When Mary Ann Becher decided to get back into the workforce after a 12-year hiatus, she was held back not by an inability to find a job, but a lack of funds to dress the part.

The single mother, who was on a “very, very low income,” was directed to Dress For Success, an organization — celebrating its 10th year in Vancouver — that helps hopeful would-be professionals outfit themselves for a new career.

“I couldn’t afford (new clothes),” said Becher, who now works with the Ministry of Child and Family Development and is speaking at the organization’s seventh annual fundraising gala on April 21.

“I had a complete and total meltdown in the Bay because I couldn’t find anything that was within my budget.”

What she found at Dress For Success was more than just clothing, but support, career counselling, and mentorship and networking opportunities.

“It’s very humiliating to have to ask for help,” said Becher.

“Clothing is a big thing because it boosts your confidence looking like a professional.”

Deborah Twockock, executive director of Dress For Success Vancouver, said the program provides modern used workwear, shoes and accessories, as well as unopened makeup and lingerie.

“We had one woman bring back the Anne Klein suit she got here because she got a job in the tech industry and said, ‘I don’t wear suits and this one brought me luck, so I’m giving it to somebody else,’” Twockock said.

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