There’s nothing quite like the feeling of finding the perfect prom or homecoming dress. From a dress in vibrant colors with elaborate volume, to a sophisticated silhouette in a classic neutral shade, the perfect dress can make you feel both beautiful and understood.
So Why Wear It Just Once?
As fashion evolves to adapt to changing environmental and social movements, it has begun to address its throw-away attitude. More and more celebrities are beginning to re-wear red carpet looks in the name of sustainability; fashion blogs are offering tips on wearing a piece in different ways; and, even award shows like BAFTA are asking celebrities to wear something they already own.
Prom and homecoming dresses should be no different. A dress that can make you feel so incredibly special one night certainly has a place in your regular wardrobe. Below, explore some ways to reuse your prom and homecoming dresses so you can relive the magic of that perfect dress all year long.
Dress it down
The simplest way to rewear a prom or homecoming dress is to pair it with pieces that make it more casual. Fashion is infatuated with mixing high and low right now — classic, higher-end pieces put together with innovative and cutting-edge streetwear. Just look at anything Alessandro Michele has designed for Gucci.
Denim is a great place to start. Throw an oversized denim jacket over a nice dress and toss on some sneakers for an instantly Instagrammable look. Layering is a quirky way to make a fancy dress a little more “everyday.” Put a T-shirt underneath a prom dress and lace up your combat boots for a look that’s as pretty as it is subversive, or throw a chunky sweater over a dress to mimic the look of a skirt.
Styling is also an important aspect of keeping a reused prom or homecoming dress casual. Stay away from looking too polished by keeping your hair second-day, in messy buns and scrunchies, and by adding beanies and headscarves. Makeup should be less professional and matchy-matchy than what you would wear on actual prom night. Go for fresh-faced looks, purposefully smudged eye makeup or a statement lip, but avoid doing a full face.
Sometimes you’ve got to do addition by subtraction. By removing parts of your original prom or homecoming dress, you can update it to make it more modern and fit day-to-day needs. Is your dress length not working for you? Cut it shorter for an edgy DIY look, or have it professionally shortened for a polished result. Over-the-top sleeves? Chop. Bulky petticoat layers? Chop. Want a crop top and skirt? Chop.
But adding to your dress can also be an interesting way to modify an existing dress. Appliqué, embroidery, a new neckline, funky sleeves — these are just a few of the dozens of ways to update your dress. And there are endless resources to do so. Stores like Joann Fabrics and Michaels offer classes on specific topics, like embroidery, that could help get the job done. YouTube tutorials are also a fantastic resource for those on a budget. But the most underrated option is to ask our own relatives. Many older relatives grew up learning how to sew and would likely happily pass down some knowledge. Plus, your grandma will certainly appreciate a call.
Start from Scratch
Many prom dresses are big, beautiful, and distinctly prom. Instead of wasting time trying to rewear a dress that is clearly meant for a dance only, try using the materials to create something new.
This is where classes, tutorials and grandparents are essential once again. Try checking out your local thrift store for patterns that might work with the materials you have. With enough fabric, anything is possible: imitate a celebrity’s dress you’ve always wanted, try designing something imaginative yourself, or create a fun dress that will be versatile for many occasions. If your dress has lots of tulle, take inspiration from Molly Goddard. Was your dress made in tweeds or red? Look to the designs of Chanel and Valentino for guidance. Or make it completely your own to truly impress.
Embrace the Dress
Sometimes it’s best to use what a dress was made for: Playing dress up.
Just because a dress is fancy doesn’t mean that it must be worn to fancy events. Wear gorgeous dresses to nights in with your friends while you snack and binge Next In Fashion. Wear opulent frocks of sparkles and pink tulle to the movie theater, just because you can. Look like a princess and femme fatale while grabbing a burrito or taking a class. Fashion is all about celebrating whimsy and fantasy–so why not have some fun by standing out?
Remember: It’s not illegal to wear a ballgown to the grocery store.
Let someone Else Reuse it
Finally, if you know you’re never going to wear your dress again and are thinking of throwing it out, try letting someone else take it for a spin. You can even make a little cash by reselling your dress. PromAgain is a platform designed specifically for reselling prom and homecoming dresses, so that’s a good place to start. Poshmark, Depop and ThreadUp are just a few of many other great options. If you’re feeling more philanthropic, donate it to a thrift store or give it to a younger relative or friend.
Reusing your prom and homecoming dresses can be a small way to contribute to sustainability, express yourself, or relive a little bit of the original magic. The simple act of designing something new, editing what you have or passing along a treasured garment can help make the world a little more beautiful, one dress at a time.