Dress for Success: so much more than just an outfit

As a TotallyMoney newbie, I was excited to hear that I could take two working days a year to volunteer. With so many great charities based around London, picking just one to go to for the day was hard. But through Benefacto, I found Dress for Success.

Based in Bethnal Green, East London, this little shop is hidden underneath a block of flats in a residential area. Its modest size and location don’t reveal the real impact the charity has.

It offers women who’ve been out of the workplace to pick an outfit for an interview, receive CV advice and interviewing skills. Plus, if a woman has secured employment, she can return to Dress for Success and select a few outfits for her new job. All clients are referred to the charity through organisations such as the Department for Work and Pensions, local authorities, educational institutions, and social housing.

Upon our arrival, Angelica and I were greeted by Caroline, the administrator and boutique manager, and Patricia, a regular volunteer. The ‘shop’ comprises an office, interview room, kitchenette, stockroom and of course, the shop floor.

Our day was a little different to a regular one at the charity as we had a group booking. Based on some information sent beforehand, we got out a selection of outfits and shoes, ready for the ladies’ arrival.

Every appointment is different, as every woman is unique. On our day, the women were excited to be trying on outfits and finding stuff that made them feel confident. That’s one of the most important things — that the women feel confident and empowered in what they’re wearing to succeed in an interview or their new working environment.

As it was a group booking, there was so much positive feedback and support for each other bouncing around the room. Suggestions about what to wear and which outfits looked best came from both volunteers and the clients themselves.

After two and a half hours, plenty of dresses, and lots of running back and forth to the stockroom, the women had their outfits. Before leaving, some of the women expressed how grateful they were and appreciative of our help in finding something right for them.

Although there weren’t any clients after lunch, the work continued. With new boxes of donations arriving regularly, we sorted the clothes into what was suitable, steamed them, and got them ready for women to try.

It was a truly positive and rewarding day. For both of us, it was so wonderful to have our clients leave feeling more confident than when they walked in. A fantastic charity to support women.