Page last updated at 15:39 GMT, Tuesday, 6 April 2010 16:39 UK

Charity 'suits and boots' women for job interviews

Katrina Gibbons, founder of Dress for Success Strathclyde
The charity is looking for premises to set-up a "boutique" style shop

A new charity is offering unemployed women in the west of Scotland the chance to make a smart first impression at job interviews.

Dress for Success Strathclyde is affiliated to a US organisation and is the first Scottish scheme of its kind.

Volunteers help women hoping to return to work choose suits, shoes and accessories from a range of donations they have gathered.

Some of the first women to have taken part have already secured jobs.

Dress for Success is an international not-for-profit organisation supported by fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger and make-up guru Bobbi Brown.

It was founded in New York in 1997 and since then has helped more than 500,000 women around the world prepare for returning to work.

The Scottish "franchise" is led by Katrina Gibbons, the chief executive of the Council for Voluntary Service for Hamilton and East Kilbride.

The hope is that they leave us feeling good about themselves and feeling confident
Katrina Gibbons
Dress for Success Strathclyde

She wanted to set up a service designed specifically for women and came across the US Dress for Success website.

She said: "I think society puts a lot of pressure on women to look good and dress well and there is a corporate expectation that women will turn up to an interview smartly dressed.

"But some women have never been in work, or have been out of employment for a long time and don't have a suit, and maybe have other things to spend their money on.

"This is about giving them that helping hand. The hope is that they leave us feeling good about themselves and feeling confident."

The scheme has received funding from the Big Lottery and the Voluntary Action Fund and is supported by South Lanarkshire Council.

Ms Gibbons and the other volunteers have already gathered a large collection of suits, separates, shoes, handbags and other accessories by encouraging companies and corporate women's groups to run Suit Drives.

Make-over success

She said: "We have had some very generous donations of brand new and nearly new suits, designer suits, and much loved suits that have been kept in very good condition."

"Women are very generous because they know they are going to help other women and that it what this all about, women supporting women."

Dress For Success held a pilot day last year where six women were kitted out with interview clothes and given a make-over. Two of them have since secured jobs.

One of the women who took part, Sarah Rooney, 29, from Wishaw, said: "This gives you a really big confidence boost and I think it is going to help me succeed.

Sarah Rooney looking at Dress for Succes clothes
Women will be given help to choose an interview outfit

"I've now got clothes I would never normally pick for myself and ideas for new hairstyles and make-tips."

The charity is now looking for premises in Lanarkshire where it can set-up a "boutique" style shop, office and storage space.

Local employment agencies including Routes to Work and Jobcentre Plus, and charities such as Women's Aid, will refer clients to Dress for Success when they have secured a job interview.

Ms Gibbons added: "It is not just about giving the women a suit, it is a whole package we can offer.

"Women will come along to their appointment and first have a chat over a coffee.

"They will be assigned their own 'personal shopper' and they will get advice, not just about what to wear, but also about interview techniques, and what will happen if they get the job."

If the women are successful in securing employment they will then be given a week's worth of work clothes and be invited back to be involved in an ongoing support programme aimed at helping them remain in the workplace.

The charity hopes to start handling referrals later this month.

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