AVON PARK, Fla.–April 15, 2016–Dozens of South Florida State College students used their noontime lunch break to take in a fashion show on the college’s Highlands Campus.

Unlike the haute couture shows of Paris, this show of fashion had a practical take on clothing.

Titled “Attired and Inspired: The Fashion of Dress for Success,” the event was the SFSC Career Development Center’s opportunity to school it students on what to wear—and not wear—to a job interview.

“During a job interview, employers start making judgments about applicants within the first 30 seconds of meeting them,” said Dr. Kimberly Batty-Herbert, SFSC’s dean of arts and sciences, who served as one of four judges for the show. “It’s not uncommon for graduates to spend hours on their resumes and give little thought to their appearance before an interview.”

The fashion show kicked off with 16 students strolling before the judges and audience in casual, if not rankly inappropriate attire. This exercise in “backpack fashion” gave each of the judges a chance to tell the students what they ought not to wear to any job interview.

“Look, no sweatpants, no sneakers, no T-shirts,” said Sheila Richards, of the Heartland Association of Realtors, who helped judged the show. “That includes not taking a cellphone and a snack into the interview.”

As judge Connie Olson, a trainer with Agero Provider Network, gave fashion tips to the students, the models hurried to their dressing room for a complete makeover.

Out they came, one by one, attaining a teachable moment in briefcase attire. Rachel traipsed about in conservative gray dress, Robert looked in command with a dark two-piece suit, and Lola came off as snappy in a stylish pink and black dress.

The newly clad models gave the judges the opportunity to point out to the audience how different ensembles of clothing work in different settings.

“You want to tailor your attire to the type of job you’re seeking,” said judge Trudy Benton, of Benton Wealth. “Regardless of the position you’re going after, the bottom line is to keep it classy.”

Benton teamed up with the Career Development Center in March to collect gently used business attire for SFSC’s Dress for Success project. SFSC students who have trouble affording interview-appropriate attire can visit a dressing room on campus where they can try on and keep business attire for job interviews.

“We had two goals with today’s show,” said Colleen Rafatti, who heads up the SFSC Career Development Center. “First, our aim was to familiarize the graduates with appropriate attire. Next, we wanted to increase awareness of our Dress for Success program.”

Rafatti heads up SFSC’s Career Development Center, a one-stop shop that provides students with a range of employability services. From resume preparation to job leads to interviewing tips, Rafatti and her colleagues aim to ensure SFSC students get off to a good start once they’re ready to work.

As the show wound down, Dr. Batty-Herbert announced a winner among the models: Pedro Sanchez, who will graduate in May with his associate degree in the hope of going on to medical school. Sanchez sported a light grey suit with matching tie and suspenders.

“Now that’s how you dress for success,” said Dr. Batty-Herbert to beaming Sanchez.

For information on SFSC’s Career Development Center or how you can donate business attire, contact Rafatti at 863-784-7410 or rafattic@southflorida.edu.