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Achieving economic independence

09 August 2017

What would it be like to wear a Victorian crinoline? In fact, what is a crinoline?

Dress for Success Sydney’s fundraising guests found out the nitty gritty at an event celebrating 200 years of fashion in action held in Sydney on the evening of 9 August.

Models wearing the waist-nipping corsets, crinolines, favoured in the 1800s, variously described their experience as ‘rib displacing’, ‘lung squashing’ and ‘organ compressing’.

A not-for-profit organisation empowering women to achieve economic independence to thrive at work and in life, Dress for Success Sydney provides support networks, professional attire and development tools, such as a Ruby inspired Financial Literacy program covering budgeting, borrowing and superannuation, for its female clients.

Dress for Success Sydney has partnered with Westpac to trial Money Management workshops from September to help women reach financial independence. Westpac also offers staff volunteer hours and helps develop financial literacy content for the charity.

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

Dress for Success: 200 Years of Empowerment is supported by Westpac. The event, curated for the fourth year by Charlotte Smith, uses items from The Darnell Collection, the largest private vintage clothing collection in the Southern Hemisphere.

Charlotte inherited the priceless Darnell Collection from her godmother Doris Darnell. A Quaker from Pennsylvania, Doris pursued a passion for fashion by collecting vintage clothes and accessories for more than 70 years. For Doris, the social history behind the items was as important as the items themselves and preserving them and their stories for future generations became an important part of her passion.

The Darnell Collection grew out of donations and gifts from Doris’ family's wide circle of friends and acquaintances globally, and stretches from the 1720s to now. Importantly, most of the items came with accompanying letters, photographs and stories which linked them to the original owners or donors and often to the occasions to which they were worn.

Dress For Success 200 Years Of Empowerment A Fashion Journey Supported By Westpack 562

Charlotte inherited the collection in 2004. It has continued to grow through further bequests. There are more than 5500 pieces representing 23 different countries. Included are many internationally recognised 20th century designers, names such as Lucile, Vionnet, Dior, Chanel, Balenciaga, Pucci, Jean Muir, Zandra Rhodes, Westwood, Versace, Dolce & Gabana and Jil Sander.

Every aspect of a woman's wardrobe is included: outerwear, underwear, nightwear, day and evening dresses, wedding dresses, sportswear, shoes, hats, handbags, gloves, jewellery, lace, buttons, fans, feathers, textiles, wire hoop crinolines and bustles. (Men's and children's clothing is also represented as is a large reference library of books, journals and museum exhibition catalogues.)