How to choose a sustainable dress for your next event

Girl wearing sustainable navy blue evening dress
Girl wearing sustainable navy blue evening dress
Girl wearing sustainable navy blue evening dress
Girl wearing sustainable navy blue evening dress
Girl wearing sustainable navy blue evening dress
Girl wearing sustainable navy blue evening dress
Girl wearing sustainable navy blue evening dress

It’s no secret that dresses are my Achilles heel and a quick tally of the party or evening dresses sitting in my wardrobe comes in at about 15 or so. And while there’s nothing nothing wrong with buying a nice dress for a special event, currently the only balls and soirees on my social calendar’s horizon is the second season of Bridgerton. This pretty much sums up the problem with event wear; there’s just fewer opportunities to wear it compared to every day attire (especially since you-know-what-virus) making much harder to meet the plus 30 wear quota I try to practice when purchasing clothes.

If this is something you can relate to, never fear. It’s possible to take a more sustainable approach to those special occasion outfits, without feeling that you are compromising on style. Below are a few suggestions as to how you can do so.

1. De-stigmatise outfit repeating

While most of us never hesitate to re-wear our everyday outfits, it’s those special events like birthdays, weddings, bridal showers where we feel that it would be nice to wear something new, something different. To turn heads. Don’t worry, I’ve been there many times myself.

However, cliche it might be, but the most sustainable clothes are those that we already own, which is why brushing the cobwebs away from the dresses already sitting in our closets before adding a new one to our shopping cart is one of the best things we can do to make our event wear more sustainable. In reality, you’ll turn heads anyway and people will be much more focused on how beautiful you look compared to if you’ve worn a dress before – most people won’t even realise. We need a mental shift so that re-wearing a dress that we love and feel good in is a badge of honour as opposed to something we feel embarrassed by. 

2. Phone a friend

If you have a friend who is similar size to you, why not consider borrowing one of their dresses? That way you get the novelty of wearing something different without buying something (that you’ll probably only wear once or twice) new.

3. Consider renting or hiring a dress

Alternatively, you could always consider hiring a dress. These days, clothing rental sites like Glamcorner make it easy to hire a designer dress for a fraction of the price so you feel and look amazing without purchasing it outright. As the dress will be re-worn by other consumers it more likely to get its full lifecycle of wear. It’s also one less dress to store in your wardrobe – which is great for a minimalist. Some of these sites also sell pre-loved outfits which they are no longer hiring out – a great way to get a designer dress in good condition for a steal.

4. Buy PreLoved

There are so many beautiful dresses which you can buy preloved on Gumtree, eBay, The Real Real or other second hand designer sites which have been barely worn and you never know what gems you can find in op shops like this stunning Camilla and Marc dress (pictured) I discovered a couple of years ago (hands down my best op shop purchase ever!).

5. Sell dresses or event wear you won't wear again

If you don’t think you’ll wear an event piece again it’s best to sell it sooner rather than later. It will be easier to sell (particularly if its new season or an in demand designer piece), you’re likely to sell it at a higher price, it’s less likely to get damaged and won’t take up valuable space in your closet.

6. If buying new, Choose a sustainable or ethical brand or buy a classic design

There’s nothing wrong with buying a new event wear piece from time to time. However, if you do, consider supporting a sustainable or ethical clothing brand or buying something classic which won’t date so that you can pull it out again 3, 5, 10 years from now.

I would love to know how you approach event wear. Have you tried any of the suggestions above?

Dress: op shop find (similar here and here). Shoes: Country Road (similar here)

Photos: Sara Eshu

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