With winter just around the corner, formal dress season is in high gear. Winter formals, homecomings and winter weddings are all about to be on the activity list. Of course, formal dress occasions happen all year long, and they’re usually not friendly to your budget or to the planet.  How many times have you bought shoes, jewelry, clothing or accessories that you’re only going to wear once? And yes, gentlemen, we’re talking to you as well. As you think about how to be more eco-friendly and budget-conscious for formal wear events, keep these tips in mind.

Consider Renting One-Use Items

You’d be surprised what you can rent these days – everything from wedding and formal gowns to designer shoes and handbags. Renting your formal wear isn’t new to most men, but women often have an emotional attachment to their formal wear. Learn to understand that your memories aren’t tied to your “stuff.” Once you do that, the benefits of renting one-use formal wear will be obvious. Renting costs a fraction of buying, which means that you can get something even more fabulous and stylish. You also won’t be contributing to the rash of stuff that clutters the planet. Plus, later on, you won’t have to worry about getting rid of a formal dress that you no longer want (or that no longer fits you) that’s no longer in fashion.

Buy from Thrift Stores and Consignment Stores

Think about all the great dresses, accessories or clothing that you’ve sent to thrift or consignment stores through the years. Yes, that’s right, you can find great formal wear at thrift and consignment stores. In fact, Postconsumers founder Carol Holst recently found a velvet Jessica McClintock dress that she ended up wearing to her daughter’s wedding. And where did she find it? At a thrift store. Thrift shopping can be sexy. And you can make some great finds, just like Carol did. Even if you don’t end up buying your formal event wear at a thrift store, give yourself a chance and, before you go to the mall, take a look at what’s available in your local thrift or consignment store. You may end up being surprised, happy and under-budget.

Make Something Unique

This girl made her prom dress out of old math homework. Another girl made her prom dress out of cardboard. What can you do that’s original and reclaimed or upcycled? There’s a reason that eco-fashion is so popular on the runway these days. Get out your best Project Runway brain and think about unique statements that you can make when you create your own formal gown or formal accessories out of individual, reclaimed objects.

Buy from Eco-Designers

If you are going to buy formal wear, consider doing some research first and looking for designers who are both eco-conscious as well as socially conscious and source their labor and materials from sustainable places with an emphasis on human rights. Remember, every dollar that you spend makes a statement about the world you want to live in.

Don’t Let That Dress Go to Waste

No matter how or where you end up buying, swapping or making your formal wear, be sure to not let it go to waste afterwards. If you don’t resell your items or donate them, find ways to make them useful. Recycle them into a sewing or craft project. Give them to a younger sibling or friend. Or simply compost them if necessary. Or, find other fabulous events that you can wear them at again! Just don’t let them end up sitting around in a closet for years and years. Every item has use!

Have other tips on how to maximize being eco-friendly and budget-conscious for one-wear formal events? Comment below or like us on Facebook and share them with us.

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Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: puroticoric