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.



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. 



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.



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.



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.)



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. 

Dress for Success Des Moines.jpg

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.

Home Coming: The Top 5 Reasons I LOVE DSM.

Hello all! 

First of all, I'd like to say a HUGE thank you to everyone involved in my big life transition. There are so many people in Rochester, NY, Des Moines, IA, and cities far and wide who supported me in making this relocation dream come true. 

I've been back in DSM for a little over a month and I have to say, I'm astounded. The support I received upon my arrival was more then I ever could have anticipated. I'm so grateful and I feel compelled to gush. So here it is - my top five reasons I'm ecstatic to be back in DSM! 

4. Open and inclusive attitude: I am overwhelmed by the resounding "YES" I've received when inviting people for coffee. Community leaders are thrilled to take time out of their day to enjoy a conversation with this young entrepreneur. Wedding vendors with well established creditability and awesome work ethic have instantly accepted me into their inner circles. Countless strong and impressive young women in the community have taken me under their wing as friends and confidants.  I am truly honored and thrilled to be part of these ever growing and inclusive circles of strength. 

3. Gorgeous places to shoot, be entertained and be enthralled: The change in Des Moines from when I was a high schooler to now is beyond comprehension. I am so proud of my town, even though I can't take any credit for this transformation. I look forward to being a positive influence in this community in the years to come. 



2. Impressive female leaders making a difference in Des Moines: Now this might truly be one of the most engaging points this community offers me. Everywhere I turn, I see women making real, measurable changes in our local and global community. I see these women reaching out and offering a supportive hand, getting down and dirty for conservation issues and stepping up to the capital to speak their mind. I am honored to join your ranks. Thank you for leading the way.

1. Family: I lived in Rochester, NY for seven years. That was seven years of texting, FaceTime, extended weekend visits and treasured Christmas vacations with the people I love most. I have to be honest, I forgot what it was like to have my family around. I forgot what it meant to be able to call on them ANYTIME, for ANYTHING. Being here, surround by these people is the best thing about Des Moines. 



Always: Every time, for every occasion - without exception.

The word always conjures certain nostalgia in my life. I am guilty of using this large and powerful word without proper distinction. Growing up, my mother would frequently retort, “Always? Your brother always starts the fight?” This happened so frequently that when I turned 18 and left home for college, the thought of tattooing the word always on my body crossed my mind more than once. The medium seemed poetically fitting. 

This idea of always propelled my return home to start Ivory House Photography in Des Moines, IA. I want to grow my life and business near the people who I know will always support me. It is with this commitment to my own legacy of always and passion for my clients' version of always that I open the proverbial doors of Ivory House Photography and welcome you with open arms. I can’t wait to meet you, your spouse and your family members. Together we are going to capture memories that will last for your lifetime and beyond.

In honor of the importance photos play in my own life, I thought it was only fitting to share a few of my favorite images. Over the past few years I've had the opportunity to work with the best photographers in Rochester. Thanks to Natalie Sinisgalli and Rachel Liz for capturing the people I love most in such a beautiful and honest way.