How to shop ethically for a special-event dress

When you say “no” to the fast fashion industry, it’s hard to stay true to the commitment when you’re faced with what to do about a dress for a special event. Many people cannot imagine a minimalist wardrobe or capsule wardrobe for this reason, but there are ethical choices for special events as well.

To help you solve this puzzle, I am here with a few tricks. Invitations to special events can come in advance, or at the last minute. Luckily, I have tips for both.

Short-notice savior:

  • One versatile dress.

Of course the best case situation is if you have time to prepare for a special event. But what if the invitation comes too close to the event? I have one dress in my wardrobe that I wear quite regularly. When I am invited to a special event without much time to prepare, I jazz it up with nice accessories and high heels.

I can change the accessories for every event, as long as my dress is versatile, and will still look nice with different kinds of hats, jewelry, shoes, belts, etc. After reading this article, go right to your closet and find yourself this short-notice savior so you’re ready for the next time it happens. It can be a nice skirt and top as well.

In-advance options:

  1. Borrow

Find a friend who has a similar figure to you, or who likes to go to the theater or other special events often. Or, find a friend with a similar figure who simply dresses well. You can ask politely to borrow a dress. If she is a good friend, it’s likely that she will be ok with it, and might even be pleased you have chosen her to look up to as a style mentor.

2. Shop online.

When the outfit is prescribed for a themed party, something like 60s or retro, I recommend using sites like Poshmark, Tradesy, or Etsy. Once there, you can search for “retro” or “vintage”. It is sometimes much faster than visiting second hand shops, although physical shops still have the advantage of trying on your chosen pieces before you buy.

After an event you can sell the dress again online. When communicating with the seller I always make sure that I know the exact composition of the dress, because I am not satisfied with a simple description like, “feels good on skin”. With some retro fashion themes, you can also ask a close relative if they have some leftover goodies for you.

3. Rent.

During ball season, I have sometimes found dresses in second hand shops. But if you’re not so lucky, you can also try renting a dress. Usually ball gowns can be rented where wedding dresses are rented.

4. Alter a dress.

I bought my wedding dress in a size 38 and got it altered to a size 34. A good tailor can do wonders for your clothing and for your mind. When you find a great piece in a second hand shop that is too big in the waist or too long, don’t hesitate to find a good tailor.

There is nothing better than a dress that fits you perfectly, and it often doesn’t cost too much to have it altered. It will look like the piece is made for your body, and you will feel great in it as well.

5. Be creative.

You can see on the picture my prom dress with a recent update. What do you think?

As my parting advice, enjoy the hunt for the dress. Ethical fashion is about the creativity and the journey, as much as caring for the environment.  


Translation with the help of Ellie Farrier

I am a Montessori teacher, a woman, and an admirer of nature. My passion is keeping my household ecological and gentle. I have been making changes in my life and home for the last few years, with intention of living a more fulfilling life with the smallest burden on nature as possible. I love to share my experiences and I like to show others that these changes can be joyful and easy to apply.

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