Frequently Asked Questions
How did the Wear2Start Society start?
A small group of women from the Victoria area created Wear2Start in 2001. The non-profit charity set out to help women who had graduated from employment and training programs, but faced a conundrum: They needed money to buy appropriate clothes to make a good impression that might help them land a job, but they didn’t have enough money to acquire a work wardrobe until they got a job. Wear2Start tapped the community to recycle gently used work attire for women in need. Over more than 15 years, Wear2Start has helped thousands of women gain confidence and increase their chances of employment.
Since our inception, we have expanded our mandate to include helping women in need dress their best and make a great first impression in any situation that will take them a step toward success – whatever that looks like for that individual. That could be anything from meeting a prospective landlord, a potential employer or a lawyer. It could also mean getting some up-to-date, stylish clothing after an emergency – fleeing an abusive relationship, a change in health or life circumstances, or almost any other situation that has meant losing access to clothing.
No wonder the Globe and Mail once called Wear2Start “a work wardrobe fairy godmother.” Watch our founding president Kathleen McMullin tell the Wear2Start story.
How do you choose who to help?
We are happy to serve all self-identified women. Clients are referred to us by employment and job training agencies as well as community organizations. You can see a list of some of the agencies we have worked with on our Access Services page. We also accept referrals from private individuals who either know someone or are personally in need of our services. Find out more about our appointment process.
What kind of clothing donations are needed?
We want to provide our clients with up-to-date, stylish clothing any woman would be happy to wear. Some of our clients go on to work in a variety of job settings, including offices, hospitals, non-profits, restaurants, retailers, schools and childcare centres, while others need clothing for daily life or events such as meeting with a prospective landlord, attending a workshop or networking event, or going back to school. As a result, we look for a wide range of clothing. Please make sure your clothing donations are current fashions and clean, with no rips, runs or stains. We also welcome donations of gently used shoes, purses, classic jewelry, and new undergarments. Even items such as a portfolio in which to bring resumes to an interview are helpful. Please note that we have limited storage space, so we ask that you be selective in choosing just a few of the best items you have to donate. Note that we are most often in need of clothing at opposite ends of the size scale – sizes 0-4 and sizes 18-plus – and shoes in larger sizes (9, 10 and larger). Book your clothing donation appointment now.
How can I make a financial contribution?
Please see our Donate page.
What does the organization do with clothes it cannot use?
Sometimes Wear2Start receives clothing that is not appropriate for our clients. We have an arrangement with a few consignment stores that sell some of the items on our behalf and the proceeds are used to support the work of Wear2Start. Because our space is limited, we can only carry clothing that is in season – that means our boutique stocks fall/winter clothing from October to March and spring/summer clothing from April through September. We cull our stock from one season to the next and out-of-season items are donated to other nonprofits, such as WIN and other women-serving organizations. Other clothing is taken to consignment shops, as mentioned above, or sold to raise money to support our services. In summary, these donations sometimes serve as a fundraising source. Money raised is used to purchase items such as undergarments, clothing or shoes when the boutique does not have the appropriate sized items for a client.
How can a company make a donation?
We are grateful to receive donations in kind from local companies. For example, some retailers have donated new clothing and some hair salons provide a hair cut for clients. We could use more of these services and, from time to time, we require other services such as dry cleaning, clothing alterations and cosmetology. If you, your business or someone you know would like to contribute to wear to start, please let us know.
What kind of volunteering opportunities are available? What kind of commitment is required?
Volunteers are the backbone of Wear2Start and have been generously giving their time and energy to assist women in need in our community since 2001. A small but mighty group fill the current roles of Boutique Consultants, Inventory Specialists, Client Intake Specialists, Consignment Liaisons and Board Directors. Boutique Consultants work a weekly shift in the boutique sorting clothes and dressing clients during pre-booked appointments. Inventory Specialists welcome and assist members of the community with their clothing donations and determine the suitability of donations as related to our clients’ needs. Volunteers in these roles are asked to commit to one, five-hour shift each week. Tasks can include sorting, steaming and tagging clothing, styling our clients, and making and answering phone calls. The Boutique is generally open for clients two days/week, and clothing donations one day/week, 10am to 3pm. We are unable to accommodate client or donation drop-ins and all appointments must be pre-booked. As we continue to grow, Wear2Start anticipates opening on additional days in response to the needs of our clients.
Client Intake Specialists work remotely by phone and email to schedule client appointments, share information with the client about what they can expect, and determine the needs of the client to ensure a positive and engaging experience once they arrive at their appointment. Good computer skills are a must in this role, including Word, Excel, and email.
The Consignment Liaison is a specialized role that works with our community consignment partners.
Board Directors are responsible for the overall governance of Wear2Start and play key roles in finance and fundraising, communications, community engagement and outreach. Directors are asked to serve a two-year term, not to exceed three consecutive terms, and commit to a minimum of five hours per month for meetings, planning and consultation.
Wear2Start welcomes volunteers to assist with fundraising and one-time special events as well as professionals willing to share their skills in social media, communications, and other areas of expertise.
When Wear2Start has vacancies in specific volunteer roles, postings can be found on the Volunteer Victoria website, on our social media pages — Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn — and in the News & Events page of this website. For additional information and inquiries, or suggestions about how you might be able to help, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Wear2Start reminded me that as a woman, I deserve to pamper myself now and then, nurture and love myself despite everything else that comes into my life. It’s part of who I am, and in order to heal, I need to feel good about myself and fall in love with Me again. I’m truly grateful for this program.”
“Thank you! I had so much fun with my visit to the boutique. The advice that I received from the volunteers on how to wear and make outfits with the clothing I was given has boosted my confidence so much!”
“It was an amazing experience. What you ladies are doing is just awesome. I was able to get lots of great-looking outfits for working in an office setting and feeling like a professional. Thank you so much for the opportunity”
“I had a wonderful experience yesterday. The staff were very helpful and really great. I appreciate you all and everything you do.”
“I still feel like Cinderella! It was much more than I expected! The ladies were incredible. … So kind and professional. Thank you so much for an amazing experience!”
“Thank you to you and the lovely team that helped me today — it means more than you can imagine.”
“I was able to get some needed undergarments and toiletries at the wardrobe appointment and really appreciated that.”
“(My appointment) went amazing!! Thank you so so much for letting me be a part of this! It was a really fun experience and I left with a lot of new business clothes. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect but I was fortunate and a lot of items worked well for me.”