The Unexpected Link Between Fashion And Finance

Getting ready for a job interview can be a daunting prospect.

You’ve got to prepare by finding out a little about the company and the role. You might practice some answers with a mate so that you don’t freeze. And then you have to choose an outfit – something that says “hire me, I’m a professional”.

Unfortunately some of us don’t have access to a wardrobe full of work wear. That’s where Dress for Success comes in – by providing professional attire, individual career support programs, training, mentoring services and access to a support network to help empower women in need achieve economic independence.

It’s a simple idea, and one that changes lives.

The connection between fashion and empowerment was on show this week at the Dress for Success Sydney’s 200 Years of Empowerment – A Fashion Journey, supported by Westpac.

Celebrities including Adam Spencer, Sally Obermeder, Ben Fordham and many more hit the catwalk to showcase “power” outfits from the 1800s onwards.

The clothes were provided by The Darnell Collection. With an impressive array of 9,000 pieces, it’s the largest private fashion collection in the Southern Hemisphere.

200 Years of Empowerment – A Fashion Journey, supported by Westpac

Posted by The Cusp on Thursday, 10 August 2017

Charlotte Smith inherited the collection from her grandmother, Doris Darnell. She sees the clothing as a form of social history – from the restricting corsets of the Victorian era, through to the pantsuits of the late 20th Century; fashions have reflected the changing financial status of women.

“We can see how women were empowered by what they wore,” she says.

Charlotte’s daughter, Olivia, strutted down the catwalk in the event, wearing the most recent decade’s fashions. A final year high school student, Olivia also finds the time to volunteer for Dress for Success Sydney. The charity now helps 15 to 21-year-old women, and Olivia provides crucial advice and insight on what young women like to wear.

“Dressing a certain way gives people a lot of confidence, and it gives people a lot of motivation. So, of course, if you’re going to dress for success, and you’re after a job, being able to walk into an interview and feeling confident, feeling happy with the way you look, that is one of the most important aspects.”

But the empowerment they provide goes beyond just work wear.

Dress for Success Sydney has partnered with Westpac to trial Money Management workshops from next month to help women reach financial independence. Westpac employees voluntarily offer their time and expertise and have helped to develop financial literacy content for the charity, which will be available to all women (and men) on Westpac’s Davidson Institute website. It will cover essential topics like budgeting and superannuation.

“We’ve worked closely with Dress for Success Sydney to provide relevant financial education and tools to help women feel empowered and achieve their potential in today’s workforce,” Bernadette Inglis, Group General Manager, Westpac Retail & Premium Bank says.

“Westpac is dedicated to understanding the barriers preventing Australian women achieve financial independence and gender equality, so we can help to enable future change and better futures for all women and girls.

“Understanding your personal finance is so important – no matter what stage of life you are at and particularly for women. It’s so critical to take control given we often take more time out of the workforce when starting a family.”

Charlotte says that for many women, it’s the financial literacy component that gives clients the biggest transformation.

“When you leave there having new knowledge, you are truly empowered inside out. And that’s what makes an empowered woman. And you walk out the door looking fabulous.”

Olivia de Govrik and Efe Cakar in fashion from 2000

Tips for financial empowerment

From Bernadette Inglis, Group General Manager, Westpac Retail & Premium Bank:

#1 If you move house, make sure your housemates take your name off any gas, electricity or internet bills – if they don’t pay the bills on time then it will impact on your credit history which makes it harder to borrow in the future, such as when you want to get a personal loan including a home loan.

#2 Consolidate your super into one account from all of your uni jobs. It’ll mean less admin and may have a positive effect on the interest you accrue on your super account.

#3 Prepare for parental leave early: If you’re thinking about starting a family, create a ‘nest egg’ of savings and top up your super contributions as much as you can before you finish work. If you return to work part-time, it can really impact on your quality of life in retirement. If you’re a women, it’s likely you’ll retire on a total super of $180,000 less than your male counterparts and so it’s never too early to prepare for a retirement.

You can donate your gently-used clothing to Dress for Success to give a woman a new start.

Feature image: The celebrities who strut the catwalk for Dress for Success Sydney, in their outfits from 1900 to today.