Students dress the world’s girls
A world where every girl owns at least one new dress is the vision of the Dress A Girl Around The World project.
Four Hawke’s Bay high schools have agreed.
Havelock North High School, Woodford House, Taradale High School and Sacred Heart College all put their hands up, plugged in their sewing machines and produced a few hundred dresses last year. Havelock North High School produced 70 of those dresses — a collective effort from staff and students, even popping knickers into the dress pockets as a little something extra. They will be shipped off to New Zealand project ambassador Karen Wilson who will then decide where to send them.
“I try to donate these dresses to areas close to us — we have donated to Fiji (Homes of Hope), Uganda (Fountain of Peace Foundation), Brazil (Street Children), Cambodia (Street Children), Vanuatu, Vietnam (Christina Noble Foundation) and Operation Christmas Box,” Karen says.
Woodford House HOD technology and careers advisor Pam Knight says Jo Pearson from Havelock North High School started the ball rolling, introducing the project at a meeting of technology teachers at the end of 2017.
“We all went back to our schools and had a think about how and if we wanted to run it.”
Pam placed an article in the school newsletter asking for donations of cotton fabrics suitable for the dresses.
“I had the goal of 100 dresses by the end of the year.”
The dressesneed to be made of cotton-rich fabrics, no seethrough fabrics and a Dress a Girl official label on the front of the dress and pockets. The Dress A Girl website has suggestions of suitable styles — she selected three different styles and spent the Christmas holidays cutting out about 30 dresses to get started in Term 1.
“I found it easier to cut everything myself and give the students and staff who helped sew them a pre-cut unit they could sew at school, or take away. Some of the students have been really creative with their pocket designs and have loved getting into the box of fabrics and combining different colours and prints to create their original dress.”
Most of the construction was done after school and by Term 3, Pam had a group of “very keen girls” and staff who made multiple dresses.
“It was this group that enabled us to reach our 100-dress target. It has been a most rewarding exercise.” Pam says she loved being part of this initiative and would like to continue next year.
“I’ve seen some students who have never used a sewing machine before really blossom and become very adept and independent, coming in weekly to finish, and start another dress.”
Sacred Heart College Year 12 dean Fiona Fox also embraced the project. Her students have also produced dresses for the charity.
“Students attached the project to an internal NZQA standard and gave up the chance to make something for themselves and chose to embrace the project to help girls less fortunate than themselves.”
Each school approached the project differently — she introduced it to her small Year 11 class first, before planning a bigger project involving the whole school for 2019.
“The students had to test and trial several techniques appropriate for seams, pockets and binding before a final design was chosen and implemented. We think this is a great way to use recycled fabrics that we tend to have in our stock rooms as well as the fabrics given as donations.”
Pam believes teaching about the life cycle of garments and fabrics and how to eliminate waste is important.
“Fast fashion which is the quick daily turn over of fashion on racks is produced by cheap labour with sometimes unethical practices and is creating unnecessary bulk in our landfills. The education of slow fashion and thinking in terms of style and then re-style, restructure, and reduce for repurpose has to be considered.”
She says students are thinking creatively and coming up with more innovative ways to produce fashion in ethical ways.
“Universities and even our local EIT institution are showcasing students work with a bigger picture context and this is exciting for the future of fashion.”
Year 10 students, Georgia Russell and Georgia Niblett holding finished dresses.