An important part of raising children is providing them with opportunities to better understand the world’s injustices, while also empowering them with ways to make the world a more loving and just place. Every December, the non-profit organization Dressember offers the whole family a fun and memorable way to prevent slavery, simply by inviting everyone to dress up in their most dapper attire.
I sat down with Dressember’s Founder, Blythe Hill, to learn a bit more about the campaign and how the whole family can get involved.
TB: How can wearing a dress or tie in December make a difference when it comes to stopping slavery?
BH: Not everyone realizes that slavery didn’t end in 1865; not only is it still happening, but it’s the fastest growing criminal industry, netting profits upward of $150 billion. The first step in dismantling modern-day slavery is understanding that it still exists. Then, spread awareness.
The dress and tie challenges serve as conversation starters. Sometimes hearing statistics can be overwhelming—crippling, even. Dressember offers busy people an easy way to engage in a horrific injustice. Our advocates register to participate on our website and set personal fundraising goals. Then, they tell their community what they’re doing and why it matters to them, inviting their loved ones to support them in hitting their goal. Our average advocate raises $250. When thousands of people participate, you start to have a gigantic impact.
TB: How did Dressember get started?
BH: As a fashion blogger who was a sucker for a good pun, I initially created Dressember as a personal style challenge simply because I wanted to try wearing dresses for a month. Imagine my surprise when my friends and then their friends and then total strangers started participating as well! I realized hey, this is a good idea! I started dreaming of what more it could become; adding a heart to it.
It’s not difficult for children to imagine being forced to work all day without food or time to play or the option of leaving. Often children understand easily and become the most passionate advocates!
I’d recently learned about human trafficking and was eager to do something to help, so I decided to align Dressember with the issue of anti-slavery. In 2013, I set our month-long goal at $25,000—which felt huge and ambitious. When we hit my ambitious goal on day three, I knew I needed to grow my vision. Since then, we’ve raised over $3 million and are on track to raise another $2 million in 2017 alone!
TB: I heard Dressember is something the whole family can do? Can you tell me more?
BH: Absolutely! Now that we’ve added ties and bow ties to the list of options, a person can choose which clothing challenge most appeals to them: a month of dresses, ties or bow ties. You can even wear the same dress or tie all month for extra impact!
You can also create a team page for your whole family to work toward a common fundraising goal together.
TB: What have you heard from parents about how Dressember impacts their kids?
BH: Depending on your children’s age, it may be more appropriate to discuss labor trafficking rather than sex trafficking. There are powerful news stories on child labor in the chocolate, apparel and fishing industries to use as resources in sharing with kids. Slavery isn’t a hard concept for a child to grasp. It’s not difficult for children to imagine being forced to work all day without food or time to play or the option of leaving. Often children understand easily and become the most passionate advocates! On our blog, we recently shared the story of Elleanor and her mother Michaela who participated in Dressember because it promotes a message of self-worth.
TB: How can I get involved?
BH: It’s easy! Commit to wearing a dress or tie every day in December, then create a free campaign page on dressember.org. Tell everyone about why Dressember matters to you, sharing your page link and inviting others to support you in hitting your goal. Usually, because they care about you or the issue of slavery (or both!), people will come out of the woodwork to donate. Just be sure to post often to social media, in addition to sending personal emails.