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New wardrobes open doors to finding a home and job

Philippa Wells heads Dress for Success Wellington which provides professional clothes to help women thrive, especially in the workplace

It’s the magical way lives are changed by a new wardrobe that excites Dress for Success Wellington’s Executive Manager, Philippa Wells.

The charity is part of a national and global movement that aims to change and empower the lives of women by providing for free professional clothes to help them thrive, especially in the workplace but increasingly for house viewings in the rental market.

Since the Covid-19 lockdown, the demand for garments has increased due to the number of new clients seeking their help.

Clients from every walk of life

Philippa says they see women from every walk of life and from every ethnicity you can think of.

Some are looking for clothes and shoes appropriate for job interviews, while others need a basic wardrobe to meet the dress code at their new jobs.

Increasingly, the organisation also provides women with suitable clothes to wear when they are attending house viewings in the rental market.

If we can help increase their chances of finding a home then they are more likely to take the next step [towards employment], ”says Philippa.


Other situations include appropriate clothes to wear under graduation gowns, to Court appearances (for both victims and offenders), for parents of those graduating and also those who are, or have recently been, homeless.

All about thriving

“These women need their self-esteem lifted or taken forward to thrive in work or in life.”

Philippa says most clothes are donated by good-hearted people.  Some fashion stores also donate end-of-line garments or even a percentage of their stock.

This  means the racks of clothes the Dress for Success Wellington volunteer stylists offer clients are a mix of “gently-loved” and brand new. Hosiery company, Columbine, has recently donated tights.

While most stock will be worn in the workplace, there is always a need for semi-casual and everyday garments


“We also have to remember the wide range of workplaces require a wide dress code, not just office wear,” Philippa says.

Increasingly, volunteers provide support beyond the successful job interview, mentoring clients as they settle into new routines.

Philippa says the organisation has many success stories.

One young woman brought up in a challenging home environment completed a university degree. Dress for Success Wellington styled her for interviews and she gained a good job. Her success inspired her mother to study and then find work.

Another client was a homeless woman who was battling drug addiction.

Thrilled to have her first handbag

She had only jeans and a hoodie to wear to rental home viewings so Dress for Success Wellington provided her a more feminine outfit and she was thrilled to have a handbag for the very first time.

Philippa says the woman walked out feeling like a million dollars and secured a rental home. Now drug free she is moving ahead and looking for work.

Many homeless people face difficulties in obtaining Government benefits because banks and the welfare system usually require them to have a residential address before they can apply.

Another success story is a young mum who was a full-time homemaker to her children.

After finding paid work she came to Dress for Success Wellington for clothes to meet the workplace dress code and also for shoes as there were holes in her only pair.

Philippa says they found her suitable work clothes and shoes plus a dress for encouragement and her face lit up like a Christmas tree.

Two new sites

In 2019, Dress for Success Wellington moved from Boulcott Street to larger premises in Waterside House at 220 Willis Street (between Vivian and Ghuznee Streets). They have recently opened satellite hubs in the Wairarapa (21 Worksop Road, Masterton) and Lower Hutt (330 High Street near Queens Drive).

At all three sites donations of mostly workplace-suitable garments and shoes are sought.

Currently, they are also short of clothing for people about to start work in factories.

Another need is clothes for those working in cafés and restaurants. Black jeans and tidy, good condition sneakers are often required.

They also need long flowing skirts that can be used for work in the office and outside the office.  Another need is size 26+ clothing.

How you can help

Dress for Success Wellington always needs volunteers to sort clothes, look after reception, provide styling sessions to clients, undertake social media marketing and providing pre- and post-employment support.

Since the Covid-19 lockdown Dress for Success Wellington has produced short videos aimed at helping people thrive.  These videos include both pre- and post-employment, makeup and coping skills.

As they are online they can be watched when convenient by the clients to work around their busy schedules or low moods.  They are all free to access.

Dress for Success Wellington is also looking for skilled people willing to present helpful topics as short films, such as what to expect at work, interpersonal skills and customer relations.

Dress for Success Wellington provides speakers to schools, agencies, and other groups, about workplace dress requirements and how to create that winning impression.

And one special way people can support the organisation is to make regular donations as, like most charities, there are still regular costs, such as rent and salaries.

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For more information:

Dress for Success website


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