Dress for Success Wellington Founder Describes the First Time She Suited A Client

For Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating the empowering women that work at our affiliate locations all around the world. These ladies are making an impact in someone’s life every single day and we thank them for their commitment to the organization. Throughout the month of March we will be featuring the women who are truly making a difference at their affiliate locations. Women’s History Month is all about recognizing the achievements of women and we plan on celebrating every day. Women helping women is what Dress for Success is all about and we see that power of women coming together impact a number of lives. We asked 12 women from 12 different countries about Women’s History Month and what motivates them to continue to do what they do for Dress for Success. Come back to our blog throughout March to get to know the ladies that make it all happen behind the scenes. Meet Leonie Dobbs, the founder of Dress for Success Wellington.

Leonie Dobbs, Dress for Success Wellington 

Dress for Success: How many years have you been with Dress for Success?
Leonie Dobbs: For 16 years. I was the founder of Dress for Success Wellington in New Zealand. It started in May 2001 in my home in Stokes Valley.

DFS: What bold action did you take to make a change or a difference?
LD: Establishing Dress for Success Wellington was a bold move given the need in Wellington to support disadvantaged women.  I continue to advocate for change by trying to have better access to Dress for Success services in the region to help women.  I am an active supporter of Dress for Success Wellington’s outreach program, which has opened a hub in Lower Hutt and recently in the Wairarapa. To support the Wairarapa, Dress for Success Wellington attended the Martinborough Fair in February and March to promote and educate the wider Wellington region about the services Dress for Success can offer and to encourage financial support. Over 30,000 people attend each market fair, so this activity has a great community each.

DFS: Can you describe a moment when you helped someone at Dress for Success that moved you or any special achievements that you’ve accomplished during your time at the organization?
LD: I recall one of my first suitings was a mother of four children. She had her first child at 16-years-old and was going for an interview for her first job at a movie theatre. I dressed her and gave her two outfits. She was delighted and asked if she could wear one of the outfits for her grandmother’s 80th birthday party. Her only handbag was a plastic bag [so] I gave her a handbag. The woman was in tears, it was very moving. Not only did we help dress her to get the job, we also made her feel special for her family’s celebrations too.


DFS: Who do you thank or recognize this IWD that have helped make the advance of all women possible?
LD: In September 1893, New Zealand was the first country in the world to give all women the right to vote – thanks to Kate Sheppard, the leader of New Zealand’s women’s suffrage movement. We hold [events] to acknowledge this milestone.  As President of Hutt Valley National Council of Women, in conjunction with UN Women, we host a breakfast for the female students in the Hutt Valley and have a speaker. The theme this year is “Women in the Pacific.”

DFS: What motivates you to continue your work at Dress for Success?
LD: I continue to advocate and support women in their journey of life.  This is by advocating ‘equal pay for equal work.’ Payment equality for retirement of women, supporting efforts to help women who experience violence and by helping to [women gain more skills]. After we style our clients, their journey should and does include ongoing support from Dress for Success, addressing situations and needs they have as they move towards economic independence. Many of the women we help will in turn support Dress for Success in the future.  Our clients should always be our best referees.

Visit wellington.dressforsuccess.org for more information on how you can get involved on a local level.

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