Dressember FAQ: What if it is really cold where I live?


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When I first decided to participate in Dressember in November of 2017, it took approximately two minutes before I thought, “How on earth am I going to pull this off in the cold?”

You see, I’m from Montreal. Winters in my area of Canada range anywhere from 32 degrees to -22 degrees Fahrenheit. Though I have lived here my whole life, I’m still trying to get used to the morbidly frigid winter months. The thought of wearing a dress and tights for 31-days in that kind of temperature did not seem appealing at all. I wanted to participate, but wondered if this commitment was realistic, let alone possible, given the weather. It evidently didn’t help that when hearing about my hesitation, many people advised me against participating in the experience-describing the gruesome effects of hypothermia and frostbite, (Disclaimer: these were well-intentioned but slightly exaggerated responses). I was doubting whether I would be able to advocate, despite my deep concern for the cause and desire to get involved.

It turns out I’m not the only one to have had this question and concern. In fact, one of the most frequently asked questions at Dressember is about participating despite living in an area with colder winters.

Believe it or not, people from a diversity of cold regions like New York, Chicago, Alaska, Scotland, Sweden and Manitoba (which, for the record, is the polar bear capital of the world) have participated in Dressember-and have loved it.


In the end, I decided along with some friends to participate and we certainly did not regret it. Following weeks of going back and forth, this rather last-minute decision was fueled by the realization that being an advocate in the cold would spark really interesting discussions. The sight of us wearing dresses in a real-life snow globe led many classmates, coworkers and family members to ask: Why? We took this as an invitation to share about the movement and the cause. It turned out to be a great opportunity. Many friends made up their mind to join the cause next December, knowing full well they would be facing the cold, too!

I may be biased, but I would go so far as to suggest that Dressember advocates in colder regions can potentially have the greatest impact in raising awareness and support. Because this is such a jarring challenge to undertake, it may foster the curiosity, awe, solidarity, and generosity of those around you. Moreover, I found that as I wore dresses, the cold incessantly acted as a tangible reminder of the movement I was apart of and how important it was. As soon as you walk out of the house, are waiting for a bus or have to run from one side of campus to another, you better believe you’ll be reminded of the reason you intentionally chose to ditch the jeans for the dress. The cold forced me to reflect upon the symbol of the dress as a tool for solidarity and justice.

That said, we don’t want advocates to catch a cold, (or, heaven forbid, frostbite and hypothermia). Thankfully, there are some helpful loopholes for advocates in the North-and I can assure you, they are not considered cheating! You can be creative in braving the winter in a dress. Options include: wearing pants under dresses, fleece-lined tights, lots of layers and wearing sweaters over your dress. I must admit I never thought I would love and appreciate sweater dresses so profoundly. Moreover, participating as a team for accountability and encouragement was extremely helpful. Most importantly, enthusiasm and concern for the cause can be an even more powerful tool than your gas furnace. Reminding yourself daily of the reality of trafficking and the difference Dressember can make in fighting modern-darn slavery will absolutely help you survive the bitter cold.

A dress every day for 31-days during a Canadian winter is a minor discomfort compared to that of so many affected by slavery and sexual exploitation. I hope, if nothing else, to raise awareness of this dark reality that is still very present in our world, our country, our city.

Was wearing a dress in ice-cold temperature uncomfortable? Sure. But, as an incredible Ontarian Dressember advocate stated, “A dress every day for 31-days during a Canadian winter is a minor discomfort compared to that of so many affected by slavery and sexual exploitation. I hope, if nothing else, to raise awareness of this dark reality that is still very present in our world, our country, our city.”

When you think about it, the greatest influencers of the world very rarely made their mark while in their comfort zone. If wearing a dress in the cold is a way you can make a small difference, why not give it a try?


Raise your voice against slavery this December!

Commit to wearing a dress or tie every day in December. You'll challenge yourself, expand your knowledge on modern slavery, and be equipped to lead your community in the fight to end human trafficking. Registration is open for Dressember 2018 and fundraising has already started! Be a part of the impact for our local and global partners by creating your campaign page today!

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About the Author

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Jess Debanne, a proud Montrealer, is an International Development major at McGill University, minoring in Communications and World Religions. You can find her reading a book in a coffee shop, planning a trip to a new city or laughing with her loved ones. Her passion for social justice issues has inspired her work in nonprofit organizations both at home and in the developing world.