Rochelle vanderHelm — Staff Writer
Pants are superior to dresses for staying warm in winter. It is a well-documented fact that dress-wearing women everywhere, and the average Scottish man, will testify to. Although, the Scotts arguably have it better in their plaid wool and stockings.
Despite this, thousands of women, and occasionally men, around the world commit to wearing a dress every day of the month of December. The movement is called Dressember, and it is a small part of the growing fashion activism movement.
“As Christians we should spend, like, a second thinking about the clothes that we wear,” said Anika Jatho, a junior social work major. Jatho, along with several others at Dordt, participates in Dressember and is passionate about fashion stewardship.
“There’s a lot of places where we’re like, ‘Yeah, I wanna live better, and love Jesus,’ but even if I’m going to love Jesus in the way that I sing, or love Jesus in the way that I do my job, that’s still only a portion of your life.” Jatho said, “Clothes are really unique in the fact that everybody wears clothes, every day of their lives.”
Dressember’s moto is, “The dress is our uniform.” The movement is particularly concerned with raising awareness about human trafficking and modern slavery.
With increased demand for cheap garments, apparel companies turn to third-world countries with lax labor laws that allow for the exploitation of children and vulnerable communities, according to the Dunken Law Firm.
The average American buys 70 new clothing items each year—or about a new item per week—according to Maxine Bedat, the CEO of Zady, a clothing company trying to challenge these consumer habits. Americans tend to wear their clothing only seven times before throwing them out.
The International Labor Organization estimates over 170 million children are engaged in child labor worldwide, many of them in textile sweatshops. While many think of human trafficking as sex exploitation, of the 20.9 million people trafficked globally 67.9 percent are involved in forced labor exploitation.
“98 percent of these workers don’t make a living wage,” Jatho said.
Dressember only lasts for one month. Jatho became concerned about what happens the rest of the year.
“I was wearing a dress, and that was great, but that dress was from Ross, and a child made that dress for Ross,” Jatho said.
She began doing research on sourcing for clothing brands and was shocked to find the kind of exploitation—against both people and the environment—that takes place in the fashion industry.
Jatho felt convicted to work against those actions that “not only allow, but encourage, slavery.”
According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), every year enough textiles are thrown out to fill Sydney Harbour. That’s around 85% of manufactured textiles.
“Washing clothes, meanwhile, releases 500,000 tons of microfibers into the ocean each year—the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles” WEF’s research reports. “The fashion industry is also the second-largest consumer of water worldwide.” According to WEF, it takes around 700 gallons of water to make one cotton T-shirt, and cotton farming requires so much water that one of the largest lakes in the world, the Aral Sea, is now a desert surrounded by a few small ponds.
Jatho recommends shopping brands that are transparent about their sourcing and manufacturing methods and saying “no” to excess.
“As much as Dressember has a really cool mission and things like that do bring out a lot of change,” she said, “it’s honestly way too small compared to the way that we are hurting our planet.”