Pardon me for wearing the same black dress for five consecutive days next week. Almost 100 other Charlotte women will be doing the same, in observance of the Junior League of Charlotte’s second annual Little Black Dress Initiative April 3-7.
It’s not a fashion statement — it’s a conversation-starter about poverty in our community. It’s meant to spark discussion about how many of our female neighbors only have one outfit to wear during the week, or how four of North Carolina’s 10 most distressed neighborhoods are located in our city.
About 100 women participated last year, raising $25,000 in five days to support JLC programs and services that help relieve the effects of poverty.
“It’s really strange how wearing the same dress for five days can change your whole outlook on life,” said JLC President Shannon Vandiver, who will be wearing her LBD next week during her day job as a lawyer.
She participated last year and didn’t bother washing the dress or spritzing it with Febreze. She wanted to get the complete experience, discomforts and all, since a woman in poverty may not have either of those luxuries.
She said those five days affected the way she spent money, and the way she presented herself. She did take a little liberty with mixing up her ensemble with cardigans, scarves and blazers.
By day five, she realized: “OK, I get it.”
Poverty nearly doubled in Charlotte between 2000 and 2016, jumping from 10 to 18 percent. About a quarter of Charlotte children are poor.
“There are over 4,000 homeless kids in CMS schools, and every time I share that number, people are shocked,” said Vandiver, who set her fundraising goal at $4,000, while the JLC hopes to raise $50,000 collectively.
The LBD Initiative originated with the Junior League of London and is carried out in communities around the world.
In Charlotte, this initiative will help fund JLC programs like Big Shots Saturday (which provides more than 400 children with more than 1,000 immunizations) and the delivery of nearly 10,000 backpacks of food to students at Title I schools for the weekends and holidays.
So if you see a woman wearing a little black dress next week, with a button that says, “Ask Me About My Dress,” well, ask.
“It’s just giving us an opportunity to talk about the problem and the solution,” Vandiver said.
Non-JLC members are welcome to donate here. To participate, click here, set your own fundraising goal, share statistics on social media with the hashtag #LBDi, grab your pin from the JLC and pick out that little black dress from your closet.
Pro tip from Vandiver: “Cotton will be your friend.”
Photo: Taylor Stading Photography