Reese Witherspoon's Company Facing Some Backlash After Teacher Dress Giveaway Confusion

Reese Witherspoon's clothing brand, Draper James, is facing backlash following its efforts to help teachers amid the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this month, the fashion brand announced that it would be giving away free dresses to teachers, but with only 250 dresses, in six different styles, to give away, the promotion was overwhelmed by the almost one million applications the brand received.

The New York Times reports that the application form crashed almost as soon as it went live, and the sheer number of applications was about seven times the total number of dresses Draper James had sold in 2019. Now, the brand has found itself swept up in a mild form of controversy as teachers share their frustrations, with one person acknowledging that while the giveaway had good intentions, "the execution was terrible" and it was "like a marketing 101 fail." Meanwhile, one person called the confusion "celebrity [covid washing]" on Twitter.

The nearly one million teachers who submitted an application were asked to provide certain information including photos of their school IDs and their work email addresses. Now, some are claiming that their work addresses are being clogged with emails from Draper James, including a coupon codes, though many teachers have expressed that even with a 20 percent or 30 percent coupon, the dresses are still unaffordable on a teacher's salary.

"Out of 535 teachers on a social media page on FB, not even one got a free [Draper James] dress! What in the what??" tweeted one person. "All of us received codes for either 20-30% off codes. Can't even afford the dresses with a discount! Great marketing ploy!"

"Wow. [Draper James] clearly doesn't know how much teachers make," added another. "'We love teachers! Here's 30% off our ridiculously expensive dresses.' If I'm spending over $100 on an 'everyday dress,' it better also grade essays."


The New York Times reports that teachers have since received an additional email stating that the fashion brand has made a donation to an organization supplying teachers and students with school necessities. The email added that Draper James was "actively working on expanding our offerings, both internally and with outside retail partners who were also inspired by your stories and want to join in honoring your community, and we ask for your patience while we organize this effort."

In a statement addressing the mishap, Marissa Cooley, Draper James' senior vice president for brand marketing and creative, acknowledged the confusion, saying that "we felt like we moved too quickly and didn't anticipate the volume of the response."