This February, Dressember welcomed 15 new spring interns to the editorial team. One of these fabulous interns is Stephanie Elwell, a creative and passionate advocate hailing from Naples, Florida.
Stephanie’s drive for social justice is profoundly evident across multiple facets of her life. She makes the time to write for the Dressember blog and be a fierce advocate even in the whirlwind of wedding planning and her job at a domestic violence shelter, where she works as a child and teen advocate.
While getting to know Stephanie, it is immediately clear that family is of incredible importance to her. The biggest inspiration in her fight for social justice has been her parents, whom she describes as loving and compassionate people who dedicate much of their time to helping others - especially those in marginalized groups that are often overlooked by society at large.
Her sisters have also provided Stephanie with a drive to fight against the atrocities of modern slavery and labor exploitation. When Stephanie first learned about human trafficking, she instantly thought about her two younger sisters, Christina and Sarah, saying that “as a protective big sister, the mere thought of someone even getting near them with such awful intentions made me sick to my stomach. I couldn’t get it out of my mind… I wanted to do something - and I still do.”
“As a protective big sister, the mere thought of someone even getting near them with such awful intentions made me sick to my stomach. I couldn’t get it out of my mind… I wanted to do something - and I still do.”
Eager to get involved in the fight against human trafficking, Stephanie was encouraged to advocate with Dressember in 2013 when she saw a friend’s social media post about it. She described the moment she learned about Dressember as a monumental one in her life, and she was instantly excited to provide “help in a tangible way”.
Stephanie has since participated in the Dressember style challenge every year, making this past December her fifth year of donning dresses throughout the month. Like the rest of us, Stephanie faces challenges throughout the month. For Stephanie, the most difficult part is that she simply isn’t that big of a fan of wearing dresses. “I wouldn’t describe myself as fashionable,” Stephanie confessed, “and I feel most comfortable in jeans and tank tops, so a whole month of dresses is definitely a personal challenge for me.” Stephanie has discovered that the most helpful way for her to overcome this difficulty is by looking to other Dressember advocates for style inspiration. She holds an incredible outlook on this personal challenge and uses it to fuel her drive as an advocate: “I’m deeply aware of my privilege; the fact that I can choose to wear whatever I want when so many people are living enslaved is not lost on me”. The most rewarding part about being involved in Dressember for Stephanie is the fact that it allows her to use the freedoms she enjoys in a way that helps those who lack the same liberties.
“I’m deeply aware of my privilege; the fact that I can choose to wear whatever I want when so many people are living enslaved is not lost on me”
While the majority of Stephanie’s free time outside of work and advocacy has been dedicated to planning her upcoming wedding, she also enjoys many creative outlets, including writing, reading, bullet journaling, and researching a newfound passion for ethical fashion.
A self-proclaimed introvert, Stephanie’s ideal day includes appreciating some time alone reading blogs and updating her Pinterest boards with an iced coffee in hand. Above all, however, she cherishes spending time with her fiancé, Eddy, exploring unfamiliar places and simply being outside - whether that be a relaxing day at the beach or discovering a new park.
Perhaps the best description of Stephanie can be found through her favorite fictional character, Jo March of Little Women, whom she relates to in multiple ways. Stephanie respects Jo’s passion for writing and describes the character as “bookish, tomboyish, hungry for adventure, and fiercely loyal to her family”. After learning more about Stephanie, it is clear that she, too, holds these admirable qualities.
All of us at Dressember are so grateful for people like Stephanie who use their personal attributes and talents to aid in the fight for justice. Throughout the process of interviewing Stephanie, her fervor for advocacy and change was both consistent and inspiring, reminding me - once again - about the importance of our work as advocates, and the gravity of the battle we have joined for global freedom.
About the Author
Morgan Wiersma is a student at Chicago City Colleges, where she plans to finish her Associate in Arts this spring before beginning to pursue an undergrad in Creative Nonfiction and Social Sciences. She calls her cozy apartment in downtown Chicago home and lives with her dwarf rabbit, Lola. A coffee enthusiast and avid writer, Morgan also enjoys small art projects, tea candles, and oversized flannel shirts.