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Dresses bestow empowerment and dignity

A group of St Matthew’s Collegiate School students who are participating in the “Dress a Girl Around the World” project, with their Fashion Technology teacher, Ruth Bucknell. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Lisa Urbani

St Matthew’s Collegiate School students are creating outfits to donate to women in third world countries.

Empowering and giving dignity to young women around the world, is the motivation behind the “Dress A Girl Around the World” campaign that was founded in 2009 – under the umbrella of another organisation called “Hope 4 Women International.”

In the past eight years, the organisers distributed one million dresses to over 81 countries and honoured their vision that “every girl should own at least one dress”.

Now three years later, “Dress A Girl NZ”, co-ordinated by New Zealand ambassador Karen Wilson, has distributed over 3000 dresses to 26 different organisations in different countries and is going from strength to strength.

Since 2014, they have distributed more than 5000 dresses

At the start of this year, students in the Year 9 Fashion Technology Option from St Matthew’s Collegiate School began their project for the ‘Dress a Girl Around the World’ campaign – constructing the dresses to be donated to underprivileged girls.

Under the guidance of their fashion technology teacher, Ruth Bucknell, the girls worked on their dresses in class for 12 weeks and often gave up lunchtimes and time after school as well.

Another group of girls are also six weeks into their project, and next term the Year 11 Fashion technology students will be joining the project and earn NCEA credits at the same time.

They will source all the sustainable components and set up a manufacturing line where they will bulk produce dresses that they have designed.

Bucknell said it was a project that incorporated many educational aspects.

“Whist the project is run from my department it is cross curricular with students using social studies and geography to learn more about human trafficking, mathematics for measurements and adjustments, science for checking fabric properties and fibres, English for letter writing, business skills for raising money to donate, design and drawing for using the elements of design and design process to produce an aesthetically pleasing result, and fashion to ensure that the result is robust, well-constructed and meets all of the requirements of the brief and specifications – fit for purpose.”

The dress created may be the only dress that a recipient ever has, so the highest quality workmanship is required to enable the girl to feel dignified and beautiful.

Often the recipients live in areas where they are easy targets for trafficking and many girls miss out on an education because their family can’t afford the garments required to attend school.

Each dress needs to be manufactured in a sustainable way using good quality donated fabrics and trims that are 100 per cent cotton or a cotton/polyester blend, and the fabric could not be all white or have slogans, character prints or words on it. Just before the end of term, each of the completed dresses, with matching panties, a letter to the recipient, and a gold coin were presented and blessed at the St Matthew’s Collegiate School assembly.

They will now be sent to the Dress A Girl New Zealand ambassador in readiness for the call up for hand delivery to their destinations.

  • If you would like to help the campaign, visit the Dress A Girl NZ Facebook page, or contact Ruth Bucknell on [email protected]


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