The Edmond Sun

May 3, 2013

Memorial students’ sewing project helps clothe young girls

Patty Miller
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Imagine a world where every little girl owns at least one dress.

It is hard to believe in today’s world that there are young girls who have very little or nothing of their own to wear.

A dilemma for two local teachers was solved and the result was young girls across the world will be receiving dresses, and for many it will be the only one they own.

When Memorial High School’s Marsha Swift and Melinda Johnson, FACS/FCCLA instructors, made a second semester assignment for their Family and Consumer Sciences clothing & textile unit, they were introduced to the idea of dressing a girl around the world.

Linda Sloan, Edmond’s Career Tech specialist, introduced a guest speaker during a program for the FACS teacher.  

“A former Bulldog graduate, Sharie Wilkins, who is a pilot, was the speaker who introduced us to ‘Dress a Girl Around the World’ in February,” Swift said. “Soon we will have 15 or so dresses completed to give to precious girls who all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. The ‘Dress a Girl’ label sewn on the outside of each dress helps the girls become part of an organization.”

Swift said that when the students found out about the project many of them volunteered to sew a dress and traded their original project in to be able to help a child by completing a service project.

“One of the students said, ‘I don’t need to make a jacket for my dog; I would rather make a dress for a little girl’,” Swift added.

Wilkins’ sister, Terri Hickman, also a Memorial graduate and now a teacher at Centennial Elementary, promotes the program with her sister.  

“I have a love for travel and meeting people and during one of my journeys, I was introduced to Dress A Girl Around The World,” Wilkins said. “I had been looking for a way to give back, and I now had my answer. I don’t sew but together with others who have a heart to give back, we are able to provide dresses to children. Not only possibly the one new dress they will ever receive but also joy, hope and a sense of value in a society where girls are undervalued.”

Swift said a local church donated fabric, thread and bias tape to complete the project.

“We were able to pick our own fabric from fabric that was donated, and rick rack and ribbon to decorate our dresses,” said Natalie Elsea, a senior at Memorial. “I have always been drawn to hounds tooth fabric so I chose a piece of that fabric, and I am decorating it with red accents. We received the measurement from ‘Dress a Girl’.”

Natalie said she had never sewn until she took this class.

“This project is fun knowing someone is going to use it and will really enjoy it,” Natalie said. “The dresses aren’t very difficult. I think it is fun making them, choosing the pattern and accessorizing it.”

For junior Paige Morrison it was her first time to sew a garment, also.

“I chose a blue and white stripe for my dress and all of the dresses are sleeveless. I have had to start over three times. The first time the fabric was too lightweight, the second time I made the stitches too long.”

Accepting her challenge, Paige did persevere and finished her dress.

Dresses are sent to areas in the United States including Appalachia, Kentucky, South Dakota and New Mexico and to more than 65 countries including Uganda, Haiti, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Russia, Ukraine, Kenya, Mexico, Guatemala  India, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Peru, Nepal, Cambodia and France.

Each dress may be the only one that a girl owns, Swift said, and the girls who are making the dresses try to add a special touch so that the child receiving the dress feels she owns something pretty to wear.

The dresses are called pillow case dresses because many of them are made from sturdy cotton pillow cases. The pattern is simple with one end cut for the neck and arm holes.

Bias tape is sewn around the arm holes and become the ties that hold the dresses on, and some small embellishment or pocket is affixed.

“My students are learning about grain line, how to cut a pattern, add bias tape and complete a finished product,” Swift said. “The labels let predators know the young girls belong to an organization and many times they will leave the children alone.”

Johnson said “Dress a Girl” provides patterns and ways to be involved as well as the opportunity to deliver dresses to girls around the world.

The students are joining people from around the world who are forming clubs and sewing dresses for Hope 4 Women International and teams and partners to distribute around the world.

According to their website “Dress a Girl” has delivered well more than 164,000 dresses to 65 countries, including the United States, and 100,254 dresses were delivered in 2012.

People from all states, Jamaica, Canada, Uganda, the UK, Philippines, Australia, Sweden, Costa Rica and Hong Kong continue to make dresses. The first 50 dresses were made and distributed in October 2009.    



TO DONATE to Dress a Girl, go to http://www.hope4kidsinternational.org/donation-cart?desig_41263=41263&amount_41263=20.