Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Fashion does the job

The excellent charity Dressed for Success is a dead simple idea. Women have good clothes which for one reason or another they don't wear any more. Other women are trying to get a job but have nothing they can wear for the interview. Put the two together:

The women who walk through the doors of Dressed for Success find themselves there for all sorts of reasons. “I’ve dressed 17-year-old girls straight out of foster-care programmes, as well as a woman who was 65 and had been out of work for 15 years,” says Joanna, a volunteer. Juliet, who has been volunteering since closing her children’s clothing shop on Walton Street, agrees. “Women who have been out of the working loop for a while think everything will have moved on, that it’s going to be terrifying. And don’t I know the feeling?” she says. “They feel like a mummy who has been through the mill, and it’s just too frightening to go back.”

There are those simply looking for their first break, such as Colette, an asylum seeker and single mother in her late twenties from Burundi surviving on £100 a week in benefits, who went to Dress for Success before an interview for a job at the NHS. “I looked a mess. I couldn’t afford to buy clothes. But they gave me a suit and taught me how to wear high heels, and when I went back to the interview, one of the managers didn’t recognise me.” She also got the job.

School leavers and young single mothers need a special kind of encouragement. “Many of them have never worn a suit before,” says Eleanor, another volunteer. “When they see themselves in one, they suddenly go from a schoolgirl to a worker.”

And there's a very nice incentive to donate:

From October 8 to October 22, Harvey Nichols is working with Dress for Success and Style to collect as many clothes for the charity as possible. Bring in your old designer dresses, coats and suits to the Harvey Nichols stores in Dublin, Manchester, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Leeds or Knightsbridge, or the new store in Bristol, and you’ll receive a voucher for 15% off your next purchase*. There are new collections arriving daily and, with your good deed done, you’ll have earned that gorgeous new Lanvin silk trench coat, the Jil Sander coat dress you’ve had your eye on, or those Jonathan Kelsey over-the-knee leather boots you simply must have.

I will definitely be taking them up on this and going through my wardrobe for all those, I'm sure I'll wear this again at some point, items.


phyllis said...

Oh yes, great sharity! Dress For Sucess is well establised here in the States. They'll also take shoes and acessories in addition to clothes, and one of the greatest needs is business wear plus sizes.

Toby Wollin said...

Yay, Phyllis - you got here first. I love these people and have given in the past, thereby filling my own special fashion niche: business wear plus size petites!!

Anonymous said...

As noted, Dress for Success exists in the U.S. I think it was founded in New York and I've seen the women who run it on TV. It's a wonderful idea.

Unfortunately, I usually wear my regular size petites to threads and the old reliable, relatively reasonably priced bridge lines like Tahari and Anne Klein II don't seem to produce the same quality and/or variety in petites anymore.

There was a 10-year-period when being a petite woman who needed business clothes wasn't a total nightmare.

Anonymous said...

But I have to say, looking for a job in the current U.S. economy is no picnic.

Deja Pseu said...

Yes, this is a fabulous program! I donated some suits to them a few years ago. I think there are a couple of suits languishing in my closet that could be helping another woman. Thanks for the reminder!

Gi said...

I honestly feel a lot more powerful when I go into a meeting in a suit and heels vs. jeans and casual flats (both acceptable in my work). Given my child-like features, my clients are more inclined to trust me when i look the role i'm in.

And hey, looks like we have a non-judgemental place to place our vote on the american election! Go to Economist's website, they just launched a Global Electoral College~

Cal said...

I've been to their offices here in London (donated the smarter clothes that were left over from a clotheswap I hosted) and was stunned by how absolutely smart the whole set up is.

I was sort of expecting, if not a jumble sale approach, something perhaps a bit more like a charity shop. But here the clothes were hung beautifully on rails, shoes underneath, belts and accessories displayed well. It was almost like going into a posh shop (albeit one with no money spent on interior decor).

The volunteers were also all dressed beautifully and I could see that for a woman coming here for clothes it really would be a beautiful experience and one that would help with self-confidence, self-esteem etc rather than feeling they were getting someones leftovers and dressing on charity.

Wonderful place.