Calgary June Dresses initiator Ailen White poses in two of the dresses she wore for the 2013 campaign

Empowering women — One dress at a time

Calgary June Dresses initiator Ailen White poses in two of the dresses she wore for the 2013 campaign

As June quickly approaches, so does the second year of Calgary’s June Dresses campaign. June Dresses is a fundraising campaign led by Vista Projects, a Calgary-owned and operated engineering firm. Women collect pledges and commit to wearing dresses or skirts for all 30 days in June. Last year’s first campaign was a huge success, raising over $10,000 for charities that empower women.

We sat down with Ailen White, 2013 initiator of Calgary’s June Dresses campaign.

  1. Why did you decide to start June Dresses in Calgary?
A woman poses in one of her dresses from the 2013 Calgary June Dresses Campaign
A woman poses in one of her dresses from the 2013 Calgary June Dresses Campaign

I was invited to participate in June Dresses in 2012 after of a teacher-friend of mine in the small rural Alberta area where I grew up started wearing dresses in the last month of the school year as a pick-me-up for herself and for the students who were all longing for summer.

That year, there was a small group of friends from across Alberta who started wearing dresses as a fashion challenge and a little light-heartedness in a sometimes dreary summer month.  Halfway through friends started asking us why we were doing June Dresses. It was a little uncomfortable to say “oh just for fun” and we started to wonder if it could be something more.

I’d lived in Calgary long enough at that point to know the generosity of Calgarians and the massive volunteer spirit vibrant in the city. I approached the company I was working for, Vista Projects, to see if it was something they would be willing to endorse since they are so supportive of employee driven charity efforts. Vista embraced the idea we were able to start an exciting campaign with United Way.

  1. What would you say to people who question why women should wear dresses for a month?

It’s not for everyone and that’s okay! It’s meant to be a fun and accessible way for women to connect with each other, with their community and to feel good. We are transforming what was once a simple fashion challenge into a fun way to help others in need.

  1. Where will the money raised go?
Two participants from the 2013 June Dresses campaign pose in their dresses
Two participants from the 2013 June Dresses campaign pose in their dresses

Money raised through junedresses.ca will support All In for Youth, a citywide initiative developed by United Way aimed at cutting the high school dropout rate by 50%. A sub-strategy, All In for Girls, is being led by the Women’s Leadership Council and helps ensure girls complete high school with confidence, connections and choices. By supporting these initiatives, we’re going to empower women in our city to support girls to graduate and be prepared for the rest of their lives.

Outside of Calgary, though, there are June Dresses groups who have decided to sponsor local charities in their areas. We have participants from across the province, Canada and the world who are committed to making a difference in their community. It makes me excited to hear about women using June Dresses as a charitable tool outside of Calgary!

  1. There are so many fundraisers every month, why is this one important?

This campaign isn’t just about giving money; it’s also about the participant. It’s about taking a little time for yourself every day to dress and creating the opportunity for compliment, conversation and connection with the people you encounter. After participating for a few years, I’ll admit that I feel more confident and happier in June than in any other month.

5.       What is your hope for June Dresses in Calgary this year?

The movement is catching on! I would love to see widespread participation by having schools, communities and corporations enter teams for fundraising. We have a few events going on in June and it would be great to have people attend these events, but also create their own events (clothing exchanges, volunteer nights, etc.) and let us know how June Dresses has inspired them to engage with others.

Ailen White in one of her 2013 June DressesAs a Vista Projects employee, Ailen White initiated the Calgary June Dresses campaign in 2013 supporting United Way. She enjoys the challenge of wearing dresses in a variety of settings and activities. Most importantly, she is passionate about the message of joy that June Dresses provides: winter is over, summer is coming and hope is not lost.

One Comment

  1. I am not sure how to feel about this one….seems to me that if the point is to empower women maybe wearing something that contributes to the narrow definition of women and beauty such as dresses, is the wrong choice. Not that it is wrong to wear a dress, I just think it is an odd choice for this specific cause.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *