By Sara Butler | Editor
Last week more than 50 San Diegans wore the same little black dress all week. No, they didn’t forget to do laundry — it was an intentional wardrobe choice.
Junior League of San Diego (JLSD) is a network of local women who work with community partners to address issues in the region, such as hardships that transition-age youth in foster care often face. Though the chapter has members all over the county, its headquarters are located in Bankers Hill and many of its events take place around the area, including in Balboa Park.
One of the major events of the year is its Little Black Dress Initiative (LBDI), which was held March 11-15. The five-day event, which originated in London five years ago, invites Junior League members around the globe to wear the same dark-colored hue dress all week.
Through the initiative, they discovered a simple style decision can often spark a conversation about very complex issues including poverty and lack of resources. In addition to repeating their outfit all week, each member wears pin on their clothing which says, “Ask me about my dress” — and people often do.
“The point is to start a conversation with coworkers or just people you come across in your day-to-day [life] who you would never normally have those conversations with,” JLSD president-elect Emily Green said.
“It’s unusual seeing a coworker wear the same dress for five days in a row,” she continued, adding that the action often opens the door to these talks. “[These topics] are not something you’d normally talk about over the water cooler.”
Green, who is a Hillcrest business owner and Bankers Hill resident, has been involved in JLSD for seven years. However, this was her first year participating in the LBDI.
Over the course of the five days, she received more than $600 in donations from friends, family and even acquaintances — most of which was collected over Facebook and Instagram. Participants posted photos of themselves in their dresses on social media along with captions to raise awareness of JLSD programs and encourage donations to the causes they support.
“What was so surprising for me was just how many people — not just in my own personal network — are interested in the cause that want to learn more [and can] approach the topic with them,” she said, adding that they share statistics about the issues as well as volunteer information to interested individuals.
“Did you know that nearly 40 percent of all children face economic hardship?” Green wrote in one of her social media posts. “In San Diego County, there are approximately 2,858 foster youth, with approximately 10 percent aging out of the foster care system each year. These young men and women have very few resources available to them, and face high rates of poverty, homelessness, and criminal activity, including human trafficking.”
In addition to the dress serving as a catalyst to spark a conversation, Green said wearing the same outfit symbolizes what many individuals are forced to do when faced with issues such as poverty and limited resources.
“It was also to bring attention to the fact that there are men and women going out there on job interviews, and even to their work, and have to wear the same thing over and over because they don’t necessarily have the means to not repeat the same outfit day after day,” she said.
To wrap up the week, JLSD hosted a clothing drive on March 15 at Little Italy’s Loading Dock. They invited the public to donate new or gently used professional clothing for homeless youth to help them in their job search or in the workforce — without having to wear the same outfit every day.
Sixty people attended the clothing drive, and 35 large garbage bags were filled with donations. As of print, they exceeded the $7,500 goal with more than $8,000 monetary donations collected over the five days.
Clothing donations will be given to community associations and utilized for associated events. In April, JLSD is partnering with Just in Time for Foster Youth to host a resume workshop, which will feature several racks of the donated business clothes.
Remaining clothes will be utilized at various Brand of Brothers events put on by JLSD, as well gifted to Home Start Thrift Boutique, a maternity shelter located in Normal Heights. Monetary funds raised will benefit the Junior League of San Diego and its mission-based programs and projects.
To learn more about JLSD, the LBD initiative and the nonprofit’s mission, visit jlsd.org.
— Reach Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org until April 1.