1 December 2022

Inside Life Without Barriers' Western Sydney office, you'll find The Boutique, offering free formal wear, interview attire and clothing.

A woman standing next to a mannequin smiling at the camera.

High School formals are a rite of passage for Australian Students. However, getting their hair and make-up done and getting a new dress or suit isn’t always accessible for young people in care.

To combat this, Lorna Genoud, Child and Youth Education Consultant, created the Baulkham Hill Boutique. The idea first came to Lorna over a year ago when one young girl refused to attend her high school formal.

“We had one young adult who didn’t want to attend her formal, and after talking to her about it, we realised that she would love to attend but didn’t want to go because she couldn’t afford the new dress and was concerned about paying to get her hair, nails and makeup done,” Lorna said.

“We were able to find her a second-hand dress that she loved, and by reaching out to our local community, we found people who were willing to donate free lash extensions, a spray tan and all her hair and makeup.

“From there, I knew this was a barrier for young people who just wanted to fit in, so we started helping kids with a mobile shop in my car, to a closet, and now we’re working with a full boutique."

“Having a school formal experience matters to kids."

"We’re trying to create the opportunity to have the same formal experience that all kids have around this time of year, including enjoying the process of trying on dresses or suits to find something that makes you feel special."

A mannequin wearing a cap, white shirt and denim shorts next to a door with a sign that reads 'The Boutique'.

The Boutique stocks outfits for young people from 12 years old and up, including years 6, 10, and 12, for formals, special occasions, and job interviews.

“By stocking clothes that are appropriate for job interviews, I think we are removing a barrier for young people, preventing them from not feeling confident enough to go for a job they want," Lorna said.

“I’ve had kids leave the boutique saying that they feel special and expensive. Just the other day, we had a young person come in to find her year six formal dress – she looked at herself in front of the mirror and said, “I feel like a model”.

“That confidence makes all the difference.”

While the Boutique does take clothing donations, Lorna says ensuring the clothes in The Boutique are of great quality is key to the success of the shop.

“I've got a lot of good brands and really good quality clothing. We don’t take anything with stains, holes or that is too old because these kids deserve to have items in their wardrobe that they are proud of.

“Through working with Thread Together, we have been able to get brand new clothing with the tags still on or make special orders for people who need something in a specific size."

Racks of clothing inside The Boutique.

Life Without Barriers Baulkham Hills is looking to expand the Boutique to enable more young people to have their high school formal experience.

“It would be incredible if we could partner with services like hairdressers, make-up artists, barbers, or beauty services at a discounted rate to give more kids this special experience," said Lorna.

To find out more about The Boutique, or to enquire about donating, please contact Lorna at Lorna.genoud@lwb.org.au.

Child, Youth and Family

Our Foster Care, residential care and after care services provide a safe and supportive environment where they can heal and grow.

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