Eco-Friendly Choices for Your Prom Dress

May 17, 2011 One comment View all articles in General

Ask any teenage girl and they'll tell you, prom is all about the dress. As Helen Hunt's character says in the film What Women Want , “Once you've got the dress handled, it's all downhill from there.” Yet fathers the world over continue to ask their daughters, “Why am I paying hundreds of dollars on a dress you're only going to wear one time?” Sorry girls, but your dads may just have a good point.

All the expensive, fancy dresses you see in department stores are, statistically speaking, only going to be worn once, and after that, a lot of them will end up in landfills. Because prom dresses require farming, labor, manufacturing, packaging, and shipping to get them to your local department store, they're not only costing your wallet, they're costing the planet. Which is why it's no wonder this prom season's most popular fashion trend is the eco-friendly evening dress.


You've heard of guys renting their prom tuxes, so why not follow suit and rent your dress as well? There are dozens of designer clothing rental websites that offer prom dresses:

  • Wear Today Gone Tomorrow makes it easy to shop for dresses by event, designer, size, and style. Choose from a huge selection of designers including Marc Jacobs, Badgley Mischka, and Calvin Klein. They also have competitive seven-day rental prices, the majority of which are under $100!
  • With Rent the Runway, you can turn up at the prom in a $1,225 Dolce and Gabbana dress that only cost you $150! View their entire designer dress selection by specifications like color, length, body type, neckline, or sleeves! They even have a “Gossip Girl-Style Dresses” category for you to choose from!


Make sure you don't show up at prom wearing the same dress as someone else: buy vintage! Not only do vintage fashion items ensure a one-of-a-kind look, they also cut down on the negative impact of the clothing industry. Vintage clothing is also usually made with superior expertise and details that you can rarely find the likes of today; they were designed to last and were often sewn by hand.

  • eBay has over 30,000 vintage dresses for you to choose from. Shop by time period, color, or condition, or at specific eBay stores like RetrochicVintage or Floozeesvintage (their selection is nicer than it sounds).
  • Posh Girl Vintage has a selection of vintage evening wear for women, ranging from formal gowns and cocktail dresses to “dressy dresses for parties and prom.” As their site indicates, their dresses are listed alphabetically by decade from the 1920s to the 80s, and they even have Audrey Hepburn-style dresses!
  • Don't forget to check your local Buffalo Exchange, Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul, or Salvation Army. You never know, they might be saving a rare gem of a vintage dress just for you!


More and more clothing manufacturers are exploring organic fabric blends that include hemp, viscose from organic bamboo, and organic cotton, mixed with smaller amounts of synthetic materials.

  • Organic Clothing Boutique has a great selection of eco-friendly, moderately priced dresses. The Organic Sexy Little Black Dress by Jonano, for example, is made with an organic bamboo-organic cotton-spandex blend, and it's only $65!
  • Pristine Planet provides green comparison shopping so you can see organic dresses from multiple merchants all in the same spot. Find dresses that are dye- and chlorine-free; made from bamboo, flax, or hemp; you can even find biodegradable dresses!


If you have any skill with a sewing machine and thread, why not buy some eco-friendly fabric like recycled polyester, hemp, organic cotton, or bamboo rayon/cotton from, a pattern from McCall, Vogue, or Butterick, and tailor-make a dress to your own figure and unique personal style?


Friends, neighbors, older sisters, cousins: someone's bound to have a dress they wouldn't mind lending you for one night, so ask around.


Organizations like and Operation Prom encourage girls to donate their prom dresses to charities so they can be given away to those in need. By donating your dress to one of the following charities, not only will you be giving a less-fortunate teen girl the great prom experience she deserves, you'll be keeping non-biodegradable materials out of the landfill.


Brigitte on Feb. 11, 2012 at 10:39 a.m.

I love love selling vintage dresses for this very reason. A lot are appropriate for prom dresses. I keep an eye out for them now.

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