Belfast Telegraph

Fashion fundraiser to help women dress for success in workplace

By Margaret Canning

It will be a case of 'out with the trouser suit of the 1990s, and in with the tailored dress of the 2010s' when some of the best-dressed women in business get together for a fundraising fashion masterclass.

The event on April 11 at Belfast Metropolitan College – to raise money for the NSPCC's Changing Childhoods Appeal – will feature a drinks reception and two course meal, followed by tutorials on fashion and make-up from boutique owner Elaine Peel, hairdresser Andrew Mulvenna and make-up artist Paddy McGurgan.

Organiser Marie-Therese McGivern, principal and chief executive of Belfast Met and a member of the board of the Changing Childhoods Appeal, said trends had changed dramatically since she entered the workplace.

"In my generation, when women were moving into work it was a power suit and trouser suit. It was really a woman's version of the man's suit, and we all looked a bit clone-y. What I have noticed now in young women coming into management is a lot more tailored dresses instead of a suit.

"Those dresses are now wonderfully acceptable.

"They are very stylish and very business-like, but just more colourful.

"It's not trying to look like a female version of and older, grey-suited man."

And it wasn't just the ladies who were sporting different styles – the chaps were also getting in on the act.

"Shirt and tie combinations are more colourful.

"Years ago it was a matter of a white or grey shirt with relatively conservative ties.

"Now you have pink shirts, for example. I think younger men are a bit more flamboyant, and that's acceptable now."

Grainne McGarvey, the managing director of Pulse PR, who confessed to favouring Spanish fashion chain Zara for her workwear, agreed.

"It's definitely more relaxed in the boardroom, even in the regulated world of finance or law.

"Thankfully boring black suits and white shirts are finally being relegated to the back of the wardrobe and now businesswomen feel able to mix and match colours and styles from both designer and high street stores that won't look out of place at a formal meeting."

And the image of recent Prime Ministers' wives reflected changed times.

"A perfect example of change is Cherie Blair who used to favour boring trouser suits vs Samantha Cameron who looks chic and sophisticated and like she's just stepped off a catwalk at London Fashion Week."

Joni Rock, NSPCC corporate fundraising manager, said the event on April 11 promised to be an enjoyable soiree: "Whatever fashion tribe or, for that matter, business tribe you belong to, there'll be something for everyone to take home from the evening – not least the opportunity to raise vital funds for vulnerable children and young people in Northern Ireland."

The Changing Childhoods Appeal helps the NSPCC run services for children and families including support for young witnesses in criminal trials, help for those who have experienced abuse, and ChildLine, the free 24 hour helpline for children and young people.

Tickets for the event can be purchased by contacting Joni Rock on 0203 222 4275 or by e-mailing

Belfast Telegraph