School dances: fast fashion triggers environmental response


Photo by Katherine Phelps '25

As the spring quickly approaches, dances are an integral part of Staples tradition. People, however, tend to gloss over the fact that their dresses are often one of the largest perpetrators of fast fashion, leading to environmental catastrophe.

Is it short dresses or long dresses? What’s the theme? School dances are an integral part of high school. Many have embraced the highly-anticipated dress shopping process. Staples students are granted the opportunity to attend five different dances and according to an unwritten rule, each “requires” a freshly tailored dress.

That’s right, if students want to attend every dance, they “need” to purchase at least five dresses or at least $1000 worth of attire, only for each dress to eventually be shoved in the darkest corner of their closet, never to be seen again. Though it’s a seemingly innocent custom, Staples students often contribute to one of the worst elements of fast fashion.

I can fully and honestly admit that I am not always cognizant of my own environmental impacts. Too often, I have bought clothes online and have dress shopped at stores such as Winged Monkey, which retails dresses from multiple unsustainable brands. Historically, I have been a prisoner of the fast fashion cycle, often engaging in impulsive purchases that slowly clutter my closet. 

When settling on a dress, it’s easy to gloss over your own carbon footprints and shop at unsustainable online stores such as Revolve and BEC + Bridge. Both of these stores receive poor environmental ratings. Revolve consumes an astounding 93 cubic meters of water per year, enough to supply for millions of people. BEC + Bridge has a similar impact; according to Good on You, a website that evaluates numerous clothing brands, many materials used to produce its dresses come from non biodegradable sources including wool and silk.

The planet is facing a dire climate crisis and is more important than a dress that’ll be worn once.

— Caitlin Jacob ’24

In areas of affluence, people are granted the privilege of disregarding their environmental impact due to not only fortunate geographic location but also personal wealth. While Westport residents are avid consumers and school dance advocates, money has allowed them to avoid the short term consequences of climate change.

Don’t be ashamed to break away from the fast fashion dress culture. The planet is facing a dire climate crisis and is more important than a dress that’ll be worn once. There are enough dress websites with positive sustainability ratings to help you avoid traditional, non eco-friendly methods of prom dress shopping. I have looked at websites for dresses, including Reformation, which are well known for its affordability while being environmentally conscious.

Next time you buy a dress, reuse it, give it to a friend, donate it or even rewear it. Not every dance is worthy of its own dress. Imagine the environmental impact one has by saving one simple dress, as it really translates to hundreds for the hundreds of students in need of one next year. 

Making even small changes to the dress shopping process is not only imperative expense wise, but also for the environment. Go out: shop sustainably and take a small amount of time to improve your own carbon footprint. The planet can’t wait.