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This past Winter/Spring, I elected to wear the same dress. The very same one. Every day. Every day for forty days.

It was black. It was little.

I did it for my project Action: Little Black Dress.

It was an experiment with creativity. It was a challenge myself. I wore it to understand what it is like to be poor, only having one item of clothing.

It wore it to change who I was.

But I also wore it to start conversations. I wore it, hoping I would raise money to help victims of food crises which were causing hundreds of thousands to starve.

2012 Action: Little Black Dress Photos and Overview

So, How Did It Go?

It was actually alright. The whole experience exceeded my expectations in every way, both personally and socially.

Did I get sick of the dress?

I thought I would hate wearing that dress by the end. Surprisingly, I actually wasn’t too annoyed. I didn’t shred it to pieces or burn it, like I had assumed I would want to. Occasionally, I still slip into it wondering how the heck did I wore the thing for forty days and did not gone crazy (Apparently I have already forgotten).  But I wasn’t really bothered wearing the same thing daily while I was in the middle of the project.

What was something I really liked about wearing the Little Black Dress?

I really loved being creative, choosing different outfits to wear daily. I found it freeing to experiment wearing styles I wouldn’t normally. Sometimes I went really crazy, feeling totally free to wear whatever I wanted without really caring what I looked like. Wearing the same thing daily just made me not care about people’s opinions. It also made it super easy to get dressed in the morning!

What was a difficult part of Action: Little Black Dress?

I don’t think I would ever describe this action as “difficult.” Sometimes I felt self-conscious. Washing it at night, that was annoying.

If anything was difficult, it was getting frustrated, feeling like there was no point to it. When I didn’t get to talk about it, people didn’t seem to get it, or times when I didn’t raise any money, it totally felt worthless. I was like “Heck, I donated my money already, no one cares, I don’t need to wear it. I want to quit.”

So if anything was difficult, managing my discouragement was. I know that the other two people who did it had the same struggles. They both talked with me about how no one was giving money or they weren’t having conversations that encouraged people to care about famine.

When you live your life to express a view, and no one else shares that view (in this case, that we should and can actually do something about famines and food crises) it just starts to really grate on you.

I didn’t like it when people would tell me “I can’t do that but I really want to” or “If only… I would do it.” I felt like yelling, “JUST DO IT THEN!” I didn’t want to do it alone, I knew we could raise more money with more people, and as I was doing it, I became convinced that most people actually CAN do this- they just don’t want to enough.

So, when they said “I want to do it, but…” it irked me. But then I would remember that I don’t want to do every opportunity that comes my way, either.

I think I would have been okay with people saying “ya, I don’t really want to do it.” Or even better,”I don’t want to do it, but I am curious how I can help those who are starving. I want to find a way.”

What kept me from giving up?

Eventually, I began to realize that maybe those who said they wanted to do Action: Little Black Dress but didn’t, might actually want to do it. Its just scary for them or too big of a hurdle to overcome. And that is okay.

When I started seeing these comments through that perspective, I began to realize that I might actually be an example. I might be a leader, someone to imitate, someone who puts actions to their words. I just might be a change-maker! And by being that, I was inspiring people.

Now, I don’t know if any of that is true. But, believing that maybe I was inspiring people- even those who weren’t being part, weren’t giving, weren’t talking- that kept me from quitting. And it made me want to be someone worth admiring. Not because I was more awesome, but because I was living out what I believe.

They always say that those who go against the flow have a hard time.  I clung to that hope, that this was not in vain.

How did I grow from this experience?

Well, first of all there was the above revelation I just described. But I also got a few other things out of this experience.

I really liked not being so controlled by clothing during this project. In addition to Action: Little Black Dress, I had committed to not buy clothing this year (um, I did give in once, when the “not buying clothing community” I signed up with said I could). All to say, I am still being challenged to not be controlled by what I want to wear.  It is still hard for me to not care about popular culture’s standards, but I do feel more freedom when I am not as concerned with my appearance.

Thirdly, spending so much time/energy standing up for those who are starving caused me to be very aware of food crises around the globe, their causes, what we can do to keep these from happening. And just in general, I feel like I understand the plight of the hungry a bit better. In turn, though I don’t “feel” compassion for those who are hungry too much, I am still a lot louder about the issue, ready to defend the hungry. I realize how real and serious hunger is, and that I can actually do something about it.

Here was a post I wrote during this time while in the process of “getting” famine:

What is Famine? Defining Hunger Around the World

What did I think about others joining me?

My favorite picture of Cindy, with a car!

I loved it that these guys did it with me! It encouraged me so much that I was not alone and that my inspiration inspired them to act, as well.

It was also useful to see how other people would take on this project. Both Cindy and my dad (Gary) are somewhat beyond the typical age of people who do crazy things to create change. But they still did it. I really respected that about them.

They both also work. Gary, my dad, is an English teacher, and Cindy works as an IT professional, so she has to look nice and refined. They both proved that age and career don’t have to be an eliminating factor most of the time.

I know Cindy’s most regrettable incident was when she tried to go do a NASCAR car driving thing and they wouldn’t let her, because she was wearing a dress! No Way! I know that she wanted me to share that if she could do it, lots of people can! In fact, she was even featured in a style blog!

I had wondered how the One Month. One Shirt. One Cause. thing would work in a shirt, rather than a dress. Thanks to my dad, I was able to find out. I think it was a lot more boring for him to wear the same shirt for a month than it was for me wearing the same dress, but it was still completely doable!

Thanks again dad and Cindy for doing this with me! Your participation really made me believe this was worthwhile!

What will I do differently next time, for Action: Little Black Dress 2013?

  • I will probably wash my dress less! Since I wore so many layers, it really didn’t get that dirty! 🙂
  • I might get two of the same dresses, instead.
  • I will probably get more tights/leggings/stocking options to wear.
  • I think I will be sure to invite people to do this with me further in advance.
  • I decided to focus on human trafficking next year, largely because I believe it will draw more people in to taking part.
  • I will research other fundraising platforms.
  • I will try to think of a better way to take pictures daily. I feel like this was an important part of making this action known, but I would love it to be easier!

What was the impact of this project?

Well, although I never reached my fundraising goal of $2000, I got a lot closer to it than I thought I would have! This thrilled me. At the end of my 40 days, this picture describes the amount of people we helped get life-saving food (mostly through the organization Convoy of Hope):


Since then, we’ve gotten a few more donations, totaling $1580! Hence, now we have fed 92 kids for a month, given 2300 days of food, or provided approximately 6900 meals! Together, this is what we have done. This is a huge impact! This shows love and saves lives! We have created change!

Lastly, I know that other Americans became more aware of the hungry and want to make a difference because we did this action. For me, this is the most rewarding thing of all!

Ideas for Action:

Sign up to do it with us next year! Find a group to do it with us next year! Or how about at least considering to do it next year! And if you don’t want to, just say so 🙂

(Let me know in comments below or on the Little Black Dress Page)

Secondly, please consider donating $5 to food crisis and famine relief. Currently a huge food crisis is threatening the lives of many in The Sahel, Africa. You might feel like you are just giving a drop in the bucket, but that $5 is equivalent to about 25 meals for a real person!

Donate here: http://www.crowdrise.com/littleblackdress2012/fundraiser/AverageAdvocate

 

Learn More About Action: Little Black Dress:

Action: Little Black Dress Pt.1

Action: Little Black Dress Pt.2 (The How)

Art of Advocacy: Wearing Hope in a Little Black Dress