How This Not-for-Profit is Helping Vulnerable Women Return to Work


Dress for Success is a lifeline for many.

Woman choosing shirt in her room

Re-entering the workforce after a stretch of unemployment is hard enough. It’s harder still if you’re a woman from a socio-economically disadvantaged background. Dress for Success is a not-for-profit organisation whose mission is to empower and support women in attaining financial independence and self-sufficiency through work.

Dress for Success does this by providing professional attire for interviews or employment, as well as for court or special events. This includes everything from a full suit, shoes and handbag, to jewellery, beauty products and new underwear.

It also provides resume writing and interview preparation services, coaching sessions, and peer mentoring. Taken together, this gives women a secure network of support during a challenging process. A process which sees many vulnerable women fall through the cracks.

It’s for all women

Dress for Success Sydney CEO Ursula McGeown stresses that Dress for Success does not discriminate. “We help any woman to build her confidence and skills so that she can feel empowered to get a job, keep a job and change her and [her] family’s life,” says Ursula.

Women of all ages and backgrounds are referred to Dress for Success, meaning there is no typical client.

Ursula explains: “Our client may be a Year 10 student from a low socio-economic background from a family of inter-generational unemployment; she may be a newly arrived migrant whose qualifications are not recognised in Australia; a recently divorced financially unstable woman; she may have left prison and needs to start afresh; she may have a disability and [is] struggling to secure employment; [or] she may be living in a refuge having fled an abusive partner.”

Even you

McGeown remembers one woman whose story resonated with her. It was a woman whose life had taken a nosedive after the death of her young son. Unable to work in the face of such a loss, she’d left her job. Then, her marriage ended. Years passed by under the haze of grief, and she lost a lot of time. She came to Dress for Success to rebuild her life. It helped her regain her confidence, bolstered her resilience, and got her back into the workforce. “Her story stuck with me because she was just like me. It made me realise that at any moment, my life could change and I one day might need the support of an organisation like Dress for Success.”

A helping hand

Since opening in Australia more than eight years ago, more than 22,000 women have benefited from Dress for Success employment services. In 2017, more than 2,800 women were provided services by Dress for Success affiliates in Adelaide, Brisbane, Mornington Peninsula, Perth, Sydney and Hobart. Fifty-eight per cent of these women secured paid employment, permitting them to commence and achieve their goals of economic independence and self-sufficiency.

Dress for Success is dedicated to women’s empowerment. It’s a dedication that big companies have noticed. L’Occitane, who is in partnership with Dress for Success, has pledged to donate $5 from every purchase of Terre de Lumiere Eau de Parfum directly to the organisation. These donations will help pay for skills training workshops, peer support, mentoring and coaching, and on-site and mobile dressing services.

If you wish to take part, you can celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8) by participating in Empower Hour. Australians work about 2000 hours every year, and Empower Hour asks you to donate just one of those hours to Dress for Success. In doing so, you can help women all around Australia realise their dreams of financial independence.

And remember, you can always donate your gently used clothes to your local Dress for Success affiliate.


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