BANGOR, Maine — In January, blogger Susan Stephenson of Bangor will demonstrate the power and versatility of a simple navy blue dress. The dress, the Isleboro Sweater Dress donated by L.L. Bean from its Signature Collection, will serve as the pivot of fashion commentary as Stephenson blogs on the topic, “One Dress, 30 Days, 30 Ways,” at her website WellToDoYou.com.
“I will wear the dress every day in January and describe in detail what I am wearing — bags, shoes, belts, jewelry,” she said. At the end of the month, the project will help women in need enhance their workplace wardrobes.
Every item Stephenson will wear to complement the dress will be donated by businesses in Maine and across the nation, including M. Flynn Accessories in Boston, The Beadin’ Path in Freeport, the Second Time Around upscale resale shop in Portland, and Lamey Wellehan and Kohl’s, both of Bangor. Companies with eshops at etsy.com, including businesses based in California, Georgia and Pennsylvania, also will contribute accessories to Stephenson’s fashion-forward endeavor.
The Merchants Association of Freeport USA helped Stephenson connect with businesses there, including Sea Bags of Portland, she said.
And at the end of January, each accessory donated to the “One Dress, 30 Days, 30 Ways” blogosphere project will be given to Dress for Success Southern Maine in Portland, an affiliate of Dress for Success, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of women, located in 110 cities across 12 countries, according to its website, dressforsuccess.org.
“This is pretty big for us. It’s the icing,” Kimberly Allen, executive director of Dress for Success Southern Maine, said of Stephenson’s effort to benefit the organization. “We use accessories to complete an outfit. We get lots of clothing donations, but we don’t always have quite the thing to accessorize an outfit. Also, the project shows that you can have only one signature outfit and that you don’t have to invest tons of money to have something nice to wear to work.”
Dress for Success Southern Maine clientele, Allen said, are women who are disadvantaged to one degree or another, but who want to better their situations, improve their households and focus on career development. The organization partners with work readiness agencies such as the Aspire program of the Maine Department of Human Services; Women, Work and Community; and other referral agencies to help women find and retain work.
“Women get outfits for work, some with upscale labels they never thought they’d ever wear. It boosts confidence and that’s an important part of our service,” Allen said.
Allen said one of the hardest-to-get items, and one of the most sought after, is a basic white shirt in any fabric. Shoes and handbags also are needed. For information about how to donate items, visit dressforsuccess .org/ southernmaine.
Allen said she dreams of having a mobile unit to travel throughout the state, or a satellite Dress for Success Southern Maine located in the Bangor area, a dream that could come true if a corporate sponsor is found.
“We stay connected with our clients,” Allen said, “and we want them to stay in touch. We want to help keep them motivated and to be a resource if they need it.”
Meanwhile, Stephenson’s blog, to be launched Jan. 1, 2012 will post topics written by guest experts, including Walter Munson of Closet Factory of Maine on “Closet Organizing;” Mignon Gould, journalist, style expert and and owner of chicspy.com, on “Creating a Work Wardrobe;” and Heather DeSimone of The Beadin’ Path on “Making Your Own Accessories.” Other planned topics are “Essential Items that Define a Wardrobe,” “Etiquette,” “Interviewing Tips,” “Finding Your Signature Style” and “Hair Care.”
“Susan’s blog is phenomenal,” said Heather DeSimone, owner of The Beadin’ Path and Leetie Lovendale, her jewelry design line. “She focuses on lifestyle and wellness and I’m sure this is not the first time she has given back to the community.”
DeSimone said she first heard of Stephenson through Twitter and got to know her that way.
DeSimone said her guest blogging will be about how to make affordable, elegant jewelry and how to deconstruct an older piece of jewelry to make it new. She has yet to decide what piece of jewelry she will donate on behalf of The Beadin’ Path, but she will donate earrings and a bauble pendant necklace from Leetie Lovendale.
“It’s a good way to get involved with supporting Dress for Success Southern Maine,” she said.
In addition, Anthony John’s Day Spa in Bangor, owned by Carrie Mayo, has designated the One Dress project to benefit from its Give and Get program. Clients who donate a new accessory, such as a scarf or jewelry, or new clothing, will receive a discount on services. Stephenson will collect the donated items at the end of January and donate them to Dress for Success Southern Maine.
“I am so humbled by the interest,” said Stephenson, a Bowdoin College graduate who grew up in Bangor, and wife and mother of two small children. The project, she said, dovetails with her blog’s goal to promote “a better, healthier, more fabulous style of life.” And one of the ways to move toward that goal?
“Use the ingredients in your closet,” she said.