Dressed for Success

By Danielle Pope

Dressed for Success
How a global charity is empowering women to break the cycle of poverty, regain their confidence and achieve economic independence.

You only get one shot at making a good first impression. However, for the many unemployed women around the world who live below the poverty line, making that first impression is a lot harder than it should be.

Statistics show that women are more likely to experience poverty than men. Data collected in 2014 show that 14.7% of all Australian women were classified as living below the poverty line, compared with 13% of men. The figures are higher for subgroups within women, in particular single mothers.

The reasons for these figures include the fact that women tend to have lower wages, are more likely to be in unpaid caring roles and have lower investment incomes in retirement. Consequently, overcoming these entrenched inequalities is often a lot more difficult than just ‘finding a job’.

This is where the charity Dress for Success comes in.

Founded in 1997, the not for profit organisation empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing them with professional attire and support to help them gain employment. In addition to providing women with suitable outfits for interviews, the charity also offers programs and training for women to assist them with their job search.

Since its inception, the charity has expanded to almost 145 cities in 21 countries, and has helped more than 925, 000 women work towards their independence. The overall aim of the charity is to offer a long lasting and sustainable solution to disadvantaged women, providing them with the tools to break the cycle of poverty or even just regain their confidence about entering the workforce.


This was the experience for Karen*, who encountered Dress for Success several years ago. Having had her baby later in life, Karen found herself trying to return to the workforce as a single mum at 50. Having been out of the workforce for several years, Karen found that the environment had changed to the extent that she could no longer return to her previous career in media.

Karen tried several job seeking agencies, but as a single parent with health concerns, she had little success in securing employment. It was by chance that Karen heard about Dress for Success and was attracted by the idea of having something decent to wear for an interview. What she found was so much more than a dress.

“I feel like I’ve opened the door to the [Dr Who] TARDIS,” she laughs. “I thought I was only getting this little thing but ended up with so much more.” Not only was Karen equipped with outfits to wear to job interviews, but she also had help with resume writing, interview skills and coaching. “It was a lot more holistic than I first thought,” she said.

Karen went on to take advantage of a scholarship program through Dress for Success, which saw her undertake a radio production course, leading to several jobs. Karen credits Dress for Success not only with her employment, but her new-found confidence, and sense of belonging. “One of the things I got which I wasn’t expecting, was meeting people in similar circumstances who understand what your problems are.

You can help other women like Karen regain their confidence and economic independence by supporting Dress for Success:

This week is National Recycling Week – why not get your workplace or friends together for a “Shop and Drop” clothes swap party? With all funds going to the charity, it is a fun way to update your wardrobe whilst support this cause (more info here)

You can make a donation and be a Success Sponsor (Sydney donation link here)

The charity is always on the look out for volunteers. Find out more here

*Name has been changed.





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