© 2024 WEMU
Serving Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County, MI
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Washtenaw United: 'Dress for Success Michigan' helps create opportunity and equity for women

Dress for Success Michigan communications liaison Alexy Rudolph.
Alexy Rudolph
Dress for Success Michigan
Dress for Success Michigan communications liaison Alexy Rudolph.


Alexy Rudolph is the Communications Liaison at Dress for Success Michigan & Facility and Event Operations Coordinator at Wayne State University Athletics.


Dress for Success Michigan

Dress for Success Michigan 26th Anniversary Celebration and Fundraiser

Dress for Success Michigan on Facebook

Dress for Success Michigan on X (Twitter)

Dress for Success Michigan on Instagram

Dress for Success Michigan on LinkedIn


David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU. And as we continue to mark Women's History Month, we wanted to explore not only the historical inequities that women face once in the American job market, but the inequity in job and career opportunity and access. I'm David Fair, and welcome to this week's edition of Washtenaw United. Here in 2024, women with a post-secondary certificate or who have graduated from a top-tier university still only make about $0.71 on the dollar as compared with men at the same education level. That's according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But that doesn't address trying to get that first job that can lead to a lucrative career, particularly for those who may not choose to go to college. First impressions still means something in an interview, and if you can't afford to dress and present well, you may not get a job, even if you're the most qualified candidate. That's where Dress for Success Michigan comes in. It's trying to reverse inequity and opportunity by making sure women can succeed through that process. Our guest today is Alexy Rudolph, and she serves as the organization's communications liaison. Thank you so much for making time for us today. I appreciate it.

Alexy Rudolph: No. Thank you.

David Fair: The Dress for Success Michigan office is located on McCauley Drive in Ypsilanti. And I'm going to guess that it's no accident the organization decided to locate on the east side of US-23.

Alexy Rudolph: That's true. Washtenaw County is a huge market, especially being so close in proximity to Eastern Michigan. Just to be in such a good location on Saint Joe's campus, Trinity Health campus, it just gives us a great market to just really be accessible to all those, in that area.

David Fair: The name Dress for Success comes from one of the primary functions and missions of the organization, and that is to provide professional attire to help women secure the job they want and deserve. It's very much about gaining access. Well, who has access to the Dress for Success clothes in Washtenaw County?

Alexy Rudolph: Great question. The access primarily used to come through Michigan Works. So, women would get access to the clothing, and they would get referred to us through Michigan Works. With a lot of changes within the job market, we've opened and spanned our reach to Washtenaw County, to the colleges, to nonprofit and other events and career fairs that we might go to. So, we really broadened our reach and given people access to it digitally. Having invitation to come out digitally and just presenting that invitation to come out, get clothing, be paired up with a personal shopper, and we host a lot of pop-up events. People, even social media within the community, and word of mouth can get access to those clothing as well when we change over for different seasons.

David Fair: I imagine that, through the course of your work, you've probably heard some heartbreaking stories about women losing jobs because they didn't present well or didn't feel like they had the appropriate attire to even show up for an interview. I would also bet there are some truly inspiring stories of success because of the clothing assistance a woman received. Do you have a favorite?

Alexy Rudolph: Most definitely. One lady that we had--she had some health issues. And she really wanted to return to the workforce but really didn't know how to. She didn't have access to resources. And she didn't feel like she presented well. And she's had a lot of disappointments, a lot of no's, especially with health conditions. But through Dress for Success, we were excited that we were able to really give her that confidence. I think that confidence goes beyond what you're wearing, but it also translates onto how you feel and how you present yourself. Once you got that clothing and went through our professional women's group and got some resources on how to really present yourself, how to be confident, how to sell yourself and look at yourself as a brand, she really just perked up. And she really brought the clothes to life. So, we really are excited that she got to sign out on her next interview. And now she's currently a professional woman with a career, and we get to follow her throughout her success.

David Fair: We love to hear stories like that! Washtenaw United and our conversation with Alexy Rudolph from Dress for Success Michigan continues on 89 one WEMU. I'm always curious, Alexy, as to why people work in the jobs they do. Is your work at Dress for Success in any way a result of some hurdles or barriers that were thrown in your way?

Alexy Rudolph: Yes. Of course. So, me being an alumni of Eastern Michigan, I was the primary caregiver for my grandmothers along with my parents. But my goal was to just come home from classes, take care of my grandmothers, and go back and do homework. And I kind of just didn't know what direction I wanted to go in as far as career purposes and career-wise. I didn't know where to go. I bounced around with different majors, but I kind of found my niche in hospitality, which translates directly to Dress for Success. So, I just wanted to find some type of belongingness and some purpose. And so, I found Dress for Success not too far from campus. And I started with them giving me my first interview suit for a career fair. And then, the rest is history. I've never left. I've never left. I've had the opportunity to just volunteer recently throughout the pandemic. I got to volunteer to take some toiletries to some other organizations that we like to work with.

David Fair: Now, the "dress" is only part of the support for "success" at Dress for Success. What kind of development services are you offering to help women not only get through the door and look professional, but then excel and advance?

Alexy Rudolph: One of our programs is we used to have a program through Walmart. It was the Going Places Network. And so, women would come through the Going Places Network: makeup tips, dressing professionally, also get tips on how to negotiate once they got their job. And then, they would get other resources, such as technical support. So, I myself would teach social media, how to properly create a LinkedIn profile. What should your social media look like? Recruiters are looking at your social media. Even if it is private, they can view it. So, I would create curriculums for Going Places Network along with, our project coordinator, to really get them the resources to get in the door. But it's more than just getting in the door. It's also about retirement. How do I retain this job? How do I conduct myself? So, those women would graduate to our professional women's group. So, on a monthly basis, we hold a professional women's group meeting, where we'll teach about different topics. We have a group of men that come in and teach us self defense. We have other people that come in and teach us how to properly put on makeup. We have other women that come in and teach us how to get to that C-level suite or that exact level suite, how to stay with a company and to set up your retirement and how to set up those health benefits.

David Fair: As you have just pointed out, Dress for Success Michigan is an organization trying to build a new future for the women. It's helping today by changing the forces that fail to provide access. The need for these services is likely to grow as the income gap in our county continues to grow. How is Dress for Success Michigan going to expand access to services to meet what is expected to be a growing need?

Alexy Rudolph: Yes. So, currently, we are partnering with Google on their growing Google platform, and we're providing scholarships for women that want to go through those curriculums for IT services, to be an engineer, or to be a project manager, the multiple certificate programs that Google has through that program. We're offering scholarships for them to go through those six-month certificate programs and to pay for that program to get those certificates. And then, we partner with other organizations to make sure that we're standing in the gap for these women to get those resources out to them. We're also clothing these women with over 15,000 clothes in the 26 years that we've been in inception. We're making sure that we are working with different foundations when they come into these schools to get those resources to those students. So, as they're coming out of high school or as they're going into college, these women know what should be expected of them. What's the actual salary range for a woman in their curriculum in technology and digital skills? What's a good salary to look for and to really put their self-worth out there on the line?

David Fair: I would like to thank you for making time today and sharing the information Alexy.

Alexy Rudolph: No. Thank you.

David Fair: And if any of you would like more information, you'll find it simply by visiting our website at your convenience at wemu.org. Alexy Rudolph is communications liaison for Dress for Success Michigan, and she's been our guest on Washtenaw United. Washtenaw United is produced in partnership with the United Way of Southeastern Michigan. And we bring it to you every Monday. I'm David Fair, and this is your community NPR station, 89 one WEMU FM Ypsilanti.


Dress for Success Michigan has been a champion for assisting unemployed and underemployed women of Washtenaw County and other Michigan communities for 26 years. Their programming offers interview preparation, job retention, and entrepreneurship, while providing women appropriate clothing for the workplace.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dress for Success Michigan teamed up with United Way as a Community Impact Partner, to disrupt the intersectional impacts of poverty, racism and trauma

In 2021, Dress for Success Michigan received a $3,000 award from the 2022 cycle of United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s Power of the Purse Fund—an investment that supports existing and emerging agency programs and initiatives that increase the financial capability of people who identify as women.

This funding was used for general operating support to supplement Dress for Success’ mission of helping women gain professional attire, job training, and other supports to enter the workforce successfully.

Every year, United Way hosts the Power of the Purse event, which showcases the work of grantees and generates funds for future grantees.

WEMU has partnered with the United Way for Southeastern Michigan to explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area. And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services. It is a community voice. It is 'Washtenaw United.'

Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support. Make your donation to WEMU today to keep your community NPR station thriving.

Like 89.1 WEMU on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
Related Content
  • March is Women’s History Month, and each week on "Washtenaw United," we’ll bring you a different story highlighting the amazing accomplishments and progress being led by women and organizations in our community. This week, WEMU's David Fair talks with Alfreda Rooks. She is director of community health at Michigan Medicine and is being honored as the United Way for Southeastern Michigan's Washtenaw County Woman of the Year.
  • For more than 100 years, the Girl Scouts has worked to help turn young girls into strong, productive women. March is Women’s History Month, and the evolution of the Girl Scouts as an institution continues. JoAnna Roach is adult education and enrichment director for Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan. She was a scout herself and now dedicates her professional life to working with girls and volunteers in what she calls “the best job in the world.” JoAnna joined WEMU's David Fair as the first guest on a month-long Women’s History Month series on "Washtenaw United."
  • There is an exhibit that will be available from March through the month of May called, “Family Foundations: Four Stories of Black Washtenaw County Community Building.” It is an interactive exhibit put forth by the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County. There is a long, rich African American history in our community, and much of it is never taught or widely shared. Museum president and CEO Joyce Hunter joins WEMU's David Fair with some lessons and knowledge we can all benefit from in this final Black History Month 2024 installment of "Washtenaw United."