Above: (L-R) Florence, Indah, Annie, Belinda and Nylbeny were all dressed by Dress for Success to help them find employment.
Belinda was a mum, with a bipolar diagnosis, who wanted to return to the workforce but lacked confidence.
Pauline, an ex-teacher who used to ‘dress quite scruffy’, had been through changes in life transition and needed a new job—yet had no idea where to start or what to wear.
Indah, a mother of three, was homeless and unemployed after her marriage broke down. She felt helpless to get back on her feet.
These real-life stories are the kinds of scenarios faced by thousands of Australian women, when life’s challenges leave them seeking new employment. But it’s thanks to Dress for Success that many are gaining the courage to find employment, and step into new beginnings.
Helping Women Rediscover their Confidence
Dress for Success is a worldwide charity with its Sydney branch based in Marrickville, that gives free professional clothing, career advice and a support network to women needing help with employment.
Events director Robyn de Szoeke chatted to Hope breakfast about the organisation, which has now helped a million women around the world. She said clients come from a wide range of situations.
“Women come to us in difficult circumstances,” she said. “They find themselves financially insecure, and it’s a struggle for them to get back into work because of their background. Most of them have experienced some degree of poverty, they’ve been through hardship, abuse, or had a negative life circumstance, they’ve been discriminated against, and that renders them uncertain and in doubt about their capabilities.”
Clients include women who have served time in prison, women who are homeless and living in refuges, and even those who’ve already been very successful in their careers, but have been sidelined by an illness, disability or a tragedy.
And it’s amazing the difference a good outfit, and encouragement from other women, can make.
For one young woman named Bella, it was the kindness of the Dress for Success team, and a stylish Country Road label suit, that helped her forget her circumstances and walk into her job interview with confidence. Another lady called Lauretta was offered a job after her first interview, feeling confident in clothes that she felt “brought out her personality”.
“We dress and style [women], so they can go to interviews and not feel any discrimination,” Robyn explained. “We offer them workshops, coaching, mentoring, and a community that will support them and give them hope.”
A Call for Volunteers, Quality Clothing, and One-Hour Donations
This year Dress for Success hopes to support more than 2,500 women in NSW and they need donations of time, money and clothing to achieve their goal. Their ‘Empower Hour’ initiative calls on Australians to donate one hour’s worth of their salary.
And they’re always keen for donations of professional clothing, jewellery, handbags, and even unopened toiletries and makeup, to their Marrickville showroom. Clothing must be freshly dry cleaned or washed and ironed, no more than five years old, and suitable for job interviews.
Volunteers are always needed to help with events, sorting and packing of clothes, and styling and supporting women who are re-entering the workforce.
Three Happy Endings
Oh—and those three lovely women at the start of our story? They’re all back on track, thanks to Dress for Success. Belinda was inspired in a DFS workshop to start volunteering in community services, which landed her a job she loves. “I have been able to spread my wings, to grow and learn to be the best me possible,” she said.
“My interview outfit I was styled in led me to believe, ‘yes’ I can do this…and I got the job.” ~ Pauline
For Indah, a series of DFS sessions on styling, career development and money management, gave her the confidence to find work in the caring industry and support her family. Now she’s graduated from nursing at university.
And as for Pauline, the former jeans-wearing teacher, it was the styling advice and encouragement of her ‘sisters’ at DFS that helped her land a great job: “My interview outfit I was styled in led me to believe, ‘yes’ I can do this…and I got the job,” she said. “It’s literally like coming in an ugly duckling and leaving a swan.”