1000 successes – one client at a time

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Rosalyn, Fanny, Joan and Melissa photographed for Dress for Success Ottawa.

At loveOttawa we love to shine light on the generous spirit of our city and its people. Dress for Success Ottawa is a great example of how a small group of kindhearted individuals can impact people’s lives. This non-profit organization began offering support to women facing workforce-related difficulties in January 2011.  In the last four years it has helped hundreds of unemployed local women by providing them with professional clothing, career development tools and a strong network of support, thanks to the help of countless volunteers, community partners and funders. This has enabled them to not only become financially self-sufficient, but to experience positive change. DFS Ottawa is now celebrating its 1000th client. To commemorate this milestone and thank the many people who have made possible this generous offering, DFS Ottawa will be hosting a special event on March 26th. It was a pleasure for us to photograph and hear the stories and thoughts of four of these special women: Rosalyn, Fanny, Joan and Melissa.


Rosalyn Blackett discovered DFS Ottawa while job hunting, at a local employment office.  Not only did the organization and its network help her in the process, but it allowed her to feel stylish and self-confident, giving her a sense of pride about her appearance. “Everything, from head to toe, was selected to complement my body type and to give me style.”

Rosalyn loved doing the photo shoot, choosing the word “transforming” to very aptly describe how this charitable organization has touched the lives of many women such as herself. She confidently and proudly posed for our camera, contributing to this lovely chain of “women helping women”. ” I share my experience with DFS with everyone. I would recommend this wonderful service to anyone.”

Rosalyn dressed by Twiss and Weber – hair and make-up by Euphoria Salon



Fanny Santamaria arrived in Ottawa from her native Colombia to do graduate work and complete a PhD.  When she set out to look for employment she faced great challenges.  She had an education but no Canadian work experience. She soon fell into despair.  Ready to give up and return to her country, on a visit to Employment Ontario, she was referred to DFS Ottawa. “They showed me that my difficulties for getting a job in Canada weren’t about me but about the barriers that the labour market has for accessing skilled workers from overseas. I then knew that it was worth to keep trying even if it wasn’t going to be soon.”

As Fanny chose the word “inspiration” to describe how DFS Ottawa  has impacted her life, she remarked how the organization helps women feel empowered. “It takes women from vulnerable situations looking for a job and makes us feel awesome!” Of course, it takes hard work and sacrifice, as Fanny found out in her first job, to eventually attain our goals.  But where there is caring and love and a group of individuals that are genuinely interested in helping, there is success! As Fanny says, “Love gives us the energy to go all the way. Frequently at work people tell me that my clothes are cool and nice. I answer: Dress for Success!”

Fanny dressed by Clothes by Muriel Dombret – hair and make-up by Euphoria Salon



After working for many years, then opting to being a stay-at-home mom and re-adjusting to personal changes, Joan Bailey was unprepared to re-enter the work force. She jumped from temporary to temporary position, feeling quite frustrated, until she was referred to DFS Ottawa by Acclaim Ability Management Inc.. Soon thereafter Joan was put on the right track to finding permanent employment. “The speed interview, practice interview, plus the interview outfit are what got me here.” She is very grateful to DFS Ottawa, adding “When a person’s life has been derailed due to unforeseen circumstances, seek out a referral to Dress for Success from any government agency that can help.”

Joan, a vivacious and positive woman, chose the word “window” to describe what Dress for Success means to her. “When all the doors were closed and the bridges burned, DFS was an open window of hope.”

Joan dressed by Dress for Success – hair and make-up by Euphoria Salon



When we photographed Melissa Estable, her enthusiasm was very tangible. Having arrived in Ottawa from out west with little more than a suitcase filled with summer clothing and the desire to start anew, she began looking for resources online, joined networking groups and made new friends in the city. It wasn’t until she was referred to DFS Ottawa by Ontario Works, however, that she started the journey that would get her back on strong footing and eventually land a dream job that has allowed her to contribute positively to her new city.

Melissa points out how prepared she was for her job interview. “The Dress Rehearsal mock interview was exactly what I needed to ace the real thing.  The questions were thoughtful and industry-specific.  It helped me to prepare by giving constructive feedback and the confidence boost I needed!” She chooses the word “blessing” to best describe what DFS Ottawa has meant to her. “There are times in our lives when we need to ask for help and be ready to receive it.  There are times when we reach out and help someone else.  There is a cycle of giving and receiving that knits us within a community. The support I received in clothing, conversation, experience and the mock interview are woven into the story of my personal success. I am so grateful”

Melissa dressed by Victoire – hair and make-up by Euphoria Salon


Thanks so much Visnja Zaborski Breton and Katherine Clarke-Nolan for allowing us to learn more about Dress for Success and meeting the lovely clients for our photography! For more information about Dress for Success Ottawa:

Categorised as: Dwayne Brown Studio, loveOttawa

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