ve never owned a three-piece suit or had a pencil skirt and heels before.

“You can watch their confidence build as they come out of the fitting room and see what the next step in their life is going to be like.”