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Partnership Spotlight: Suited for Change Celebrates 30 Years of Empowering Local Women

Olivia Shaffett

For 30 years, our long-time partner Suited for Change has empowered local women seeking employment by providing professional attire, hosting in-person and online workshops, and facilitating virtual and in-person one-on-one coaching sessions. DC Central Kitchen’s partnership with the transformative organization has existed for years, with each class of our Culinary Job Training (CJT) students receiving a styling session from Suited for Change stylists before graduation. 

“We actually have no idea when DC Central Kitchen first partnered with Suited for Change. It feels like an integral part of the Culinary Job Training program at this point,” remarks Suited for Change Executive Director Liz Reinert. 

Before leading Suited for Change, Liz was a valued member of DC Central Kitchen, dedicating eight years of her career to planning our special events and leading the Workforce Development Team.   

“I always loved when the culinary students visited Suited for Change,” she recalls, “The students are so empowered during our styling sessions. By this point in the program, they have overcome numerous challenges and their confidence shines through during the fittings.”  

A Suited for Change styling session revolves around the needs and preferences of the client, with each client receiving a personalized styling session. By the end of the session, clients receive two full professional outfits and matching high-quality accessories, including handbags and jewelry, that they can wear to interviews, professional meetings, and other events.  

In addition to their highly-anticipated styling sessions, CJT students have walked in past Suited for Change fashion shows and engage members of the Suited for Change staff during mock interviews. 

During a recent styling session visit, the six women of our fall 2022 cohort were greeted by a handful of encouraging volunteers and Suited for Change’s energetic Marketing and Program Manager Fernanda Parreira Menezes.  

As Suited for Change’s Marketing and Program Manager, Fernanda spends her days assisting women with styling sessions, developing new programming, and growing the organization’s following through their social media platforms. She wants to help women feel good about themselves – to feel confident in the world, both professionally and privately. 

“I never tell a client they look good in an outfit, even if they look amazing. I frame everything with, ‘how does this outfit make you feel?’ It’s important for women to choose what feels good to them, and not to feel pressured to pick something because of a compliment,” she says. 

Fernanda’s genuine intentions and kind demeanor shines through in all her interactions. When one of our students feels discouraged that her jacket of choice does not fit properly, Fernanda immediately solves the issue by finding an alternate jacket in a similar style. “Now, this one – this jacket is even better! This is really me,” one student exclaimed. 

That attention to detail and level of care is clear across the organization. So much so that one of our Culinary Job Training graduates, Jamilah Al-Bari, sits on Suited for Change’s board after experiencing the organization’s services firsthand as a student and knowing she wanted to help other women secure and sustain professional employment.

“I’m inspired by Suited for Change because they have impacted so many local women’s lives in a positive way through their understanding of what’s needed to change lives and get many to the next level on their path to success. I’m proud to be a part of this dynamic organization,” says Jamilah. 

The organization has certainly proved itself an enduring pillar of empowerment over the years, suiting over 400 women this year alone, including 32 CJT students, and evolving their styling model to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic by creating virtual styling sessions, where Suited for Change staff deliver personally curated boxes of professional clothing to their clients’ doorsteps. The virtual sessions continue today, allowing women to choose outfits from the safety and comfort of their own homes.  

“My personal mission in life is to help people achieve their goals and to be the best version of themselves. We do that here every day,” says Fernanda. 

If you would like to empower local women to be the best version of themselves before the end of this year, please consider donating gently-used professional clothing and accessories, including handbags, shoes, and jewelry, to Suited for Change by December 16th. All donations must be freshly dry-cleaned. Donations are accepted on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between 10 AM to 4 PM at Suited for Change’s office at 1023 15th St. NW, Suite 601, Washington, DC 20005 and will commence on January 5th in the new year.  

Looking for another way to help empower local women before the holidays? Consider a financial donation to support Suited for Change’s programming here