by Kaia Purcell

While we all seem to be trying our best to navigate through the adversities and challenges we face in today’s climate, the truth is that every one of us needs a helping hand at times. For those facing unemployment and job losses in a time of global upheaval and a turbulent climate emergency, it can be impossible to imagine where to turn to in search of guidance. Cue Carmel O’Keeffe, CEO of Dress For Success Cork, whose not-for-profit organisation is helping women to re-enter the workforce by facilitating training and emotional support through various activities such as style makeovers and providing women with workwear for their job interviews.

Dress For Success Cork was born out of necessity during the financial crisis back in 2013 when over 19,000 women were unemployed in Cork county alone. CEO Carmel noted that “the need was obvious but it was difficult to know where to start”. Since opening their doors Dress For Success Cork has worked with almost 1,000 women, offering them the necessary information, tools and skills to “succeed in life and in work”. Their services include confidence-building coaching sessions, interview training, and personal presentation skills. Clients receive a make-over from professional stylists at their premises on 123 Patrick Street. A holistic approach aims to empower and encourage women from every background that have found themselves facing unemployment and financial instability. As outlined by the organisation, one of the most common effects of unemployment is a loss of self-esteem which can, in turn, lead to mental health issues and a lack of motivation to persevere in their quest to re-enter the workforce. Such impediments can lead to a vicious cycle of loss of assets, debt, even leading to homelessness. Dress For Success Cork works to arm the women of the county with an armoury of resources and support to overcome these challenges. 

Whoever said that the right outfit can’t help you accomplish your goals? Carmel and her team firmly believe that boosting women’s confidence by giving them a style transformation can act as a fantastic focal point in their emotional, physical and educational journey to a better life. The makeover portion of the experience includes dressing tips for interviews and workplace-appropriate attire, but the organisation also highlights the fact that they are “about much more than simply a new outfit”. The aim is to imbue the client with newfound confidence and style, and provide them with a valuable reintroduction to the world of work. 

suitThe admirable work of the volunteers and the goals which they strive to achieve for each woman that walks through their doors is needed now more than ever. The world in which we find ourselves is one full of uncertainty for so many. In order to face these difficult times in our country, we must all strive to foster a sense of unity and goodwill in our communities. The amazing work done by voluntary organisations like Dress For Success Cork is helping women in disadvantaged situations to improve their employability by giving them valuable skills and training. They are a testament to the important role that fashion and style can play in boosting a person’s self-esteem, which in turn strengthens confidence in their own abilities. It can be all too easy to slip into a cycle of despair. However, it is the little things that add up in bringing huge change to someone’s life. Thanks to Carmel and her team helping women to dress for success we can see how hundreds of women have benefited from a helping hand and an outfit to shine in.

If you wish to support this great cause you can donate here