Toni has an extra sparkle in her eye and spring in her step.
The Victoria resident, who did not want to publish her last name, recently graduated from the Bridges for Women program and is now on to the next step in her life — finding a job.
When searching for a job, one of the biggest hurdles is being able to present yourself well during an interview.
Enter Wear2Start Society.
The local non-profit organization on Johnson Street assists women in need by providing them with a wardrobe to help make their best impression in a job interview or in the workplace.
The organization was founded in 2001 by four local women and has since helped hundreds of women in the Capital Regional District, who have completed job training programs through local agencies.
In the roughly two-hour session, women receive a personal shopping experience with boutique volunteers who talk to clients to find out what type of clothes they feel comfortable in, what colours they like and find the perfect outfit.
They also coordinate necessary services such as hair cuts, make-up consultations, dry cleaning and alterations.
“We want to boost their confidence to show them what they can wear, what looks good on them and you can actually see them standing taller when they leave the boutique,” said Jo-Anne Montgomery, president of the society. “They’ll go into an interview with a nice bag, a nice coat just to make them feel on par with other people in the workplace.”
Toni first heard about Wear2Start through Bridges for Women, a community agency offering employment training and supportive programs for women impacted by violence or abuse. She had her first session at the boutique recently.
“I walked in not knowing what to expect, but they were able to style me and make me feel more confident for re-entering the workforce and going to those first interviews,” said Toni, adding she picked out a work-appropriate skirt, dress, tops, and blue dress pants.
“Before I was really unsure. With all of the encouragement and really narrowing down what fit well, by the end, we knew it was the perfect outfit because I was just glowing. I felt really confident and had that sparkle back in my eye.”
The boutique, open from Tuesday to Thursday, relies on fundraising and donations of gently used clothing, shoes and accessories suitable for the workplace from the community. Most recently, they raised close to $5,000 that will go towards dressing some of the clients and purchasing clothing.
For information on how to donate clothing visit wear2start.com.