Style and substance
The idea for Haus of Armour came to our founder; Kate Jackson in 2020 during Melbourne’s pandemic lockdown.
“It was one of those ideas that literally woke me up at night,” she says. “It was this idea of using clothes to transform and recreate a sense of self, inside and out. I got up straight away and wrote everything down.”
After poring over the research of enclothed cognition, which describes the impact clothing has on a wearer’s psychological processes, based on the symbolic meaning of the clothes and the physical experience of wearing them, Kate knew she was on the right path.
“The science proves that what we wear can change the way we think,” she says. “The clothes we wear can affect our behaviour, our personality, our mood, our confidence and even the way we interact with other people. This is the science that underpins the work of Haus of Armour; it’s not about fluffy makeovers.”
Kate chose to focus Haus of Armour on helping survivors of domestic violence. After relocating to the Northern Rivers in 2021, she redirected her social work focus to help women navigate a new life away from violence in the home.
“I knew that I had to work with these women on the front lines before I could create this program,” Kate explains. “Being able to adapt the work of Haus of Armour to meet their real needs was critical.”
The complexity of domestic violence as an issue has also fostered many misconceptions which have been slow to fade. “Domestic violence is not just about physical violence – it can be coercive control, emotional, psychological or financial abuse and even social abuse,” Kate explains. “The root of it all is about power and control.”
“For a long time, domestic violence was seen as an anger issue on the man’s behalf. In the past, the courts would mandate that the perpetrator take part in an anger management course. But in fact, the root cause is a sense of being entitled to have power and control over the woman in whichever way that presents itself.
“Another misconception is that domestic violence only affects a certain ‘type’ of woman. It doesn’t,” Kate says. “Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate, it’s everywhere. It affects women who are well-off professionals to some of the most marginalised women in our society. It also affects same sex couples and is the number one cause of homelessness among women and children in Australia.
“Here in the Northern Rivers, where rents have increased as much as $150 a week, it’s compounded what is already an extremely challenging issue.”
The late photographer, Bill Cunningham, famously described fashion as “the armour to survive the reality of everyday life” and Kate says she couldn’t agree more.
“So many of the women I work with have had their self-esteem and sense of self completely undermined by years of psychological and emotional abuse,” she explains.
“When a survivor of domestic violence has to sit in the same courtroom as the perpetrator to apply for an ADVO, testify or attend Family Court, we’re going to need an outfit that helps them feel strong and empowered, like they can take this on.
“When they feel as though they’ve got a suit of armour on, they’re able to step into those spaces with so much more confidence and feeling strong within themselves.”
During Haus of Armour’s inaugural 16 Days of Activism Kate provided a custom styling session and three outfits each day for Northern Rivers survivors of domestic violence.
“During 16 Days of Activism I heard over and over again how much the styling session and new clothes helped them feel seen. That they felt like themselves again after often having lost so much of themselves from the years of abuse. Also, some women leave domestic violence situations with only the clothes on their back, so it gives them the opportunity to rebuild their wardrobe too.
“The experience of 16 Days of Activism confirmed for me that Haus of Armour can help reconnect these women with their sense of self and their self-worth so that they can recreate themselves both inside and out.”