Rachel David celebrates the experience, which she says has been liberating, has started some great conversations and raised over £9,000 for charity so far

Rachel David

Last September I challenged myself to wear the same dress every day for one year to raise money for women who had lost everything because of COVID. The idea itself seemed simple enough; buy the right dress, hardwearing and practical, and commit to 365 days.

Uncovering the issues that really matter

However, the actual thought of doing it was daunting! I realised that some of my self-worth was based upon the clothes I chose to wear, and I was concerned about what people would think. I also worried that no one would donate and I would be wearing the dress for a year for nothing!

The reality has been completely different. People have been incredibly generous and the dress seems to have developed its own personality! It becomes the focus of conversation wherever I go. Topics such as self-worth, fast fashion and poverty all become animated discussions with the women I meet. I am no longer concerned about what people think, as the cause for which I am wearing the dress is greater than my concerns of how I might look or feel.

Supporting women hit by COVID

Several years ago, I had the privilege of travelling to Ethiopia through World of Worth, the Christian charity I run with my husband. I visited a church in Addis Ababa and helped to establish some micro-businesses with a small group of women. These women lived in appalling conditions, with no running water, sanitation or safe shelter. Over the years, we have supported them to build their businesses, renovate and secure their homes and send their children to school. We have built relationships with these women, and watched them grow and thrive as they have supported each other.

When COVID hit, these women were no longer able to work and overnight lost their entire source of income. Threatened with eviction, and unable to feed their families, they suddenly faced the reality of living life on the streets; vulnerable to violence, abuse and rape. The thought of this was horrifying to me.

With lockdown in the UK, my fundraising options were limited. Inspired by a friend who did this some years ago, I knew I had to overcome my insecurities and stand in solidarity with women who faced eviction and hunger. The Bible constantly reminds us to care for the widows and orphans, so I set myself a target: support 24 families by paying their rent for one year. Thanks to an amazing response, I reached my target of £7,400 after six months. I have now set a new goal of £12,000 as, sadly over the last year, rents have increased due to COVID. I want to help these women launch their businesses again in this difficult economic environment. It would also be great to reach £1,000 for each month of wearing the dress! 

To donate go to Justgiving.com/Rachel-David5

To follow the rest of Rachel’s dress journey, go to Instagram @dress4ayea