International Women’s Day is upon us and I was debating what to write to celebrate this important day to me and many of my fellow bloggers. Whilst browsing Twitter the other evening I came across ReeReeRockette. I was drawn to her profile by her beautiful hair but when I read her pinned tweet I was stopped in my tracks. ReeRee volunteers for a charity called Dress for Success.
Dress for Success is a charity which assists women back into the work place. Women are referred by several resources, maybe the jobcentre or a charity. Dress for Success then style the guest to be interview ready.
They supply them with one full outfit, this may be a dress, top and bottoms, shoes, jacket, coat and bag. Once the styling is completed Guests are offered the chance to complete practice interviews with Dress for Success volunteers. ReeRee told me this can be quite bespoke to suit the individual guest. Some prefer a more formal mock interview whilst others opt for more casual confidence building coaching.
“Dress for Success is an international not-for-profit organization that empowers 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.”
First Impressions Count
I was struck by ReeRee’s pinned tweet so much I reached out to her to find out more about her work with Dress for Success and the charity itself. It had never even occurred to me before what a basic hurdle this must be for those searching for employment. Whether we like it or not, first impressions in an interview are often made on that initial visual appraisal.
You can be the most enthusiastic able candidate but if you don’t look the part then this can put employers off straight away. However, if you’re out of work how do you afford the clothes to jump this first hurdle? Even once employment is secured there is often a 28 day wait for that all important first wage.
Dress for Success can help here too. Every guest who returns to them successful with a secured job will be offered a work wardrobe of up to 5 outfits to start their new job in. As I sat thinking about this most basic of Chicken or Egg scenarios I wondered why I hadn’t thought about it before. I conduct interviews and hire in my day job. How many times have I made a judgement on someone’s appearance without even considering their circumstances.
ReeRee’s journey to Dress for Success
ReeRee began volunteering for Dress for Success in 2017, she was looking for something which didn’t require a fixed schedule as she runs a salon and her own blog (multitasking Queen!). She was accepted as a boutique volunteer as part of the London Branch of Dress for Success. The charity is a worldwide organisation operating in 150 cities in 30 countries. The mission statement for Dress for Success fills me with joy.
“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.
Our vision is a world where women do not live in poverty; are treated with dignity and respect; and are strengthening their families and shaping their communities.”
It’s About More Than Just Clothes
I asked ReeRee what impact she feels Dress for Success has on the women it helps aside from the practical help offered, she told me;
“A large part of the boutique visit is confidence building. The volunteers are there to give the guests an extra injection of self-esteem, cheerleading and believing in their ability to succeed. It’s about feeling special, important, and worth something. Not every guest needs this, but generally it’s a common experience. Many of the guests have been out of work for a long time or have never been employed.”
I can imagine this kind of coaching and self-esteem building is as invaluable as the outfits Dress for Success donate to their guests.
Starting a New Chapter
I asked ReeRee about the guests she sees at the London Boutique she explained,
“All guests are referred from an approved organisation. This may be a charity, or a support worker, or job centre. They are women who need support in some way, so they may suffer from poverty, or a lack of access generally. What’s great is that as a volunteer I get to meet them at an exciting turning point, they’ve secured a job interview or have got a new job. Employment can be life changing.
I think there can be a real catch 22 when you’re struggling, keen to work, but don’t own the ‘right’ clothing to make a good impression, despite potentially being perfect for the job. It’s in essence a simple fix isn’t it? Just providing an extra stepping stone to women who are doing everything in their own power to start a new chapter.”
How To Help
ReeRee’s enthusiasm for Dress for Success is contagious. I want to help straight away. What can I do?
“Dress for Success rely on good quality work appropriate clothing and accessories. Some of their donations are brand new, while some are lightly used. They need everything to look amazing, from smart bags to coats. These can be dropped off at their Brick Lane office, posted/couriered.
Although we steam clothing, we don’t repair or clean, so please don’t send anything that isn’t in really great condition. Currently they’re in most need of plus size clothing. Which is why I was recently so excited to arrange a donation from Scarlett & Jo. They sent me some sample dresses last week after I reached out on twitter.
Obviously, they’d also love people to volunteer their time as well, or donations of cash are welcome too! If you work for a company that a clothing drive could be a success at, that’s a great idea too. Or if you work for a London organisation that supports women who could be referred, do make sure you apply as a referrer. I’ve sent a guest out in a Prada dress, which felt pretty incredible.”
I’m inspired by ReeRee Rockette. I know my own wardrobe explodes every time I touch it, I’m very lucky to be in a position where I have many more clothes than I need or could feasibly wear. It’s a joke among my colleagues. So, I will be going through my wardrobe to find those “oh is the label still on that?” items and the “I’ve only worn this once, it’s a shame” dresses to donate.
If you can help either visit Dress for Success at one of their Boutiques or check their website. Also check out ReeRee Rockette’s awesome blog! What better time than International Women’s Day to help women to empower themselves through employment!