By: Kara Haselton
This December, I decided to participate in a campaign that I’ve never thought I could do. #Dressember is a movement that was started in 2013 by Blythe Hill simply because she wanted to marry two things she was really passionate about: fashion and human trafficking. It started off with her wanting to give herself a fashion challenge and eventually, after more and more people wanted to participate, she decided to pair it with the issue she cared so much about. By combining talent and advocacy, her movement has now become one that thousands of people around the world participate in to raise thousands, even millions, of dollars.
So what exactly is #Dressember?
Everyday for the month of December, participators wear a dress to advocate for human trafficking.
Why a dress? In addition to Blythe Hill’s original #Dressember idea, she wanted to redefine the image of the dress. The campaign’s website, Dressember.org, states that “to many people, dresses represent fragility, weakness, and inequality. We believe it is time to reclaim them.” They argue that by raising money and awareness, they are empowering the symbol of the dress and providing women with a unique way to make a difference. One of their mottos for the campaign is “You can do anything in a dress” and that’s so true! Let me tell you how I’ve been able to participate in Dressember. But not just me! Several girls—and even some guys who participate by wearing ties—have joined me in this campaign.
I’ve had so many people say to me, “I would do that, but I don’t have enough dresses.” And others say that they don’t participate because they can’t stay warm in the coldness of December with a dress. But I have to contest both of those comments. I have maybe five dresses and I have been able to wear them all, be warm, and not re-wear an entire outfit. It’s all about layering, and using the right layers!
Some of my dresses are summery, but pro tip: you can still use summer dresses in the winter and be warm. Imagine that!
The key to wearing dresses in the winter is either leggings or tights. Honestly, there is nothing more comfortable and warm than a soft dress, leggings, and a sweater. And when you have a few different kinds of cozy dresses, several kinds of sweaters, flannels, button-up shirts…the possibilities are endless. My personal favorite go-to, warm, fashionable, dressember outfit is my long-sleeve grey dress, a flannel, and a jean shirt. Or a jean shirt and a sweater. Or maybe even all three! That with leggings or tights, socks and ankle booties—or even converse if you want it to be more casual—is a solid outfit. You just have to look at what you have available to you. Do you have a patterned dress? Okay, then wear a solid-colored button-up shirt and a sweater. Have a plain-colored dress? That’s a perfect time to wear a flannel and matching sweater or button-up shirt. Change your socks, change your shoes, do whatever you need in order to change up your outfit. And as always, repeating outfits is not a bad thing (I’m talking to you Malena Esposito), and really, no one will notice. The key is to like what you wear, be comfortable, be warm, and be reasonable. If participating in Dressember for you means going out and buying dresses, go ahead. But there’s no reason to spend lots of money! Thrift stores! Clearance racks! Be creative! That’s how you do Dressember. And in no way does being creative mean you can’t look good. But that’s not the point.
The important thing that I had to remind myself when trying to figure out if I was going to participate was that even if I didn’t have a ton of dresses, even if I got tired of it and just wanted to wear pants, even if it meant I couldn’t wear my favorite Christmas sweaters (which it doesn’t, wear it over your dress, silly!); it’s such a small sacrifice to pay. These girls—and guys—who are forced into a life of human trafficking and sex slavery, this life that strips away their freedom, their self-worth, and their opportunities, they didn’t have a choice. It’s not their fault. And they can’t save themselves. So for one month of the year, the least I can do is sacrifice my “freedom of wardrobe,” if you will, in order to advocate for them and educate others on their plight. It’s an important issue. And in a way, I feel like because Dressember is difficult to do, it makes the issue much more real to me. Every day when I just really want to wear jeans instead, it’s a reminder that there are others out there that are not in control of their lives anymore. Their choices are made for them. They are modern day slaves—more numerous than ever before in history. Dressember is humbling in a way. Because while I am “bound” to wear dresses for a whole month, it’s such a stark contrast to what they are bound to. A classic example of petty problems that I, and we, care about rather than caring about actual problems. Sure, it’s a fun adventure, limiting your wardrobe and seeing what you can come up with, but it’s also a learning experience that impacts me, my community, and consequently, the world. The more people know, the more that gets done.
#Dressember is not just a fashion challenge, and it’s not just a fashion statement. It’s about using what we have to advocate for others who can’t advocate for themselves.
It’s bigger than a dress.