It was a record-breaking year for Dress to Impress, a campus program that allows students to start or expand their professional wardrobe at no charge.

This year’s event, held in March in Billingsly Student Center’s Connor Ballroom, drew 440 students looking to spruce up before meeting potential employers or starting a new job. It was founded six years ago by the university’s Career Services office and is presented in partnership with the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professionals Network.

Thousands of items of clothing and accessories were donated for the event. More than 70 volunteers on hand, with many serving as “personal shoppers” for the students.

“What’s wonderful about Dress to Impress – and what’s wonderful about this community – is that it’s a collective effort and absolutely free,” says Alex Gandy, director of Career Services.

“We see students on average walk away with 10 to 12 garments. If they were to walk into the mall and get (the same clothing), it would be well over $150 to $200.”

Gandy says sponsors such as Indigo Sky Casino, Freeman Health System, Guaranty Bank and the Salvation Army were vital to the success of this year’s Dress to Impress.