Month-Long Dressember Event Fights Human Trafficking with Fashion

As part of the Dressember Foundation’s annual event, men and women around the globe will wear a dress or bow tie every day in December to raise both awareness and funds for ending human trafficking.

For the seventh year, Blythe Hill will don the same dress every day in December to raise awareness for human trafficking. What started as one woman’s fashion challenge has now become a global push for change—and the momentum behind Hill’s cleverly titled campaign only seems to be growing. One may wonder how a dress sparks a conversation about a heavy topic like human trafficking, but like the Movember moustache prostate cancer campaign and the ALS ice bucket challenge, the campaign is “bigger than a dress,” Hill told Associations Now.

Human trafficking is an issue a growing number of people care about, but many don’t know how to help, said Hill, founder of the Dressember Foundation, who added that wearing a dress as part of Dressember is a “fun, light, and easy” way to engage in a campaign that seeks to restore dignity and freedom to trafficking victims.

This year, 85 percent of funds raised by participants during the month will benefit the human rights organizations International Justice Mission and A21. For the past two years, the sole beneficiary was IJM. Michelle Quiles, senior director of partnership for IJM, said the nearly $500,000 donated to the organization last December was enough to fund about 100 rescue operations that ranged in size from one individual to 500 forced labor slaves.

“When people hear about sex trafficking … they feel heartbroken, paralyzed, and don’t know what to do,” Quiles said. Hill’s clever way to raise awareness for the issue through her passion for fashion allows women around the world to express their femininity while working to “protect the dignity and femininity of other women around the world,” she added.

Prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, some 1,700 individuals had signed up to partake in Dressember. Last year there were 2,500 participants. Hill said she expects the number of participants this year to continue to rise, noting most signups occur in the last few days of November. Staff members at IJM will also participate, Quiles said.

Hill wears the same dress all month, noting that Dressember is not an excuse to go shopping. The “whole idea is to use what you have to make an impact,” she said. Participants can share dresses with sisters, friends, and roommates, or style the dress differently daily. Some male participants have worn dresses or kilts daily, Hill said. Others pledge to wear a dress for a day if they reach their fundraising goal or opt to wear a bow tie the entire month.

The founding of Dressember can be attributed to inspiration Hill received from the work human trafficking organizations do, but Hill’s passion is now inspiring the very organizations she’s helping. “We couldn’t do the work without supporters and people like [Hill] raising awareness and funds,” Quiles said, adding it will be everyone coming together that will make a difference when it comes to ending human trafficking.

This year's dress, designed by the Dressember team in partnership with Elegantees. (Dressember Foundation)

Katie Rucke

By Katie Rucke

Katie Rucke is former Associate Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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