A Waikato not-for-profit organisation is helping women into employment, one outfit at a time.
Dress for Success Hamilton provides services and programmes to enable vulnerable women to get back into the workforce.
It also includes a dressing programme to prepare women for job interviews and work.
Clients are referred by agencies involved in helping people return to work after having a family, being made redundant, retraining or being out of work for a long period. Women can also make self-referrals.
The boutique on Alexandra St, Hamilton, provides free interview clothing for women who have been out of the workforce and follows up with one week's worth of outfits when a client wins a job.
Te Awamutu's Sharon Lourie is the charity's new executive manager.
Sharon has worked for eight years in pastoral care roles for women and their families in both the Fiji Islands and New Zealand. Her most recent job was working for seven years in MP Barbara Kuriger's out-of-Parliament office.
Sharon says her new role is a "dream job".
"It is the perfect opportunity for me to encourage and inspire women using the skills and experiences I have gathered in a variety of community-oriented roles.
"Throughout my life I have gained a deep appreciation of the confidence boost that growing skills can give women to thrive in work and life. This includes the transformational power of a great outfit.
"Dress for Success literally embraces women, restores their confidence and gives threads of hope for a better future. When women are empowered, their families are too and with that their wider community."
Dress for Success Hamilton has more than 20 volunteers who give their time to the employment dressing programme as well as unpacking, sorting, washing, mending and ironing clothes.
Each client is helped by a personal dresser who finds the perfect outfit for the client, including a handbag, camisoles, underwear, makeup and jewellery.
Volunteer Mary Silverton says staff have the rewarding job of seeing clients transform before their eyes.
Mary says there are many benefits to dressing well, especially for a job interview.
"A fabulous outfit makes a good first impression and boosts women's confidence levels."
Volunteer Judy Pope says the Hamilton boutique prides itself on having an inviting, non-judgmental atmosphere.
"We don't ask where women are from — we only ask about where they're going," she says.
Wintec student Xi Xu was having a dressing session at the boutique when the Waipā Post visited last week.
Xi, who moved from New Zealand to China this year, says the experience gave her confidence in her body shape.
"I usually wear baggy hoodies, jeans and sneakers because they hide my figure," she says.
"But today I was encouraged to try something new — a dress and heels.
"It was out of my comfort zone, but in the end I really loved it. The volunteers were so uplifting and encouraging — they made me feel like a princess."
Although the women leave with new clothes, the outfit is only the beginning.
Sharon says the women are supported, encouraged and uplifted by the volunteers.
The Hamilton branch started in 2002 and has since dressed more than 3000 women.
Sharon wants to extend the invite to women and agencies in Te Awamutu and Cambridge.
The service is entirely free and relies on the generosity of funding grants and clothing donations from individuals or businesses.
Dress for Success is holding a clothing sale this week at ibis Hamilton Tainui, 18 Alma St, Hamilton. The regular clothing sales are one of the main fundraisers for the year.
"Come and pick up some great deals for your wardrobe and meet our team of volunteers," Sharon says.
The sale is on this Thursday 10am-6pm, Friday 10-6pm and Saturday 9am-2pm.
If you have clothes to donate to Dress for Success, they can be dropped off at 113 Alexandra St, Hamilton, 9am-2pm Monday to Friday, or at any Caroline Eve store in the Waikato.
For more information contact 07 839 1147 or email@example.com