Last week I did my first day with Dress for Success, which is a global charity that works to empower women into becoming financially independent. Basically, it means they help assist women get back into work. They do this largely by providing interview clothes for women who have secured a job interview, but may not have access to appropriate workwear. They also provide interview practice.
The women that visit the boutiques are referred from a variety of agencies, from job centres to other charities to social services etc. They are often women who have been out of work for a long time, or even never been in work. Getting a job can be life changing, and while clothes may seem shallow, can you imagine the impact on your confidence if you had an interview, but no appropriate clothes? Interviews are all about judgements, and turning up in the 'wrong' clothing can really ruin your chances of getting hired.
My job as a volunteer is to act as stylist and confidence booster. The guests can be nervous, both about their upcoming interview, and the actual vist to the boutique. The stock isn't on view, so the 'stylist' element comes into play when you pull items for them to try on; the guests don't get access to the full stock room. If you've seen Say Yes To The Dress on TV, it's a little like that. A few items get pulled/selected for you, and you work from there.
It was a busy first day, as we had 5 appointments to oversee. I loved it. I loved selecting an outfit for a woman that would make her feel awesome. I loved being allowed to be part of the guests' journeys; this could well be the start of a brilliant new chapter for them. There were tears and hugs, and even a Prada dress.
If they're headed off to an interview, we kitted them out in a complete outfit where possible. This means an outfit, shoes, a bag and a coat. We even had brand new Louboutin perfume to gift too. Oh and jewellery. If they've got the job (apparently 50% do!) they can return and get kitted out in a week's worth of work clothing.
Clothing matters. Confidence matters. Being employed matters.
So what next? Dress for Success need donations. The items need to be new or really great quality second hand. Interview ready clothing. At the moment, the London branch is particularly short on interview bags, and all plus size clothing. When we had plus sized guests, we struggled to offer things over size 22, and we really need donations in these sizes.
You can find out more about how to donate here.
I can't wait to do my next shift!