Celebs like Jennifer Morrison, Debra Messing and Lola Kirke have signed up for Blythe Hill’s Dressember challenge, which has raised over $4.3 million for charity
It’s the latest form of power dressing.
When Blythe Hill started Dressember in 2009, it was just a fun style challenge to encourage the Los Angeles resident and her friends to wear dresses for the entirety of December. But since Hill decided to add what she calls “heart” to Dressember by using it as a campaign to raise funds to fight human trafficking, the challenge has taken on a life as its own.
This year, 8,000 people have signed up and over $1.3 million has been pledged by them and their followers to three organizations—the A21 campaign, the International Justice Mission and the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center—that combat human bondage. (The fundraising campaign runs through the end of January.) Among those who have participated with varying degrees of enthusiasm are “House” actress Jennifer Morrison, “Will & Grace” star Debra Messing and actress/It girl Lola Kirke. Dressember has raised a total of $4.3 million since 2013, when it evolved beyond a mere fashion challenge.
Day 26 and 27 #dressember repeats for the cause: Thank you to everyone who has contributed to Dressember so far! I am auctioning off a variety of signed dresses that I have worn this month. All proceeds from the online dress auction will be donated to Dressember Foundation to fund their work of ending modern-day slavery. All auctions end on January 1, 2018 at 3:30 pm. Follow the link in bio to access the live dress auctions! @dressmeber @blythehill #itsbiggerthanadress
“I was about 19 years old when I started learning about human trafficking and was horrified that slavery not only exists, but is a thriving criminal industry,” the 32-year old Hill tells Moneyish. “I also felt so powerless about doing anything to fight it. I’m not a cop, a lawyer or a social worker. But as Dressember grew, it became a really easy choice to align it with anti-human trafficking” causes.
There are 20.9 million trafficking victims around the world according to Polaris, a D.C.-based nonprofit. The vast majority of them are women and girls, with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime pegging their proportion at 71%. So while Dressember was originally created for fun, Hill, who recently left a job at fashion forecasting agency WGSN to run the foundation full-time, saw that she could use the dress as a potent symbol.
“There’s this idea that the dress is vulnerable and weak. Women are often blamed for the abuse inflicted on them,” she says, noting that sexual assault victims are often asked what they were wearing. “We want to challenge that and reclaim it as a strong symbol. The dress can be freeing and empowering.”
The campaign has taken off in ways that she didn’t expect. When she first started collecting donations to hand out as grants in 2013, Hill only hoped to raise $25,000. She reached that target on the third day of the campaign and wound up collecting six times as much. And it’s not just women who have registered as advocates, men participate too. Some don neckwear like bowties in an attempt to be “dressy”—women who don’t like dresses or live in climes where wearing a dress is challenging in December do this too— while the occasional male has put on a dress.
“I loved that the men were doing it and we decided to include it officially in our marketing this year,” Hill says. “People can choose their own challenge within the challenge.”
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