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Meghan dishes out fashion tips and mental health advice during charity visit

It is her first to Smart Works, a charity that helps long-term unemployed and vulnerable women regain their confidence, since becoming patron.

The Duchess of Sussex talks with Patsy Wardally, during her visit to Smart Works, in London, on the day that she has become their patron, as well as patron of the National Theatre, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, and the animal welfare charity, Mayhew (Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA)
The Duchess of Sussex talks with Patsy Wardally, during her visit to Smart Works, in London, on the day that she has become their patron, as well as patron of the National Theatre, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, and the animal welfare charity, Mayhew (Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA)

The Duchess of Sussex dished out both fashion tips and mental health advice when she visited a charity that helps empower women to get back into work.

Meghan, who is a patron of Smart Works, was full of smiles as she visited one of Smart Work’s two London hubs on Thursday morning.

The charity, based in St Charles Hospital in north Kensington, west London, helps long-term unemployed and vulnerable women regain their confidence and gives them interview coaching.

Stylists help women pick out interview outfits and they can come back to add to their new work wardrobe when they find employment.

Cradling her baby bump, Meghan chatted with Patsy Wardally, before picking out a camel cape from Hobbs, a black bead bracelet tied with ribbon, which the duchess called “quirky”, some simple pearl earrings and a black handbag.

“You look amazing,” the duchess said before the pair embraced.

Mrs Wardally said she felt exhilarated to have met Meghan, who she said had a “lovely little bump”.

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The Duchess of Sussex picks out clothes with Patsy Wardally (Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA)

The mother-of-three gave up work more than a decade ago to look after her autistic daughter and came to the charity for help when she decided she wanted to return to the world of work.

She started a customer service job at Gatwick Airport in April after Smart Work gave her the confidence to go to the interview, and passed her probation period in November.

Asked how she felt in the new outfit, she said: “More confident, more beautiful, I looked in the mirror and I know it’s me, but the difference in my esteem and everything has just shot through the roof.”

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Patsy Wardally, 55, from New Cross Gate, showing off the earrings and black bracelet the Duchess of Sussex picked out for her during a visit to Smart Works, in London, on the day she became their patron (Jemma Crew/PA)

The duchess wore a black figure-hugging midi dress from Hatch, a tan coat by Oscar de la Renta, Kimai earrings and black and white patterned shoes as she carried out her first royal engagement as patron.

After browsing the clothing rails, Meghan spoke with Ruma Parvin, who took a year off work after being diagnosed with clinical depression, during her 50-minute visit.

Ms Parvin, 30, said she struggled to eat, wash and dress herself, and had experienced suicidal feelings.

The duchess used the example of fitting your own oxygen mask in a plane before helping other passengers to show how important it is to put your mental health first.

“You have to make sure your cup is full otherwise you are going to be left with very little for yourself,” said Ms Parvin, from Tooting, south London.

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The Duchess of Sussex does interview preparation with Ruma Parvin (left) (Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA)

She said the duchess gave “really positive feedback” when she said she wanted to launch a wellbeing diary that would be given to school children on their first day of term.

She said: “She really listened actively and I loved the fact that she said everybody has mental health issues.

“She said that everybody has it but just because they don’t speak about it doesn’t mean they don’t have it.

“It’s extremely important to take care of your mental health.”

Lady Hughes-Hallett, the charity’s chair and founder, spoke of the increased confidence women had after being styled.

The charity is hoping to help 3,500 women over the next year.

She said: “You can see a sigh of relief. They stand in front of the mirror and you can see them looking at themselves and think ‘I can do this’. That’s the tipping point.”

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Kate Stephens, chief executive of Smart Works, welcomes the Duchess of Sussex (right) as she arrives for her visit (Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA)

Lady Hughes-Hallett continued: “We are very lucky and I think it will make an enormous difference to our clients having her as our patron because they’ll be proud.

“Now they’ll know the duchess is our patron … and doesn’t everybody want to look like her?”, she added.

Smart Works chief executive Kate Stephens said the duchess had made several private visits to the centre in 2018.

She added: “She’s really hands-on and involved, and has a natural empathy with people that we’ve been really impressed by, she’s amazing.

“She puts people at their ease. It does feel slightly surreal.”

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