Karen Etches (left) and Tracy Lubick (left) work for the Wear2Start Society which empowers women by helping them find professional outfits and accessories, and getting them haircuts and makeovers. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Victoria society helps women dress for success

The Wear 2 Start Society allows women to ‘shop’ for professional clothing

The racks are lined wall-to-wall with chic blouses, dress pants, blazers and jewelry – and the women browsing through this boutique don’t need to pay a thing.

The Wear 2 Start society is a local non-profit organization that helps those who identify as women prepare for their next step in life, whether it’s an interview for a new job, a promotion, or a networking opportunity when they can’t afford professional-looking clothes.

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A referral from programs such as Bridges for women, GT Hiring, In Focus, and other employment agencies will pay a $40 fee to set up an appointment for a woman at Wear 2 Start. This will get each person a private appointment at the boutique with a personalized outfit volunteer who will find out what kind of clothing they need and like. After a 90-minute appointment, each woman walks away with several mix-and-match outfits, undergarments, a handbag, shoes, a scarf, a coat, and a toiletry bag full of makeup and hygiene products. Sometimes the agency also organizes a free haircut and makeup lesson.

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“We look at it as a very transformative experience for women,” said Tracy Lubick, program manager, who said most of the time when women come in they aren’t feeling too confident. “Talking to our boutique operators, they say it’s like they’ve grown half a foot in the time they’ve been here. By the time they leave they’re transformed and feel much more confident.”

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The organization began in 2001 after the founder, Kathleen McMullin, had left an abusive relationship and found that she had no appropriate clothing for a job interview. McMullin had to ask her daughter’s friend’s mother to borrow some shoes, and from this humbling experience realized how important it is to make sure women have access to these kinds of resources.

Seventeen years later, thousands of women have been helped; the boutique usually hosts 12 appointments per week.

“Some of them have never been shopping before, or had the opportunity to shop with a girlfriend,” said Karen Etsch, board of directors member. “It’s so amazing to see them leave and feel treasured and special.”

While the society has a large collection of clothing donations from the community, it does not receive any government funding. So, this November the Wear 2 Start society is running their “Gift of Possibilities” campaign, asking the community for donations to cover the $40 consultation fees. This year they are hoping to raise $1,000.

For more information, or to make a donation, head to wear2start.com/give-a-gift-of-possibilities.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


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