Outfit repeating used to be a fashion don’t, so we understand why you may not want to rewear the formalwear you already own for your next special occasion. But we have a solution. Instead of shopping your closet for something to wear, shop in someone else’s.
Thrifting is one of the most sustainable ways consumers can shop. Instead of buying into unsustainable fast fashion, give used clothes a new life. Buying secondhand prevents unwanted clothes from getting sent to the landfill. Therefore, it decreases carbon emissions and your individual carbon footprint.
You may have heard of buying used wedding dresses, and now you can buy any secondhand formalwear you may need. According to Refinery29, secondhand formalwear—for prom, pageants, and other events—is becoming more popular while also making formal fashion more accessible. It’s affordable, inclusive, and environmentally sustainable.
The Benefits of Secondhand Formalwear
The fashion industry can be incredibly wasteful. In the production process, many brands use too many natural resources or unsustainable materials. The industry contributes to deforestation, increased pollution, and excessive waste—including water, textiles, and harsh chemicals. Specifically, the fashion industry accounts for about 10% of all human-made carbon emissions. And together, these factors contribute to global warming and climate change.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), landfills received about 11.3 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) textiles in 2018, which accounts for about 7.7% of all MSW sent to the landfill. However, buying secondhand can bring that figure down.
Secondhand fashion combats how disposable and wasteful the fashion industry is. Instead of buying into new trends and throwing away old ones, you can donate what you’re not wearing and buy new-to-you clothes from your local Goodwill or online thrift stores. Plus, it may even be more fashionable and trendy to wear vintage, one-of-a-kind pieces you may not find at chain retailers.
Sustainable fashion and formalwear are on the rise. Check out these places you can buy secondhand formalwear for your next big occasion.
7 Places to Shop for Secondhand Formalwear
Online shopping is convenient, done from the comfort of your own home. If you’re not sure where to begin, online thrift stores are a great place to start. Check out Depop, ThredUP, and Poshmark for secondhand formalwear, sold by consumers just like you.
Each online thrift store sells gowns, suits, tuxedos, and even heels, so you can be ready for your next big event. You can also check out eBay and Facebook Marketplace. The online options are endless!
Similar to online thrift stores like Depop and Poshmark, Queenly allows you to buy and sell used gowns for any special event.
You can shop by occasion—including prom, graduation, homecoming, and more—or by style and designer. Queenly’s mission is to make formalwear attainable, and in doing so, it creates a sustainable clothing cycle.
Instead of buying a secondhand outfit, why not rent one? Online clothing rental companies like Rent the Runway offers cocktail, black tie, and party dresses, as well as gowns and jumpsuits. You can shop by style or by occasion.
Once you’re done with the dress, you can return it for someone else to use. That way, the dress doesn’t collect dust in your closet.
If you have multiple formal events coming up, Nuuly is a great option. It’s a month-to-month rental service owned by the same company as Anthropologie, Free People, and Urban Outfitters. There’s a wide range of formalwear to choose from; many of the pieces would cost you hundreds of dollars to buy outright.
Through the subscription service, you can choose six styles to rent per month for an $89 monthly fee—dresses, jumpsuits, and more. After you’re done with your items, simply return them. And if you fall in love with something, you can buy it at a discounted price.
Preowned Gowns is a boutique in New Hampshire that prioritizes sustainable and affordable formalwear. Specializing in weddings, Preowned Gowns doesn’t only have options for the bride. It has options for bridal parties, promgoers, and pageant contestants, too! Visit the boutique in person or shop online to find the perfect fit.
Swap is an online thrift and consignment store where you can buy and sell gently-used clothes. For formalwear, check out the suiting category.
Swap offers secondhand suit jackets, long-sleeved button-ups, slacks, and even dress shoes at discounted prices from big brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Haggar, and L.L.Bean.
7. Local Thrift Stores
When in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to peruse your local thrift stores. Thrift stores like Goodwill or the Salvation Army sometimes have designated sections for formalwear, including wedding gowns, prom dresses, and tuxedos. You never know what you might find!
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