‘Hail 2 Dressember’ combats human trafficking through a style challenge


Image courtesy of Zoe Frantz

Zoe Frantz, a junior marketing major, holds a Dressember pin.

By Katelyn Kruszewski, Staff Writer

December air in Pittsburgh can feel windy and frigid. Around late November, students walk around campus donning large scarves, winter coats, hats and gloves — but one girl stands out amid the hoards of bundled individuals. Zoe Frantz walks down the street in late November sporting a dress and a small pin that challenges the norm, the pin gleaming with a message — “Ask me about my dress.”

Dressember is a nonprofit organization fighting to end human trafficking. The main fundraising event is a 31-day style challenge during December where advocates wear a dress or tie every day of the month to raise awareness about human trafficking. Participants advocate to friends and family or donate to fund human trafficking rescue missions and provide rehabilitation resources to survivors. 

Dressember has various college campus chapters across the U.S. Frantz, a junior marketing major, is Pitt’s campus ambassador and team leader for Hail 2 Dressember, the first chapter in the Pittsburgh area.

Frantz said she started reaching out to sororities, honors societies and more during November to form a team willing to fundraise and join the style challenge throughout December.

“I have participated in Dressember for four years, leading a team of upwards of 40 members and raising almost $10,000. This year, I am grateful to be bringing this amazing cause to Pitt as a campus ambassador,” Frantz said. “Many people aren’t aware, but there are 50 million people trapped in human trafficking situations as of 2022.”

Frantz said she was shocked that no one was talking about human trafficking, so she decided to start a group at her high school.

“My mom told me that there were people trapped in labor trafficking in the modern day. I was appalled. We had been taught in school that slavery was illegal, yet it was still occurring. Why weren’t we learning about this? Why weren’t people talking about it?” Frantz said. “I was so shocked by this information I knew I had to get involved.”

Nikita Reddy, a junior biomedical engineering major, joined the Hail 2 Dressember team after watching a friend join the campaign in high school. She said the fashion challenge creates room for conversation.

“Through something as simple as wearing a dress or tie every day of Decemeber, we open up the room for conversations to happen about what human trafficking is and how we can help victims,” Reddy said. “I liked how impactful the movement was and how something as simple as a dress can allow a stranger to come up to you and ask ‘Hey, why are you wearing a dress,’ allowing the room for impactful conversations.”

The Dressember team challenges individuals to wear a dress or tie for every day of December — a challenge most college students are unwilling to take on during the colder month. Reddy said people who still want to participate without wearing a dress can still advocate and start small. 

“You don’t have to go big. It can be hard to wear a dress everyday and commit to it so even if you choose some days rather than none, that’s perfectly fine. You can also wear a tie,” Reddy said. “If nothing, simply read and educate yourself and show your support by donating and getting your loved ones to donate.”

Franz explained that anyone is invited to join as a team member on Hail 2 Dressember. Team members can choose to do the full fashion challenge, modify the challenge and or fundraise.

Bea Amsalu, a senior neuroscience major, said she joined the Dressember team after Frantz talked at her sorority Rho Psi Eta. 

“It’s meant to be a challenge, but make it work for you. I teach spin three times a week so I didn’t think that wearing a dress every day was feasible for me, so I decided that at least once a week would be a good compromise,” Amsalu said. “Even that is better than me deciding to not be involved at all.”

Frantz said the fashion challenge reminds individuals that they have a choice in what they wear while those trapped in human trafficking situations do not.

“When encouraging people to join the cause, I remind them of their freedom. They are able to live completely autonomous lives, including choosing what they wear,” Frantz said. “Consider giving up a day, a week, or the whole month to wear a dress or tie if it could mean the freedom for those trapped in human trafficking.”

While reflecting on her role in Dressember, Reddy said she is an advocate.

“I am simply an advocate and campaigner,” Reddy said. “I constantly try to learn more about human trafficking and it’s details, but at the heart, I am simply a person who believes that everyones deserves to be free.”