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Shopping to make a difference

A dress from the Dear Gladys collection.

Finding work can be a struggle for even the most well-to-do of Australians so imagine what it can be like for single-mothers, refugee women, female victims of domestic-abuse and thousands of other disadvantaged and long-term unemployed Australian women. For these women, finding work can be an on-going and ever-disappointing exercise that sadly, often leads to a dead end. Special vintage and contemporary online boutique store, DearGladys.com.au, is the first not-for-profit online retail store in Australia, providing funding for a unique social enterprise that is empowering thousands of women by helping to boost their confidence and subsequently, gain employment.

ALL SALES from DearGladys.com.au (and the Dear Gladys boutique in Northcote, Melbourne) go towards the efforts of Fitted for Work, which is also a not-for-profit organisation that operates in Melbourne, Sydney and country Victoria.

Since 2005, Fitted for Work has transformed the lives of 6,500 women across Australia by helping them obtain and maintain employment. The organisation provides free interview-appropriate clothing through personal dressing services as well as mentoring and transition to work programs.

Compared to other OECD countries, Australia has one of the lowest participation rates of single mothers in the workforce, which means Aussie children are more susceptible to growing up in poverty. This is why DearGladys the boutique, and now DearGladys.com.au, raises vital funds to help Australian women experiencing disadvantage get back into the workforce.

As a result of the valuable work undertaken by Fitted for Work staff and volunteers, Australian women have the opportunity to gain the self-esteem and confidence to achieve sustainable employment. A recent survey commissioned by the organisation found that 75% of the women dressed by Fitted for Work were employed within three months of their visit.

Fitted for Work CEO Jane Hunt said the goals of Fitted for Work clients are much the same as those of the organisation itself.

“In the same way that we want sustainable employment for the women that we work with, we also want it for ourselves,” said Mrs Hunt.

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“Our goal is to continue to support the disadvantaged women of Australia and expand our services as much as possible. The success of DearGladys.com.au will help determine the future of our organisation.”

Fitted for Work provides a variety of services tailored to the changing individual needs of the women who seek their help. In some cases, the simple outfit provided for their interview is all the inspiration they need to gain the confidence they need to land the job.

The core fitting service includes a free out-fitting service, styling advice and interview preparation while the Transition to Work Program offers six month pre-employment training, work experience and mentoring service.

A range of skill-based workshops are also available designed to build self confidence and enhance the personal strengths of women seeking assistance. These workshops cover coping with stress and anger, time and money management, goal setting, personal styling and awareness and much more.

“At the end of the Fitted for Work process, staff and volunteers are privileged to witness genuine transformations in the lives of women who so desperately want to stand on their own two feet and build a career,” said Mrs Hunt.

“When you’ve been doing it tough for years, it’s the material things such as interview attire that you’re least likely to have at hand. Through Fitted for Work, well-dressed women can help to dress women and really make those first impressions count.”

In September 2011 Fitted for Work won the Ernst & Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year award in the southern region of Australia and more recently, CEO Jane Hunt, was awarded the Nokia Business Innovation Award for Victoria 2011.

In addition to quality vintage and contemporary clothing, DearGladys.com.au stocks everything from swimwear to shoes and accessories, homewares and more, It’s a new site for such an important cause and presents a perfect opportunity for those wishing to make a difference to the lives of disadvantaged women in Australia.