December is a month filled with festivities—including fun holidays and the family and food that go along with them. But it’s also the month for Dressember, an inspiring, female-lead movement that’s fighting slavery and sex trafficking. In 2009, CEO and Founder Blythe Hill decided to challenge herself—just for fun—to wear a dress every day of this celebratory month. Fast forward to 2013, and she had turned it into an international campaign combatting sex trafficking, inspired by her own past involving sexual abuse as a child. Participants pledge to dress up—women in dresses and men in ties—then create a fundraising page and spread the word via social media and email. This lighthearted way to raise awareness about a serious issue has found incredible success, with over $5 million being raised in the 5 years since Hill turned her idea into a nonprofit organization. Within just the first two weeks of December this year, they had raised almost $1 million. (That money then goes to grant partners to bring victims worldwide help, including supporting police and social work efforts, education and more.) Here’s more about the mission from Hill—and how you can help.
What surprises people most about your mission?
People are shocked to learn that slavery exists in this country, with 2 million kids being exploited in the global commercial sex trade. Trafficking in the US is a huge problem. There is also an unfortunate overlap between foster care and trafficking. For instance, in Los Angeles one study found that 9 out of 10 female victims of sex trafficking were in foster care at some point.
How important has social media/celebrities been in promoting? We heard about this through Melissa Joan Hart’s Instagram post.
Social media has been huge for us; it’s our main channel of communication. You can follow along at #dressember and #youcandoanythinginadress, and people post photos of themselves snowboarding or horseback riding in a dress. With celebrities like Melissa Joan Hart it’s been amazing that they use their platform for this issue. Jennifer Morrison is one of our advocates and every day she’s taking a photo promote from one of her fans and she’ll post different photoshoots based off of followers’ suggestions.
And you’ve also launched an ecommerce component, the Dressember marketplace. Why?
Eighty percent of garment workers are women and there’s an unfortunate overlap between apparel and labor trafficking, whether it’s forced or underpaid labor, abuse or violence that occurs. We encourage people to know who is making their clothes and where their clothes are being made. We highlight brands that are doing an amazing job that are producing ethically made, beautiful items. We partner with a number of brands so a portion comes back to Dressember on special collections of clothing, shoes and bags. Our dress collection is hand made by survivors of trafficking in Nepal and all are under $75.
In addition to buying these beautiful clothes, how can people get involved?
It’s not too late to join in even for the last few days! You can register in a matter of minutes on the website or make a donation. We leave the campaign open for January because it’s Human Trafficking Awareness Month.