Monday, December 28, 2015

What I learned by wearing a dress for a month

It's 30 degrees and sleeting on this late December day, but I'm wearing a knee-length floral dress. It's a slight inconvenience to keep adjusting my dress in the wind so as not to give the grocery store parking lot a glimpse of my rear, but my discomfort is a reminder that I have an embarrassment of warmer clothing options back home. But why torture myself? To make a point? And to whom? 

I've been participating in Dressember since Dec. 1. This project "uses fashion to advocate for women who've been exploited for their femininity. As women take on the creative challenge of wearing a dress for the 31 days of December, they are advocating for the inherent dignity of all women."

I'll admit, it took me a bit to connect the dots on how wearing a dress could help women trapped in slavery and oppression around the world, but at its core Dressember is an awareness-raising campaign. My wearing a dress is making a difference, sending ripples of awareness through my circles of influence. 

So what have I learned this month of Dressember? I've compiled both the good and bad into a top 10 list: 

1. It was a creative exercise for me to put together 31 outfits wearing only a handful of dresses that I owned, and I found I enjoyed the challenge. I tried to include an ethical/fair-trade item (like my Noonday Collection jewelry or Better Life Bag) each day. 

2. I learned a lot about layering and tights/leggings combos (thanks, Pinterest!). 

3. It turns out that wearing a jumper/skirt for grades K-12 didn't completely turn me off of wearing dresses as an adult like I previously thought. 

4. I don't like my legs. I'm short and curvy, so dresses aren't usually my go-to wardrobe choice. But I learned how to style each dress to play up my assets.

5. When in doubt, wear a maxi-dress--it's as close as you can get to yoga pants. 

6. Though this December was unseasonably warm in southeast Illinois, I was still cold most days if I had to spend any amount of time outside. Instead of throwing on pants under my dress to do outdoor activities, I just avoided such activities, which is a bummer. 

7. I don't like taking pictures of myself. Though taking a daily selfie is not a requirement of the project, it's certainly good for publicity and raising awareness, so I did my best. But it felt self-centered when this campaign was meant to bring attention to other women around the world. 

8. I found Dressember to be a great conversation starter. Any time my friends would ask if I was getting annoyed with wearing dresses yet, I'd redirect the topic to how other women don't have the power we have to choose our careers or life partners. 

9. My oldest two daughters were proud of my effort and occasionally choose to wear a dress in solidarity.

10. This year, Dressember has raised over $600,000! Funds raised during Dressember 2015 support the work of International Justice Mission, and A21, two incredible human rights organizations that work to rescue and restore victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and violent oppression. 85 cents of every dollar raised during Dressember will go to our partner organizations. 15 cents is retained for administrative, technological, marketing expenses, and credit card fees (It is standard for 501c3 nonprofit organizations to retain a percentage for overhead expenses). But I personally didn't raise much money. If you're interested in getting in a contribution, here's your chance

I think Dressember will become a yearly tradition. It helped connect me to the Christmas story, which, if you think about it, is that of a young mother in crisis. It reminded me that God can do wonders with an open heart. 

I encourage you to consider joining me. If you're trying to pare down your closet to a "capsule wardrobe", participating in this project might help you get started. It's not an exaggeration to say it's changed the way I think about getting dressed. 

What did you do this advent that drew you closer to the Christmas story? 

In what ways did you become more aware of the suffering or oppression of others this year? 

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