Fashionable Giving & Community Recognition

Fashion and fundraising go hand in hand. We believe that when you give, you get back much more than you ever give away, and we are devoting this section of our site to promote our corporate philosophy of "doing well by doing good." We hope you'll be motivated by some of our ideas on how you, too, can make a difference in the lives of others.


Foundation News — Fall 2017

Our fall grants support the good work of 3 wonderful organizations: the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Greater New England Chapter’s annual “Fashion Plates” Luncheon, Coats for Kids and The Needham Women’s Club 25th anniversary holiday house tour. Our support for Fashion Plates pays tribute to the spirit of Karen Van Houten. From 2001-2003, Mary Lou Andre and Karen co-chaired a similar fashion event for the MS Society, raising over $200,000 during this three year commitment. We salute Karen for inspiring us then and now. We are thrilled to once again be supporting the good work of the MS Society, this time through the mission of our Foundation.

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Foundation Firsts — Spring 2017

Early financial support for our Foundation has allowed us to sponsor the 15th Anniversary of Dress for Success Boston in March and increase our support of Anton's Cleaners 13th Annual Belle of the Ball, held on April 8th at Simmons College in Boston. We are proud to have been involved with both of these amazing organizations since their inception.

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4th Annual Needham Community Council Fashion Show

Held on Sunday, April 10, 2016 at Powers Hall in our home town of Needham, Massachusetts, this show features clothing and accessories that are available at the Council’s Thrift Shop. This community gem is open to the public and supports the many no-fee programs of the Council. Ticket sales for this show are earmarked for the Council’s CAP Program (Child Assault Prevention) and the Needham DVAC (Domestic Violence Action Committee).

View a photo album of this year's show or check out this video to see dozens of volunteer models strutting their stuff in spring attire while also learning why the show is one of our favorite rites of spring.



2nd Annual "All About a Dress" Spring Fashion Show & Benefit

On March 23, 2013, we hosted a designer fashion show to benefit Caring Partners, Inc., the official charity of Belle of the Ball. This year's event was held on a Saturday afternoon at Bloomingdales, Chestnut Hill.

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After the professional models were finished, Mary Lou Andre introduced 5 local teens who were on hand to model prom fashion. Also pictured below are Dressing Well stylists Carolyn Lieberman and Sarah Zengo. Carolyn and Sarah helped guests shop to raise money for this great cause. 10% of sales made by our team that afternoon contributed to the over $10,000 that was raised. For more event photos, visit our Dressing Well Facebook page.


“All About A Dress” 20th Anniversary Party to Benefit Caring Partners, Inc.

We celebrated the 20th anniversary of our firm to the day on April 1, 2012 with a designer fashion show courtesy of Bloomingdales at Simmons College to benefit Caring Partners, Inc. – the official charity of our client  Anton's Cleaners. Attended by over 400 people, the event raised $25,000 to support Anton's two award-winning charities – Coats for Kids and Belle of the Ball.  Our wonderful clients took to the runway in support of Belle of the Ball as a portion of the money raised was used to purchase jewelry, shoes and other accessories for Belle participants. Pictured below (L to R) are Executive Coach Alesia Latson;  Fidelity Investments executive Alexandra Taussig;  and TV reporter turned Communications CEO and best-selling author Suzanne Bates.  Client Arthur Anton co-hosted the event with Mary Lou Andre.

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Below, client and firm friend extraordinaire Janet Jordan shared her musical talent with guests and Organization By Design, Inc. long-term consultants June Tarter, Elizabeth Fragala and Karen Costa joined event co-hosts Arthur Anton and Mary Lou Andre in celebrating  20 years of dressing well.

Dressing Well & Doing Well:
Client Appreciation Event to Benefit Dress for Success Boston

On November 18, 2010, we partnered with Bloomingdales to give thanks to our clients while also raising over $12,000 for Dress for Success Boston.  Several of our clients took to the runway wearing designer clothes courtesy of Bloomingdales.  Pictured below (L to R) are Dr. Mallika Marshall – a medical doctor and health reporter on CBS;   Jane Rizzo – mother, grandmother and client since 1994; and community leader Geri Denterlein, President of Denterlein Worldwide in Boston. Jane is pictured with DFS Executive Director Kim Todd.

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Special thanks to our friends at Bloomingdales for always supporting our charitable causes and private client work.  

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Pictured with Mary Lou Andre at this event are our Bloomingdales friends John Montbleau, GM Laurie ThorntonRachel Fisch and Chris Willis. For more event photos, visit our Dressing Well Facebook page.

Community Recognition
Doing Well By Doing Good

Dress for Success – Empowering Women One Suit at a Time

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Mary Lou Andre in 2004 with Dress for Success Boston co-founders Nancy Schneider (right) and Enith Levine (left).

Mary Lou was awarded the 2013 Standing Strong Award. In giving her this award, the organization recognized her board leadership along with her support and advocacy for women entering the workforce.

Dress for Success is a non-profit organization that provides interview suits to low-income women seeking employment. Their New York City-based web site lists the names, addresses and telephone numbers of "sister" and "cousin" organizations across the country (and in many other countries!) and how you can make a donation at a location near you. Our association with Dress for Success Boston allows our clients, colleagues and online community to easily connect with this organization and make in-kind and monetary donations to further their mission. 

Here are photos of two more events we have hosted to support the good work of Dress for Success Boston:

"Leap Into Spring” Book Signing and
Fashion Event to Benefit Dress for Success Boston

February 29, 2004 - The Endicott House, Dedham

(Click on any photo to view full size)

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“Find Your Fit”
An evening to Benefit Dress for Success Boston

March 22, 2007 - The Hotel Marlowe, Boston

(Click on any photo to view full size)

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Belle of the Ball – Lessons from a Prom Dress


Mary Lou Andre and Arthur Anton, President of Anton's Cleaners, pose with one of the over 500 girls who participated at the 12th Annual Belle of the Ball at Simmons College in Boston. Notes Mary Lou about the true power of the dresses donated each to this event, “Every once in a while, it's nice to step out of your own world and into the world of others to experience a slice of life that is quite different than your own. Each spring, members of our firm get this opportunity when we co-sponsor "The Belle of Ball" with our friends at Anton's Cleaners. The goal of this event is to collect, dry clean and distribute prom dresses to high school junior and senior girls who are unable to afford a dress for their school's prom. When you give a girl a dress, she can go to her prom. However, when you establish an event where she can come and receive one-on-one attention from her very own personal shopper, she begins to see her body in a new light. By learning what cuts and styles look best on her body, she is given a gift of confidence ­ a gift that can often last a life time.” Mary Lou currently serves on the Board of Caring Partners, Inc. – the charitable arm of Anton’s Cleaners.

Here are some photos of the 2016 Belle of the Ball:
(Click on any photo to view full size)
Photo Credit: Julie Dennehy, Dennehy Public Relations

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Watch Mary Lou Andre on Fox 25 Boston as she shares the true purpose of the Belle of the Ball.


Visit the Belle of the Ball website

Multiple Sclerosis – Sometimes You Just Have to Get Involved

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When Mary Lou Andre was reacquainted with her childhood friend Karen Van Houten in September of 1999, she was stunned to see first-hand the devastating effects of multiple sclerosis on such a young woman. When she was told that 78% of all people affected by MS are in fact women and most are diagnosed between the ages of 28 and 40, it was easy for her to team up with Karen to create and co-chair "Dressing Well — An Evening to Benefit MS." This three-year fashion show fundraising event concluded in October 2002 and raised a total of $215,000. Our commitment to the MS Society continued in 2003 when Mary Lou served as the Mistress of Ceremonies for Women Against MS: A Celebration of Extraordinary Women. The event featured keynote speaker, actress and National MS Ambassador, Teri Garr, who was diagnosed with MS in 1990. In 2004, Mary Lou received an MS Leadership Award for her vision and commitment to the organization. Pictured above with Mary Lou is actress Teri Garr and Arlyn White, President and CEO of the Central New England Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Here are photo albums of two of the Dressing Well events we hosted on behalf of the MS Society:

Second Annual "Dressing Well – An Evening to Benefit  the National Multiple Sclerosis Society

(Click on any photo to view full size)
Photo Credit: Chip Fanelli Photography

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Third Annual Dressing Well – An Evening to Benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society

(Click on any photo to view full size)
Photo Credit: Justin Knight

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Editor's Note: After a long and courageous battle with MS, Karen Van Houten succumbed to complications brought on by the disease and passed away peacefully surrounded by family and friends on September 8, 2012. She was 48 years old. Her spirit lives on to all that knew and loved her. Karen is pictured here (1st row to the left next to Mary Lou and in front of her mom Marge Van Houten) with the original Dressing Well committee members. The group gathered at the home of the Van Houtens for a celebratory party and to present a symbolic check to the MS Society Central NE Chapter representing the $215,000 that was raised during the group's 3 year fundraising tenure.

Building a Civic-Minded Company – It Starts with Commitment


One of the high points of Mary Lou Andre’s career was when she received the prestigious 1999 Avon Spirit of Enterprise Award in recognition of her professional accomplishments as an entrepreneurial rising star. Click here to read Mary Lou's acceptance speech. Building a civic minded company starts with commitment. Follow this link to read "The Business of Caring" ­ one of the best articles that has been written about our "Fashionable Giving" philosophy. Pictured above with Mary Lou in 1999 (who is eight months pregnant with twins in this photograph!) at the Avon Spirit of Enterprise Awards are from left to right Angelo Rossi, Regional Vice President, Avon Products; Elaine Guiney, District Director of the US Small Business Administration and event hostess Suzanne Bates. At the time, Suzanne was the morning anchor at WBZ-TV Boston. Suzanne is now the CEO of Bates Communications and continues to be one of our biggest supporters. Notes Suzanne, "Mary Lou is a force of nature. If she makes her mind up to do something, it gets done. It is my pleasure to call her both a friend and colleague."

Our Fashionable Giving Philosophy is Alive & Well
We Welcome Your Ideas

Over the years we have partnered with other civic-minded companies to bring our Dressing Well message to larger and larger audiences while helping raise money for a variety of worthwhile causes. These events also allow our staff, clients and colleagues to get involved and make a difference, too. From the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition to the YWCA of Boston to the Urban League to many schools, churches and organizations in the hometowns of our fashion consultants and clients, we have become known for our spirit of giving.

If you are interested in having Mary Lou Andre present "The Art of Self Marketing" to your organization or at a women's conference, contact Mary Lou directly. This presentation highlights Mary Lou's entrepreneurial journey while educating the audience about her "Top Ten Guiding Business Principals." Audiences leave her presentation inspired about how they can incorporate philanthropy into their own lives and businesses.

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2004 Ready to Wear Book Party


February 29 “Leap Into Spring” Book Signing & Fashion Event
to Benefit Dress for Success Boston

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Our Newsletter provides strategies for mastering professional dress and your overall personal image.

Fashionable Giving:
Top 10 Giving Principles

By Mary Lou Andre
President, Organization By Design, Inc., Editor,, Author, "Ready to Wear: An Expert's Guide to Choosing and Using Your Wardrobe."

#1 Surround yourself with people who share your values

I have naturally sought out mentors my whole life. When I started my own business, I actively formed relationships with successful entrepreneurs for guidance in managing all aspects of Organization By Design, Inc. Formally, I joined the Women's Network for Entrepreneurial Training through the SBA in Boston in 1995. My SBA mentor helped me scale my business for growth at a critical time and I will be forever grateful to her for sharing her wisdom and business acumen with me at a pivotal time in my entrepreneurial career. Today, I meet regularly with a tight-knit group of fellow women entrepreneurs for support and idea-sharing. These women are an integral part of my professional tool kit.

#2 Plant your seeds where you want them to grow

Instead of spending a lot of time and resources joining industry organizations when I first started my business, I joined organizations such as New England Women Business Owners (NEWBO), South Shore Women's Business Network and the Boston Chamber of Commerce as a way to meet people who could afford my services. In addition to joining, I also actively volunteered within these organizations as a way to get to know people on a more personal level. This strategy paid off. Dozens of our first individual services clients came directly from these membership organizations. Today, many of these same women have hired or referred us to conduct a myriad of corporate consulting projects and speaking engagements.

#3 Be consistent & timely with all your marketing materials

The early success of the company can be attributed to our Dressing Well quarterly fashion newsletter which was first published in 1992. It was mailed four times a year for seven consecutive years. It allowed me to have a private conversation with clients and prospects at the change of every season. In 1999, it became clear that the majority of our new business opportunities were coming directly from our web site. In order to control marketing expenses and to effectively capitalize on this new marketing vehicle, we ended the off-line newsletter and began sending our weekly Dressing Well tips free of charge to on-line subscribers. The message remains the same. The delivery vehicle is much more powerful and effective. We currently average 20,000 unique visitors per month.

#4 Invest for growth

As my company has grown, I have sought and secured loans and lines of credit. For instance, when the company celebrated its fifth anniversary in 1997, I moved it from my home to Grade A office space in Needham Center and launched our website. I could not have done this without expert guidance from my attorney, internet consultant and accountant.Today, I work from home again to be closer to my young children. I am grateful to have built a business model that can be easily adjusted to accommodate all of the phases of my personal and professional lifestyles. I continue to rely on a variety of financial and business consultants to help grow our firm.

#5 Treat the media and vendors like clients

The media and vendors are given the same level of attention when they contact our organization as we give clients and prospects. For instance, as a result of a targeted newsletter mailing to national media outlets, the producer for CNN's fashion maven Elsa Klench called our office with a very preliminary inquiry about the possibility of interviewing us as part of a story about fashion for real women. We immediately shifted into a customer service mode, and, in a very short period of time, we were able to coordinate all the details of the story on their behalf. The result? Four minutes of uninterrupted time on national television!

#6 Find ways to hire (and keep!) only the best

In terms of growing the organization to support my vision of excellence in the marketplace and within our industry, I have been very creative in designing employee and independent contractor relationships in order to attract the very best talent available to fit our business objectives. I delegate freely to a team of professionals that I can rely on to be both autonomous and team-oriented. Of all of my professional accomplishments, I am most proud of my relationships with the five women I work with on a weekly basis.

#7 Leverage your intellectual property

When I broke my leg in 1995, I thought my business would dry up. Instead it forced me to slow down and do some long term planning about ways to earn revenue when I couldn't perform direct client service. During this time, I creatively packaged and subsequently sold my intellectual property. I self-published three booklets (they are for sale in our on-line store) and began offering them as add-ons to retail clients. We have customized these booklets for such companies as Nordstrom, Lillian Vernon and Filene's. These booklets were eventually repackaged and sold as a book. "Ready to Wear: An Expert's Guide to Choosing and Using Your Wardrobe" was published in 2004 by Penguin Books.

#8 Stay on top of industry trends and let the market know that you do

We have closely followed the evolution of professional dress in the marketplace over the past decade. By developing strategic relationships with retailers and high profile non-profits, we have consistently positioned ourselves with the media and through our website as professional image experts. A focused and well-pitched position on business casual, for instance, has helped us secure multiple exposures on CBS-TV and ABC-TV as well as every local news outlet here in Boston. This type of public recognition helps us stay top-of-mind with clients and prospects.

#9 Promote others as a way of promoting yourself

My late father was a master of the law of giving. From an early age I witnessed first hand the power of incorporating a strong commitment to community service into your professional and personal life. Whether by helping a client get a new job by fine-tuning his/her interviewing attire or by working with members of non-profit groups to help them further their cause, when you focus and support the goals of others, you automatically build trust and credibility for yourself.

#10 Do what you love and the money will follow

My passion for fashion and entrepreneurship was the reason I originally launched Organization By Design, Inc. in 1992. My love and knack for marketing combined with a strong commitment to community service programs, however, is what has sustained it. Thinking out of the box, creating unique strategic alliances and seeking out clients, colleagues, vendors and community leaders who share my business philosophy has propelled the company to national recognition.

For more information about our business philosophy, please visit the "Fashionable Giving" section of our site.


Mary Lou Andre is a nationally recognized expert on professional image in the workplace. She can be reached on the web at