Above: Photo via dressember.org.

By Claire Bauer

This month, you may notice more people wearing dresses out and about, which might not seem like the smartest clothing option in the winter. But rather than just assuming they’re wacky Canadians who can’t feel the chill of winter, it’s possible their outfit may have a decidedly more political reasoning than usual.

Dressember is a relatively new movement, similar in structure to No Shave November. Using fashion and creativity as their banner, Dressember strives to restore the inherent dignity to women across the globe. As the movement grew, so did their core meaning, and today they stand opposed to human trafficking worldwide, specifically the systematic exploitation of women. Participating in Dressember helps support the abolition of modern day slavery and oppression.

The Dressember movement began in 2009 as a creative outlet to fight against the monotony of university classes. Blyther Hill, the founder, decided that she would wear only dresses for an entire month, and since the next full month was December—and because puns are amazing—Dressember was born. What was originally a one-time project turned into a yearly event, as friends, and friends of friends quickly gained interest and began to take part in the challenge.

By 2013, with over 1200 participants joining in, Dressember aligned itself with the International Justice Movement, an organization dedicated to fighting slavery, sex trafficking, police brutality, and citizenship rights abuse, to raise money for their cause for the first time. They set the very lofty goal of $25K for their first year, and were promptly blown away when that goal was met by the third day of the campaign. In that one month, with participants from 32 different countries, Dressember managed to raise over $165K.

Over the next few years the movement grew, almost tippling their profits by the next year, and doubling the number of participants. When 2015 rolled around the movement had grown strong enough to add a second grant partner, the A21 organization, whose standing motto is prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership, and whose main goal is to abolish injustice, with a large focus going to human trafficking. That year the funds raised were just shy of one million dollars, at $924K, with almost 5,000 participants. 85 percent of proceeds go directly to IJM and A21, the remaining proceeds going exclusively towards administrative, technological, and marketing expenses.

You can participate by raising or donating funds, even by starting a fundraising team via dressember.org. But if you’re strapped for cash or time, you can participate by wearing a dress and exposing your legs to the cold for a good cause.

Not a fan of wearing dresses? Work uniform won’t allow it? Not a problem. Bow-ties are the official way to participate while wearing pants, getting a little dapper is always fun, and if you can only dress up some of the time, that’s fine too. No amount of participation is too small. Even mentioning the movement when your friends point out all those crazy people running around campus freezing their legs off is enough to spark interest in the movement. It’s so much bigger than just a dress.