The past year has involved me throwing myself into some regular volunteering work, trying to find my best fit. I’ve worked with a children’s literacy charity, a homeless charity, and I’ve fostered a cat for the RSPCA. However, I think I’ve finally found my fit. Dress for Success feels like the cinderella’s slipper I’d been looking for.
Dress for Success has the following mission, “The mission of Dress for Success is to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.”
I completed their application form, and once accepted, I signed up for a shift as a boutique stylist, where I’d be dressing women in preparation for a job interview. Sounds exciting right?
A few days later, I arrived, ready to be shown the ropes. I was immediately impressed by the boutique set up, it reminded me of a bridal shop layout, where you don’t really get to access all of the stock, but there is lots of comfy seating, mirrors and changing rooms. I was shown a run down for the day, with each guest having a form with their approximate size, along with the details of the interview/event that they were preparing for. Some were applying for their first job, some had been out of the work force for a long time. We had 5 appointments booked in, and despite being a bit nervous, the other volunteer working with me was really experienced and instantly put me at ease.
A typical appointment involves selecting a complete outfit for the guest, which may include trousers and a top, or a dress, with a jumper and/or jacket. Then maybe a coat, shoes and bags. All of these items have been donated, and are new, or barely worn office-appropriate clothing. I even styled a lady in an amazing Prada dress, which was pretty exciting! I may have been more thrilled than her! The guests are also offered interview practice, and they leave with their bags full of confidence-boosting clothing. All guests are referred by an appropriate organisation or charity.
How could I not love it? It felt like such a concrete way to support women in what could be a life changing chapter. They’ve secured an interview, and even if you don’t believe that clothing should matter, it just does. Feeling confident, and appropriate is so critical for both getting into the right mind set, as well as impacting how you’re perceived by others. I got to go shopping, make people feel great, and help in a tiny way in their journey to being independent and employed.
The whole operation is so dependent on donations, and these come from companies as well as individuals, so the offering can be very varied depending on stock. What the London branch is currently really struggling with is all clothing items in sizes over 20, and having to just offer the single items we had to guests, I wanted to focus on changing that. I got onto Twitter, and starting asking for plus size donations. I managed to get a lot of interest from individuals but more exciting, a plus size brand were really keen to get some stock sent to the boutique, which I’ve since proudly hung on the rails. How amazing is that?!
I’m eager to keep returning to the boutique, and keen to continue to help raise awareness for the need for high-quality donations. Sometimes, all someone needs is a little push and support to reach their potential, and sometimes something as seemingly simple as clothes really do make the difference. Have you heard of Dress for Success before? Why not check out their website, or follow them on social media.
Instagram – @dfs_greaterlondon