Emelie Swonger ’19 participated in past Dressembers by posting photos and thoughts @nwcdressember.

Like most 18- to 22-year-olds, Northwestern students tend to be high on just causes and low on funds. So they find other ways to show their support—like observing Dressember.

Dressember started in 2009 when fashion blogger Blythe Hill decided to wear a dress every day in December to raise awareness of sexual exploitation and trafficking. Her fashionable advocacy worked: In 2013, International Justice Mission (IJM) partnered with Hill, and Dressember became an international movement that raises both awareness and funds for victims of modern-day slavery.

Northwestern students started participating in Dressember around the same time as IJM. In 2016, Betsy Bolt ’19, Jessica Howe ’18, Bethany Los ’18, Jen Te Grotenhuis ’18 and Naomi (Sandquist ’17) Teutschmann took the campus’ advocacy efforts to Instagram, challenging their classmates to wear dresses and ties every day of December and then post photos and share their reasons for dressing up.

Throughout Dressember, as dressed-up students show up in class, in the caf’ and around campus, they get asked why they’re dressed differently than the typical college student. The questions give them a chance to share stats—like how more than 40 million people are enslaved by human trafficking around the world. And they share stories—like Cassie’s, from the Dressember.org blog, who wrote about surviving cybersex trafficking that started when she was 12.

Sarah Pemberton ’17, who now works as a Northwestern admissions counselor, wrote in her Instagram post: “I will willingly freeze my butt off for a month because I have the luxury of being able to do so. There are many people out there who do not get to decide what to wear or the kind of life they get to live. But I do. This is for those without a choice … and without a voice.”

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