Dress for Success: The Gift of Confidence

I am so lucky. 

This is what I kept repeating to myself all day on Sunday, March 4th, 2018. 

I am so lucky to have this team of talented, generous people showing up to donate their time and talents to Dress for Success clients. I am so lucky to have a job and the flexibility to give my time and passions. I am SO LUCKY that I've never experienced true hardship. My privilege. 

Recognizing that, I jump at any chance of passing that luck and privilege on to others who might benefit from it. This event was one small way of providing confidence and support to women in our community who may not have always been so lucky. They say that when you can give a piece of yourself to someone else, it comes back to you tenfold. Never have I found this to be more true than with these portraits. I feel the love from that day every time I look at them, and I hope the feeling continues for a long time to come.


A note from Lucy, Ivory House Photography's Studio Manager: 

The day began the way I expected: rushing to set out snacks and bottles of water, unlocking the doors, answering last-minute emails about the event. What’s the parking situation? Which street is the door on again? The stylists arrived with their ring lights and curling irons. Is there another outlet in this corner? No problem, I’ll set up in the kitchen. Jody White, Executive Director and Co-founder of Dress for Success, was all smiles as she introduced herself to everyone, warmly thanking each person for donating their Sunday to a great cause.

 The Glam Teams, clockwise from top left: Ashley Maree Harvey (hair), Violeta, Natalie Gendle (makeup, ACADEMIC Lash & Beauty); Ivy Boyd (makeup, Ivy Boyd Makeup Artist + Beauty Blogger), Africa, Stacy Syroka (hair, Elevencherry); Desi Thompson (hair, Desi at Dolce), Jenny, Natalie Gendle (makeup, ACADEMIC Lash & Beauty); Kelsey Ziemann (makeup, Kelsi Ziemann Artistry), Jasmin, Kearra Chester (hair)

The Glam Teams, clockwise from top left: Ashley Maree Harvey (hair), Violeta, Natalie Gendle (makeup, ACADEMIC Lash & Beauty); Ivy Boyd (makeup, Ivy Boyd Makeup Artist + Beauty Blogger), Africa, Stacy Syroka (hair, Elevencherry); Desi Thompson (hair, Desi at Dolce), Jenny, Natalie Gendle (makeup, ACADEMIC Lash & Beauty); Kelsey Ziemann (makeup, Kelsi Ziemann Artistry), Jasmin, Kearra Chester (hair)

Whitney’s idea for a campaign to benefit Dress for Success originated before I came to work at Ivory House. Selling discounted headshots to her regular clients seemed like a great way to generate revenue that would allow for her to donate portraits to the clients of Dress for Success, an organization that empowers women to thrive professionally. She first mentioned this undertaking in my job interview back in January. Hearing her talk about the importance of elevating every member of the community made me realize that working at Ivory House was going to be much more than a nine-to-five job. Coming fresh from the corporate world, this was very appealing to me. 

My role on Sunday as Whitney’s studio manager was to manage the flow and make sure everyone was getting what they needed. I was anticipating a fast pace and lots of last-minute problem-solving, but as soon as the women began to arrive, it was clear things were going to go much smoother than I anticipated. The "Glam Teams," compromised of incredibly talented hair and makeup artists, were matched with a Dress for Success client. As anyone who’s been to a salon can attest, once the women were seated in their chairs and the pampering began, their stories began to pour out. 

There was Violeta, a legal assistant at Drake, who told me about the lifelong romance with her husband that started in their hometown in Mexico and brought them all the way to Des Moines.

 Violeta

Violeta

There was Sharon, who works in the crafts department at Walmart and who boasted that she has 13 great-grandkids. She honors the memory of her late husband, her sweetheart and the love of her life, by wearing their wedding rings around her neck. 

 Sharon

Sharon

After 10 years in school while also raising three kids as a single mom, Jasmin is going to graduate next year with her master’s degree in social work, and is currently working as self-sufficiency counselor.

 Jasmin

Jasmin

Kimberly brought so much attitude and energy to the day. She kept us laughing the whole time, and her confidence shone through in every single photo that we took of her.

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Kimberly

Angela, who I told that I would definitely ask for her ID at a bar, told me she’d been married for 14 years and has nine children. (Angela also told me an incredible story about her dog Capone, who’ll be receiving a medal of bravery next month.)

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Angela

Africa opened up about her history of domestic violence and the strength it took to take her children and leave her husband to start over in a country where she barely spoke the language. 

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Our interactions were brief, but the energy in the “glam room” was that of support and love. 

In the studio, Whitney was working her magic with each woman, making them feel confident and beautiful. Your hair is flawless! Oh my gosh you have the most perfect jawline. Yes, those eyes! You’re killin’ it! It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for her when it comes to shooting any client who walks through the door, but today was different. These women have overcome obstacles and carried weight on their shoulders that we don’t know about, that maybe is only seen in their hesitance to meet the camera’s eye. Whitney took the time to make them feel beautiful, radiant, and cared for, and the proof is in their stunning images. The person who entered the studio was not the same person who emerged. 

The day came to a close with smiles and hugs of gratitude, exchanged phone numbers, and more than a few happy tears (my own included). Giving the gift of confidence to these women who have overcome so much in their lives, and providing them with a gorgeous portrait that they can share and keep forever, means just as much to us as it does to them. It's unbelievably rewarding when we're lucky enough to have the opportunity to share our skills and talents with others in the community. I'm so grateful to be with a company that values lifting each other up whenever we're able. As our stylist Kearra said, it's why we're on this planet.


We couldn't have done this without the support of our amazing collaborators:

Jody White and Nicole Roe Sickels of Dress for Success Des Moines

The Glam Squad:
Kelsi Ziemann with Kelsi Ziemann Artistry
Ivy Boyd with Ivy Boyd Makeup Artist + Beauty Blogger
Natalie Sanger Gendle with Academic lash & beauty
Stacy Syroka independent stylist at Elevencherry
Ashley Maree Harvey independent hair stylist
Kearra Chester independent hair stylist
Desi Joelle with Desi at Dolce

And our kind and patience videographers (video to come): 
Caleb and Joe Stevens

And lastly, a huge thanks to the Ivory House team: Megan, Rachel, and Lucy.

Shane Hefty: Your Designated Dapper Dude

Meet Shane Hefty, Your Designated Dapper Dude

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I met Shane the day he walked in for his photoshoot. I was so impressed by how prepared he was for the experience, especially given the lack of resources I had provided. He brought several suit and tie options that fit his personal brand and business goals. He had a fresh haircut and neatly trimmed beard.  

On top of being organized, he knew exactly what he was looking for in a successful photo, and together, we achieved his goals. When I started designing a Men’s Style Guide, I knew Shane was the best choice for advising on men’s fashion. The following pages are filled with great advice, not only on how to prepare for your headshots, but useful knowledge on where to get started in the wide world of men’s styling. Happy reading!

A NOTE FROM SHANE

People often ask if I own any clothes other than suits; many can’t recall ever seeing me in anything else, and in a number of cases close friends are shocked the first time they see me in a pair of joggers. A large part of my personal brand is being suited up at all times; even though I may be over dressed more often than not. My mantra when it comes to my personal attire is, “Dressing like the place you’re coming from or going to is more important than where you currently are.” 

Regardless of your profession, you need to look like you’re the best at what you do, whether it’s a server at a restaurant or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. For some, that simply means clean clothes that fit well and are in line with the dress code of your employer. For others, that means a suit and tie, and for a broad swath of people, it’s somewhere in between. 

In the coming paragraphs, I’ll share a few key items every man should have in their closet, some grooming and tailoring tips, and finally, what you should wear to a headshot session with Whitney. Let’s get started!


10 Closet Essentials

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A Navy Suit

Navy suits are a great alternative to traditional black and are perfect for everything from job interviews to dates. Bonus: It’s versatile enough, you can wear the jacket as a sportcoat or the pants without the jacket.  

A White Collared Shirt

You need one perfect dress shirt to go with your perfectly tailored navy suit. If you’re of average build, always get a slim fit shirt. I buy most of my dress shirts online from Charles Thywhitt – great prices, quality and fit.

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Brown and Black Lace-up Dress Shoes

You can buy the same shoe in different colors.  Brown will go with your navy suit and the black are more formal. This is an opportunity to invest, as well-made shoes can be repaired and last decades. I suggest leather soles and sticking to a classic style like a cap toe or wing tip.

Dark Blue Denim Jeans

Dark denim looks great with sneakers or dress shoes, t-shirts or dress shirts, cardigans or sport coats.  I prefer J. Crew’s or Levi’s 513 jeans – good quality, great fit, and they’re not $300. 

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White V-Neck Undershirt

If you’re wearing a dress shirt without a tie or a polo shirt, select a v-neck tee.  The sleeves should hit your mid-bicep – if they don’t, it will affect the fit of your shirt. 

A White Pocket Square

A white pocket square is conservative and simple, but also shows that you pay attention to the details.  YouTube has great tutorials showing how to fold it in a square.  

A Grey Tie

A grey tie goes with everything from your suit to your jeans; it works for weddings and job interviews or on a first date with your white button down and dark jeans.  

A Gray Polo Shirt

A gray polo shirt is the short sleeve version of the white button-down shirt – it goes with everything.  You can dress down your navy suit or wear it to Sunday brunch. Try to find one without logos and try numerous brands on until you find one that fits perfectly.  A good fitting shirt hits mid-bicep and if you wear it untucked, it should hit just below your belt. 

Jack Purcell Sneakers

Jack Purcell was a badminton star who had his own converse sneakers, which looked similar to the ubiquitous Converse All-Stars.  The difference is the “smile” on the toe of the shoe.  These sneakers are simple and incredibly comfortable.  The colors are fairly subdued, so you can get them in navy, white, and grey.  I like white or grey, as they provide a nice contrast to the jeans or the navy suit. 

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A Cardigan

You can wear a cardigans like a coat in the spring and the fall.  It’s like a sweatshirt, but dressy; if you get hot, it’s easy to take off.  It’s also a great substitute for a sport coat.  

Leveling Up: 

Invest in tailoring. I can’t emphasize this enough. It will make your investment in the suit and shirts that much more valuable. A good fit just as important as good quality material and construction. I recommend building a relationship with a tailor. J.D. at Frederick’s Tailoring in Clive is the best.  Tell him Shane sent you.

Wednesdays With Whitney: Vanessa McNeal

“What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud, and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories.” - Oprah Winfrey at the Golden Globes

Over the past year, I have become increasingly aware of the power of my voice, of the resonance of my honesty and my ability to be a champion for others. Wednesdays with Whitney has morphed into this amazingly powerful platform for sharing, and I couldn't be more honored to see all the participation and engagement this segment receives. I love hearing the reactions from my Facebook friends who tune in every week to see what's next.  Together, we've helped share and promote so many people's stories and dreams, trials and triumphs.

Today we dove deep into a tough topic. I think my audience was ready and I know I'm ready to start making a bigger impact.

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Vanessa McNeal is a powerhouse. At the age of 24, she is already a national speaker, film producer, and business owner. Her critical acclaims range from "Best Director" to "Woman of Tomorrow." She has overcome adversity from a very young age and has turned that adversity into her passion. This woman is already making huge waves with her honesty and bravery and today she shared her story and mission yet again, in hopes of garnering support for her latest project Gridshock. 

A little bit about Vanessa: 

Vanessa is a survivor. Neglected and continually molested throughout childhood and then sexually assaulted at a college preparatory program at the age of 15, Vanessa was forced to overcame the many faces of rape culture. Despite of all this, Vanessa overcame the shaming and silence that usually surrounds sexual assault victims. She was the first in her family to graduate high school and went on to pursue her bachelor’s degree at Iowa State University. She received her Master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Northern Iowa. In 2017, Vanessa founded her production company McNeal Media with the goal of creating social change through the art of storytelling and has experienced much success in her business.

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Words from Vanessa:

I took a human sexuality class my Freshman year at ISU. My professor took the time to define sexual violence. She also defined molestation.  She followed these definitions by sharing her personal story of being a  survivor of sexual violence. This was the first time in my life I had a name for my experience. That moment gave me power. It totally changed my life. I had lived my life thinking I was the only one who had experienced these violent acts. My professor stood in front of our class with no shame and owned her experience. She wasn't a victim. She was a survivor and I wanted to be that too. She gave me the confidence to own my story and stand powerfully in my experience. That's when I started the work of healing. 

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I spent my college years healing and growing.  Then one night a friend asked me, "What do you want your legacy to be?" No one had asked me that question before. The seed was planted. I went home inspired. Already I knew my legacy would be driven by my desire to share my personal story with anyone and everyone I could.

I got into film senior year of college. Film is such a powerful form a storytelling. The realization that I could share I could share my story in documentary form took hold and I started reaching out to local filmmakers. With their help, I was able to share my story 6 months later in documentary form. I was overwhelmed by the support I received. It was in that moment I knew I wanted to create social change through film. I have produced a short film and a feature-length documentary about male survivors since then. I have been able to touch so many people with my story and the stories of others.  

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Vanessa's next documentary project is a feature length film bringing awareness to the underground sex trafficking industry in Iowa. Thats right folks. Our state is one of the most profitable places for the buying and selling of HUMANS for sex. The stories Vanessa has shared with me are shocking and horrifying. I want to close my ears and run away - but that is exactly the opposite of what I'm going to do. Instead, I'm asking for us to stand together, to demand something better and require consequences for these depraved and disgusting actions. I'm asking you to donate to the creation of Gridshock, a documentary that is sure to turn heads and bring the hammer down on all who participate in this terrible cycle. Thank you in advance for your action. Together, we are stronger. Together, we make change. 

Wednesdays With Whitney: Empowerment Session Winner

I was overwhelmed by the beautiful nominations received for the Empowerment Session Campaign. The idea, to give one deserving woman her day in the sun. Show one stunning woman how beautiful she is, inside and out. What started out as awarding a complimentary creative portrait session, quickly morphed into something bigger. More women wanted to contribute to the contest and give away their time and talents. 

The Empowerment Session team consists of Ivy Boyd, makeup artist extraordinaire; Sarah Noll Wilson, leadership coach powerhouse; and Christina Davis, personal stylist and Cabi consultant. The grand prize package: a complimentary two-hour clothing session with Christina, makeup application with Ivy prior to the photo shoot, and a 90 minute creative portrait session with me.

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The lucky winner, Mary Bacon, was nominated by her daughter Angela Ames. Mary is a fighter, survivor and the epitome of selfless. In her daughter's words:

"My mother is so beautiful...let's start by in 2005 she beat stage IV breast cancer. She is legally blind but spends endless days making blankets for those in need. She has a rare form of leukemia that fights against her healthy blood cells as well as her good, in addition to currently waiting her chance for a new kidney and finally beating colon cancer. To say my mother is strong would be an understatement. A woman that should be full of life resentment, she actually just wants to do what she can to get back home to keep working on blankets! This woman is incredible!!! She doesn't fuss over the little things, because to her "that's life" and "well that's the stuff that God gave her to deal with." She's so beautiful, her eyes are a stunning blue, and she could really use a day about her, to highlight how amazing she is."

"She is a true definition of humanitarian , a warrior, but above those an amazing mother. Because she never gives up. She sees ten paths to a way out of a dead end. Her girls mean everything to her, nothing, not even being told that she has a few short months to live would keep her from encouraging her girls to do what makes them truly happy."

"I recently moved to California, taking her beloved grandchildren (boys 8 & 7) 1600 miles away. My husband took a new job. My mom would never stand in the way of someone wanting to move closer to their dreams. Most grandmas would be devastated but not my mom. She put her own feelings aside! She misses my husband (who she loves very much, she misses her grandsons but she just says, 'I have to get better so I can come visit.' This woman is truly a blessing to anyone that has her in their lives!"

I drew additional names for extra prizes. Amanda is the winner of a Professional Portrait Session. She was nominated by her sister-in-law. A snippet from her nomination:

"I have known Amanda (my sister-in-law) since she was in high school. She nearly died when I was dating her brother (now my husband) due to long-qt syndrome, which is a heart issue. She had a pacemaker put in when she was 16. It completely changed her trajectory in life. She has always been an active, giving and outgoing individual but has had many obstacles put in her way. On her journey to realizing how strong she is, she built her life up around what she can and can not do (physically) given her heart condition. In the last year, she also has been diagnosed with alopecia. Amanda’s beauty comes from her love of others and her beautiful smile. When she smiles you can’t unsee how beautiful she is. It’s incredible contagious. As a case worker for Broadlawns, she brings her beauty and strength to the lives of those who are less fortunate. While this work is difficult and challenging, she manages to do it with extreme care and grace, that most can not. This is exactly what makes her beautiful and strong at the same time- her very giving heart."

Last but not least, Teresa Tomka is the winner of a $100 Cabi gift card. She was nominated by a friend. The three adjectives used to describe Teresa:

"1) Strong - so strong. She lost her husband in a sudden, tragic accident. She has five children. She owns a business. STRONG. 2) Giving. She gives back her resources, her time, her laughter. 3) And speaking of laughter, this lady is F-U-N! An evening with her is an evening laughing."

Thank you to everyone who took the time to nominate a woman. You are incredible for taking the time and recognizing the powerful women in your life. All participants, nominees and nominators, are receiving the opportunity to participate in a Championing Workshop. 

Words from Sarah Noll Wilson on the workshop: 

"Do you build up or break down? Learn how to powerfully acknowledge and build up those around you. 

Everyone is capable of greatness and everyone is capable of revealing greatness in others.  Think about this, in every moment you impact those around you, is it the impact you want? By being a powerful champion for others you help others see their most powerful self even when they can't see it themselves. Join us for this transformative workshop where you will learn and practice the skills to be a champion for others and yourself too!

Table 128: Fall Menu Reveal

I sat at the bar at Table 128 enjoying the company of owner Sarah Pritchard after our Wednesdays with Whitney session. I watched a full house arrive for lunch. Everyone who passed the hostess counter on the way to their table grabbed a famous chocolate chip cookie with sea salt, an aperatif to the delicious lunch to come. These cookies, along with amazing food and warm, responsive service are trademarks of this local West Des Moines resturant.

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This winter, Table 128 catered the grand opening and one year anniversary of my business. Sarah showed up at my door with trays of delicious, pipping hot food and a smile, ready to serve in any way she could. I had fully expected her to drop off the food and head to her next event. This is the only time I would underestimate Sarah and Lynn’s immense call to host and help. Sarah stayed at the opening, pouring wine and greeting guests, making sure the trays were filled and details weren’t dropped. Her presence made that party a true success.

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I desperately wanted to return the favor of hospitality to the Table 128 team and months later, I was finally able to convince Sarah and Lynn it was time for updated headshots. Like so many of my clients, they bulked. Excuses like, “I don’t photograph well,” were spoken aloud. But I am known to be very convincing and finally got this dynamic duo in front of the camera. Of course, the photos were just as beautiful as they are. Their love of people, food and wine, and each other stand out in every image. 

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Yesterday, I had the pleasure of photographing the new Fall Menu. The smells and views laid before me were impeccable. I loved capturing the beautiful food, lovingly prepared by amazing people. I personally got to sample the Scallops, Cured Zucchini and Sweet Potato Panna Cotta. Every bite was an experience. The scallops were seared to perfection, laid over a nutty wheat berry concoction that had me singing praises to the fall weather. The cured zucchini had me begging for the recipe. How the heck does a person make a zucchini taste THAT GOOD? I sat protesting as the panna cotta was served with hot coffee. How could I possibly eat another bite?!  But of course, it was rich, creamy and just the right amount of sweet. I polished off the whole dish without hesitation. It was a perfect example of another amazing meal at Table 128. 

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