Montenegro ’14 Helping Others Dress for Success

It’s common knowledge that what you wear to a job interview can be as important as what you have to say during it. But just as all candidates are different, so are their wardrobes, and for those struggling to emerge from poverty, obtaining business-appropriate attire can be more difficult than even the toughest of interview questions.

Fortunately, as Scarlett Montenegro ’14 discovered when she attended an event in her native Florida over the 2010-2011 winter break, the nonprofit organization Dress for Success is connecting disadvantaged women with the clothes they need to get hired. In addition to providing professional attire, the program offers networking support to help its participants succeed both in and out of the office.

The December event featured E! News anchor Giuliana Rancic and Dress for Success CEO Joi Gordon, who offered career advice including how to dress for job interviews. “I was really inspired by what they had to say, and afterward, I talked to Joi Gordon because I thought it would be great to have a similar event at Mount Holyoke,” Montenegro said.

When she returned to campus for the spring semester, Montenegro, a sociology major who is minoring in the Nexus Law and Public Policy track, contacted the College’s Career Development Center (CDC) to begin the event-planning process.

“Scarlett is terrific, and we were excited to help her with this project,” said the center’s director, Steve Koppi. “The CDC aims to foster in students the confidence and character that go hand-in-hand with savvy decisions about dress, self-presentation, and all that goes into making a lasting, positive first impression.”

After conferring with CDC staff members, as well as Mount Holyoke President Lynn Pasquerella and Director of Student Programs John Laprade, Montenegro decided on a Dress for Success-inspired fashion show that will feature students modeling interview attire, as well as CDC staff offering career tips such as how to write a resume.

The show will be held in the spring, but Montenegro’s clothing campaign will begin well before then. With the help of Alumnae Association Executive Director Jane Zachary, she will soon be putting out a call for business suits to MHC alums, with the donated items first making an appearance on the fashion show runway before being given to students who need them. Other suits will be donated directly to Dress for Success, which CEO Joi Gordon appreciates.

“Scarlett is a woman of promise and passion and her future is bright,” said Gordon. “Her ability to garner the support of an entire community of students and alumnae is impressive and we are so grateful to her commitment to Dress for Success.”

Montenegro, who is one of Mount Holyoke’s Posse scholars, hopes the event will provide other students with the same kind of networking support she’s received through the Posse program. “I want to talk to the girls on campus about what they can do to better themselves for interviews and career opportunities,” Montenegro said. “I think it’s important to give back to Mount Holyoke because I had a wonderful first year at the College, thanks, in part, to the CDC. Other students may not be aware of all the help that we have on campus, and at the Dress for Success event, we’ll be featuring the Career Development Center.”

“I know the Dress for Success mission is to empower women to start their professional careers, and as a women’s college, I think it would be great to promote that.”

If you'd like to donate clothing to the Mount Holyoke Dress for Success event, or support the initiative in any other way, contact Scarlett Montenegro at