Junior League of Florence aims to “make poverty unfashionable”

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – This week several women in Florence are wearing a black outfit every day – and not a different outfit. Each woman is wearing the same black outfit as part of the Junior League of Florence’s “Little Black Dress Initiative.”

The Junior League of London pioneered the LBDI in 2014 with the goal to “make poverty unfashionable.”  The members of the Junior League of Florence are following that example.

According to a press release from the Junior League the initiative (LBDI) aims “to illustrate the effects poverty can have on a woman’s access to resources, her confidence and professional opportunities. By wearing a button that reads “Ask me about my dress,” Junior League members will invite dialogue opportunities among colleagues, friends and strangers to raise awareness about generational poverty in the Florence community.”

Ellen Knight who helped organize the initiative in Florence County explained how the repeated wearing of the same black dress can reflect a broader issue.

“I mean that’s the first thing that you are judged on, when you walk into an interview is do you look like you belong here,” Knight said. “For women in poverty they may not be able to afford to look like they belong. So it is a fun catchy thing, but really it’s the entry into a conversation, and it’s a little piece of the struggle that people face and poverty.”

Data reflect why the Junior League members feel that poverty among women is an important topic to highlight and work to change. In Florence County, 19.8% of residents live below the poverty line. That’s significantly above the South Carolina state average of 16.6% and the national average of 14.7%. Of that 19.8%, females between the ages 25-34 make up the largest demographic. (source: https://datausa.io/profile/geo/florence-county-sc/)

The Junior League also points out that low-income women are living with limited resources to food, housing, healthcare, transportation, and other basic necessities. Lower income pregnant women receive less prenatal care, experience higher levels of stress and are more likely to deliver premature babies. (source: http://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/women.aspx)

“You wake up every morning and get dressed and get ready to go to work and you don’t think about people that don’t have that opportunity to pick out what they want to wear… or wearing clean clothes every day,” explained Jessica James who is participating in the Little Black Dress Initiative. “So it really kind of touched on my heart strings because I’m more fortunate than some people and I want to decrease that number.”

Based on other research and date, the Junior League also provided the following general information about women in poverty:

Women in low income households are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and to report or be victims of domestic violence. Being a victim of domestic violence affects their physical and emotional confidence on a variety of levels and many of them are often afraid to break out of the cycle. Sadly, even if they do break the cycle of abuse low income women are more likely to return to their abuser.

Women in poverty also struggle from depression and anxiety disorders. They’re more likely to die from treatable illnesses as they often can’t afford health insurance, medication or doctor’s visits. They struggle with obesity as healthy food is more expensive. They have poor eating habits because they’ve never received or been taught about proper nutrition. Generational poverty is a viscous cycle. Children raised in poverty often stay in poverty as an adult because they can’t afford the cost of higher education.

Poverty affects a woman’s access to professional opportunities in many ways. The two largest factors are transportation and wage gap. Some women simply cannot afford transportation to a job. Women in the workplace also still average lower pay than their male counterparts. (source: http://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/women.aspx)

Another area that poverty greatly impacts them is professional attire. It seems silly, but a professional wardrobe is important for a woman who is trying to build her career. For women in poverty, affording the “right” clothes for the job is yet another hurdle to employment.

Even more details can be found in the following press release from the Junior League of Florence. It includes three different ways people can get involved in addition to wearing black this week:

FLORENCE, S.C. – The Junior League of Florence members will don all black for the Little Black Dress Initiative (LBDI) April 17-21, 2017. Throughout the week, LBDI Advocates will wear the same black outfit for five consecutive days to illustrate the effects poverty can have on a woman’s access to resources, her confidence and professional opportunities. By wearing a button that reads “Ask me about my dress,” Junior League members will invite dialogue opportunities among colleagues, friends and strangers to raise awareness about generational poverty in the Florence community.

What is the Little Black Dress Initiative?
In February 2014, the Junior League of London pioneered the Little Black Dress Initiative (LBDI) with the goal to “make poverty unfashionable.” While their fellow Londoners were attending London Fashion Week, local Junior Leaguers were wearing the same black dress every day to work, parties, dinners and events to raise funds and increase awareness of poverty in the city. The first campaign was so successful that they decided to take the initiative worldwide.

London Called: Florence Answered
The Junior League of Florence answered London’s call and will be hosting their first LBDI campaign this year. According to the US Census Burea, over 29,054 people live below the poverty line in Florence, SC. Growing up in poverty is one of the greatest threats to healthy child development, as poverty and financial stress can impede a child’s cognitive development and their ability to learn.

“Because generational poverty is such a large issue in our local community and our state at large, our Provisional Class decided to make LBDI part of their focus this year.” stated President Lauren Vause. “When they brought the idea to the board, we instantly knew LBDI would be a natural fit for the Junior League of Florence as it falls in line with our current mission to empower women and children. ”

How does it work?
The LBDI is a week-long, social media-driven fundraising campaign that uses the iconic “little black dress” to raise awareness about poverty and its effects on women in society. The Junior League of Florence is inviting Members and the community to wear the same black dress or outfit for five consecutive days from April 17 – 21 with a pin that requests the public to “Ask Me About My Dress,” with the goal of sparking conversation and spreading awareness of the initiative and its objectives. “19.8%. That number means that almost 20% of Florence County residents live below the poverty line. That’s way above SC’s state average of 16.6% and the nation’s average of 14.7%.” said provisional member, Ellen Knight. “Of that 19.8%, females, ages 25-34 make up the largest demographic of Florence folks in poverty.”

“The provisional class has really gone to a lot of work to put the events for this week together. The statistics of women in our local community affected by poverty are astounding. It’s hard to think that the woman standing in line with you at the store might be struggling with the choice of buying dinner or buying diapers for her child.” said Kat Barnette, an active member. “It’s our hope that our online campaign on the Junior League of Florence Facebook page will really be eye opening for the Florence community. In addition to the online campaign, the Provisional class has put together several events for the Florence community to participate in.”

Help us Make Poverty Unfashionable!
Shop & Support • April 20th • 10am-8pm • Pretty-N-Bliss
Join us for a fun day of shopping at Pretty-N-Bliss on Cashua. Shoppers will enjoy 10% off their purchase all day! Pretty-N-Bliss has joined us in our campaign as a sponsor and will be making a donation to JLF’s Little Black Dress Initiative.

Paint the Town Red • April 21 @ 7pm • Dolce Vita
Join us for a night of celebration as we close out the week at Dolce Vita in Downtown Florence. Junior League members will be swapping in their black dresses for red attire as we celebrate the end of our campaign. Grab a cup of coffee and hear first hand from members about what we’re doing in the community to have an impact on generational poverty.

Don’t Mess with My Dress Woman’s Self Defense Workshop
April 22 • Ebenezer Baptist Church • 9am & 10am

Join us for an interactive workshop on self-defense, healthy relationships and more! Sessions will take place at 9am and 10am. After the session, talk with members from CARE House of the Pee Dee, Pee Dee Coalition, The Naomi Project & Empowered to Heal to learn what they are doing in our community and what you can do to help a victim of domestic violence or abuse. Admission is free! But tickets are recommended: bit.ly/SelfDefense17

For more information, contact the Junior League of Florence at juniorleagueflorence@gmail.com

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