Chances are you’ve spent more days in sweatpants than dresses this calendar year, but this month, the Dressember challenge is back to encourage you to dig out the dresses in your closet — while also doing good.
Founded by Blythe Hill in 2013, Dressember is a nonprofit organization focused on fighting human trafficking using fashion as a vehicle. The Dressember challenge is for participants to wear a dress each day during the month of December, sharing why they’re doing so on social media, in person (and over Zoom, as will be the case this year) to raise money and awareness for anti-human trafficking work. Since 2013, the organization has raised more than $10 million for programs fighting human trafficking globally, by utilizing a network of mostly women between the ages of 18 to 44.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has had huge impact on human trafficking. According to Dressember’s research, the “number of situations in which people needed immediate emergency shelter nearly doubled at the onset of COVID-19”; “the number of crisis trafficking situations increased by more than 40 percent at the onset of COVID-19,” and “in May 2020, six weeks after shelter in place orders, calls to the Los Angeles trafficking hot line had increased by 80 percent.” Human trafficking disproportionately affects the Black community; the result of a two year review of all suspected human trafficking incidents across the country found that 40 percent of victims were Black.
This year, Dressember and Hill have partnered with celebrity styling duo Wayman + Micah, who have tapped designers of color including Hanifa, Prabal Gurung, Andrea Iyamah, PH5 and Victor Glemaud to donate items from their collections to be auctioned off for the cause.
“This is a matter that we are passionate about as it affects a large amount of the minority and Black community and the numbers have actually increased as well due to COVID-19 — and this is a topic we need to bring awareness on to our community as well in the light with everything that’s happening within 2020,” Wayman says.
“There is seriously a special place in our hearts for women of color, coming from our grandmothers and mothers and aunts and sisters, who have really raised and shaped who we are,” Micah adds. “There is such beauty and strength and wisdom in women of color, so to be hearing the statistics of what’s really taking place, it’s really something that does hit a personal note from our upbringing even to now in our professional careers, with our clients being strong, smart women of color.”
The duo introduced client Logan Browning to the cause, dressing her for the campaign in a Prabal Gurung dress that the designer donated for this year’s fund-raiser.
“This was my first introduction to Dressember. I think it’s a fabulous way to reach people through something as fundamentally global as fashion,” Browning says. “I’m hopeful this collaboration will contribute to de-politicizing the fight to end this major violation against humanity that disproportionately affects Black people, and especially our Black youth.”
“We are incorporating a lot of the statistics into our messaging to really communicate to people that the need is more urgent than ever,” Hill says. “There has been a lot of engagement around racial justice, and the ways that race comes into play when we’re talking about human trafficking. There is a disproportionate impact on communities of color. We’re finding a lot of new interest as it relates to Black Lives Matter and racial justice and looking for a way to make a positive impact in communities of color.”
“It’s something that has the potential to uplift the spirit as well,” Micah adds, of committing to the dress-a-day challenge. “In 2020, with everything we’ve been through, it’s nice to have these glimpses of light and glimpses of hope. And we hope that that is the message really being conveyed, that this is something you can celebrate as you’re bringing awareness.”
Hill and the advocates had their portraits taken self-styled in looks they plan to wear for this year’s Dressember challenge. Celebrity stylist Erin Walsh assisted with on-set styling needs.