Students dress up to fight against human trafficking through Dressember


Last year, junior Sophia Norton participated in the worldwide challenge “Dressember” alone, wearing a dress every day in December as a way raise awareness and money to fight human trafficking. This year, she has formed a team, Decatur’s Dressy Dogs, with fellow juniors, Halley Laney, Mary Katherine Moore, Fiona Mcelroy, Elena Pawloski and Saja Mohammed, raising $1,938.35 as of Dec. 20. 

“It’s kind of gratifying that people care because in high school sometimes I can get stuck in a little bubble and not realize that there’s a bigger picture thing out there in the world,” Norton said.

Through Dressember, advocates create fundraising pages for themselves with a personal goal and their motivation for participating. Advocates then send links of their personal page or team’s page to others and can receive tax-deductible donations.

According to Norton, the Dressember foundation allocates the all of the money raised by advocates to partner organizations, whether that’s legal help for survivors, care packages, medical care or therapy. 

Norton became aware of Dressember by stumbling across an advertisement about the founder, Blythe Hill, on instagram. 

As a nonprofit, Dressember donates exactly the money advocates raise directly to partner organizations to address and lessen human trafficking. Dressember’s employees are not payed through donations, but instead by a line of clothing displayed on the website, Norton said.

“When I first stumbled across it I really liked how it was a small change, but it could potentially do a lot just by wearing a dress and telling people about the dangers of human trafficking, and I could raise a lot of money for it to be donated to organizations that help victims,” Norton said.

Atlanta is a known for it’s high human trafficking rates, also motivating Norton to participate in the challenge.

“Atlanta is not the safest place and so I want to be trying in some way to contribute to make it safer especially because most of the victims of human trafficking are women and girls,” Norton said.

Initially, Norton’s family was unsure of her participating in the challenge. 

“At first my family was like ‘what are you doing?’ and ‘please dont wear dresses for a month because you’re going to freeze and it’s going to be terrible’… After a while they saw that I really wanted to do and were like this is kind of cool,” Norton said. “But they didn’t really take it seriously until I showed them that Dressember is an actual foundation, ‘there are this many people that follow them on Instagram, it’s not a hoax.’ “

This year, junior Halley Laney reached out to Norton about compiling a team to participate in Dressember, which Norton immediately jumped at the opportunity. 

“I reached out to Sophia because I saw her doing it last year on social media and I thought it was super cool how she was working to change a problem in our society by wearing a dress every day, not a simple easy commitment. It showed that she really cared about the issue and wanted to help make a change,” Laney said. “I really wanted to be a part of something like that.”

An integral part of Dressember is ethical fashion, since a portion of human trafficking is centered around the fashion industry, according to the Dressember website. 

“We were thinking [that] this year we don’t want to buy new dresses. We knew we were going to trade and share dresses with each other, and [we thought] ‘what if we went thrift shopping,’ so we went as a team to go get dresses which was really fun,” Norton said.

Along with learning to collaborate with others on “something that is a bigger picture thing than high school,” Norton appreciates how consistency with the movement leads to reflection. 

“If for a month you’re thinking about human trafficking and the dangers and the enormity of the problem, I feel like it creates a pattern for me to think about how there’s more to a situation than you see,” Norton said. “And there is an impact from the money, it doesn’t take a lot to do something to change someone’s life.”

Since Dressember is based in California, Norton wishes she lived there to participate in events held nearby, such as a Dressember prom and Dressember 5k, where people run in a dress or a tie. 

To raise awareness of Dressember in Decatur and the issue it seeks to tackle, Norton challenged her followers via Instagram to wear a dress or a tie on one day only, Dec. 20. She aims for the wider Decatur community to participate. 

Together, Norton and Laney made stickers and QR codes for their team to share with teachers to display Dec. 20. Their goal is to “make people think more about human trafficking and make it less of a taboo subject,”  which Laney says they are well on the path to reaching. 


*disclosure: after hearing about Dressember, the author thought it was a wonderful idea and decided to participate.