Lifestyle / Random Thoughts

Dressing for a Cause

Our clothes are used to send a multitude of messages. A football jersey professes one’s support to home team; a business suit conveys professionalism and competence; a red dress implies sensuality and desire. From sans-culottes of the French Revolution to bra-burning feminists of the 1960s, clothes were used to make a political statement. Indeed, we use fashion to literally wear our convictions on our sleeve.

Livia Firth wears her clothes inside out for Fashion Revolution Day 2014. Photo: Trevor Leighton via ELLE UK.

Livia Firth wears her clothes inside out for Fashion Revolution Day 2014. Photo: Trevor Leighton via ELLE UK.

On 24 April, celebrities and fashionistas around the world chose to wear their clothes inside out as part of the Fashion Revolution Day to mark the one year anniversary of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh. The campaign garnered support from eco-conscious stars like Cate Blanchett, Livia Firth and Emma Watson. Check Twitter hashtag #insideout to see who else took part in the campaign and snapped a selfie with their clothes tags proudly on display.

This was by far the most original and impactful way of dressing for a cause in recent years. Which made me wonder: what other easy-to-adopt statement clothes ideas are there out there? Below are some I’ve managed to find — no doubt there’s more — but hope they will help you pick a worthy cause in every colour of the rainbow.

May 1st is White Shirt Day, in support of ovarian cancer research. Led by the Australian Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation, the event seeks to raise awareness and vital funds for the development of an early detection test that will save women’s lives. Worldwide almost a quarter of a million women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year and it is responsible for almost 150,000 deaths annually.  At the moment, ovarian cancer is most likely to be diagnosed at advanced stage when a cure is difficult to achieve.

People wearing white shirts pose on the steps of the Sydney Opera House in support of ovarian cancer research. Photo: OCRF.

People wearing white shirts pose on the steps of the Sydney Opera House in support of ovarian cancer research as part of the United in White campaign. Photo: OCRF.

Pink is a colour that has become synonymous with breast cancer awareness. In the UK, the wear it pink campaign encourages people to don a dress, a t-shirt or even a wig in this colour on any day in October to help beat what is still the most common cancer around the world by joining forces with scientists, supporters and people affected by it.

wear it pink campaign banner in support of breast cancer awareness. Photo: wear it pink

wear it pink campaign banner in support of breast cancer awareness. Photo: wear it pink

Other than being the colour worn on St. Patrick’s Day, green obviously stands for environmental awareness. While there is no single day to wear green, you can choose from Earth Day (22 April), World Environment Day (5 June), or many other environment-themed days out there. Clearly, a pair of green stilettos would do just fine!

UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Gisele Bundchen wearing nothing but green vines on Earth Day. Photo via Gisele Bundchen's Facebook page.

UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Gisele Bundchen wearing nothing but green vines on Earth Day. Photo via Gisele Bundchen’s Facebook page.

Similarly, while there is no consensus on blue, charity organizations are encouraging you to wear it on World Autism Awareness Day, 2 April. Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the US, and boys are nearly five times more likely than girls to have it.

When British football players recently tied their shoes with rainbow shoelaces, they did so to protest against homophobia in sport. I think it is one of those ideas with great potential to be adopted more widely.

Finally, moving beyond colours, 11 October is Hat Day, another Australian invention, the ‘fun-draising’ day where you wear a hat and make a donation to help shine a light on mental illness.

Whether you choose to wear a red ribbon on World AIDS Day, 1 December, or a pair of black socks to rally against racial injustice like NBA players, I hope that these small acts of citizen fashion will help others see your true colours shining through.

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