3 February 2013

Gillian Merron (Marketing, 1981, Furness) was a British Labour Party politician, who was also the Member of Parliament for Lincoln from 1997 to 2010. From 2009 to 2010 she was Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health at the Department of Health. Since then she has found an exciting way to make a difference as a volunteer dresser for the charity 'Dress for Success'.

Chancing upon Dress for Success when flicking through a magazine, I become more and more gripped by the chance to do practical voluntary work driven by my belief that wearing the right clothes and knowing how to handle ourselves gives a real boost of confidence and maximizes our chance to achieve 

I see it quite simply - Dress for Success brings disadvantaged women further up the employment queue when circumstances have put them at the back

How does it work?

Women are referred by organisations including job training agencies, homeless shelters and immigration services and are welcomed to our premises. We have a chat - I don’t need to know a woman’s history or circumstances - just something about the job and what she likes to wear.

Delving into the Aladdin’s cave of interview-quality clothes and accessories - all donated by shops and individuals - I pull out a range of options to try out, until we get it just right - everyone is an individual, coming in all shapes and sizes, feeling and looking different. Whilst a suit will work for one interview, smart knitwear and trousers can work for another - a would-be nursery nurse needs to look like she can be hands-on with young children whilst a would-be receptionist needs to look like the professional face of the company. We dress more than 1,000 women a year - last week, I worked with 8 in just one day.

A visit to 'Dress for Success', London can change the course of a woman’s life - one 55 year old wrote ‘it was the nicest thing that has happened to me for many years’. A 17 year old rang to say that she’d got the night shift job at the Primark warehouse and we’d made ‘all the difference’. And a charity emailed to say of their client that ‘she came in yesterday and looked more enthusiastic and happier than we have ever seen her. Your service is exceptional!’

And it doesn’t end there - having got the right outfit, a client gets interview training and she can return for more clothes to see her through to pay day. And for those who don’t get the job, there’s help with CVs, support meetings and job searches. 

Looking fantastic and confidence restored, a Dress for Success client has a far better chance of success than when she walked in the door - it doesn’t get much better than that!