LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – One of Shi Howell’s obstacles when she decided to re-enter the business world was clothing.

How could she dress for success and, better yet, afford it?

“I looked all over the place for clothes and couldn’t find anything to fit me,” said Howell, 44, who relocated from California to Las Vegas in 2017. And when she found something she liked – the $1,200 jacket from Saks Fifth Avenue, for example – it was “too expensive for my budget.

Howell — whose first name is Shila (pronounced shy-la) — was beyond frustrated.

Then she discovered a return-to-work program through her church – boosted by clothing donations from the United Way of Southern Nevada — that helped women trying to break into the business world. “It was wonderful,” said Howell, who coming out of retirement needed an emotional boost. “The clothes, they just really built up my confidence and helped so much.”

Howell hopes her story – she now works as a community health care worker who often meets with well-dressed elected officials – encourages donations to the United Way’s 15th Annual Women United Suit Drive. The effort collected 5,506 professional items last year, including suits, dresses, shoes, handbags and jewelry.

The items are redistributed to programs that put women in more business appropriate attire. “And it’s not just suits,” Howell said. “It’s shoes. You know how hard it is to find shoes? And handbags.” So many of the accoutrements women in the business world might need, she said.

The United Way drive runs Oct. 17 to Nov. 4. Agencies receiving the items include Catholic Charities, Dress for Success, Goodwill, Tech Impact, Jobs for Nevada Graduates
Signs of Hope, UNSHAKABLE and St. Jude’s Ranch for Children.

A volunteer, right, for Dress for Success, one of the agencies that distributes the used clothing, helps a client look for items. (Brain Trust Agency)

United Way said the overall goal of the drive is uniting “female leaders across Southern Nevada to empower women returning to the workplace.”

Howell would agree. Other women she’s met during her work engagements compliment her on her clothing. Women who also have found clothing through the program tell her how much better they feel dressed in the proper attire.

“Now, I’m being seen and not just heard,” Howell said. “I’ve always been a little bashful, not wanting to be in front of big groups.

“But I feel more comfortable when that happens now.”

Drop-off locations

United Way of Southern Nevada Women United Suit Drive

  • United Way of Southern Nevada, 5830 W. Flamingo Road; 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday to Thursday; 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday.
  • Merle Norman Cosmetic Studio, 4011 S. Buffalo Drive, B104; 12:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m., Monday to Saturday, 12:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
  • Paige and Rye, 3370 S. Hualapai Way, No. 145; 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday to Saturday; noon-4 p.m., Sunday.
  • Jacinta Boutique, 6569 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday to Thursday;  11 a.m.-6 p.m., Saurday; noon-6 p.m., Sunday.