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Green Prom Movement offers free, repurposed dresses

High school girls who want to make an environmental statement, and get a free repurposed dress, can attend an upcoming fashion show and select a dress from The Green Prom Movement.

The average prom dress has a big petroleum footprint, is only worn once and is an expensive “must have” for high school girls on this big night out. But organizers of The Green Prom Movement are working to change all of that by showing teenagers how to repurpose prom dresses and make greener choices for accessories, flowers and transportation.

Founded in 2011 by a mother-daughter team, The Green Prom Movement Foundation creates custom dresses from previously worn, outdated, donated dresses. Tobie Roberts and her mother, Michelle Roberts, started collecting and restyling dresses in 2011 and held their first fashion show in 2015. Today, an average of 150 dresses are donated annually, and 100-plus dresses are cleaned, mended, restyled, repurposed and given away. The organizer’s goal is for each dress to ultimately be worn 30 times. 

“The main goal of the Green Prom Movement is not to just give out a free dress, but to encourage girls to use the dress and to give it back, so the dress can be used over and over, helping reduce the carbon footprint that dress leaves,” said Michelle Roberts, vice president of The Green Prom Movement. “Our hope is to make wearing a used dress just as exciting as buying new.”

The latest repurposed dresses will be modeled and on display at The Green Prom Movement fashion show:

Saturday, March 4, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

First Baptist Church of Ottawa

410 South Hickory Street

Ottawa, KS

The fashion show begins at 11 a.m. All models are local high school volunteers. Student volunteers and interns also help with mending and restyling dresses, posting social media and photographing dresses. ZHair Academy of Lawrence Kansas will be styling models hair and makeup. Additional exhibitors will show participants how to make prom a more Earth-friendly event.

Prom dresses are made of many fabrics, but most are the cheaper versions of high-end fabrics, which makes the dress more affordable for the high school girls, Roberts said. Common materials for prom dresses include silk, organza and satin, which all require chemically intensive manufacturing processes. Most of these fabrics are imported from Asia, which increases the environmental footprint.

Roberts suggests additional ways to make a prom dress greener, including choosing a vintage dress, restyling your own dress, reusing a dress from a previous year or swapping dresses with friends. If the dress is new, check to see where the fabric was sourced, if it is organic or from a sustainable plant source.

Beyond the dress, students can also find repurposed jewelry, bags, shoes and hair pieces at vintage and thrift stores, and then choose to reuse or donate items after the dance. Choosing local flowers, carpooling and eating local can also reduce the eco-impact of prom.

For more information and to view some of the dresses, go to The Green Prom Movement

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