Pretty in Green: Eco Fashion at the Prom

Teens go green for prom, image via Project Green Prom

It’s that time of the year again. In the United States there’s a charming window from May to June when you can be dining at the Ferry building with a delightful view of the bridge in San Francisco, or catching a view high above Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan, when suddenly you see them descend. There’s a rainbow of pastel and primary cloth that can leave your sweet tooth dry,  and a cascade of over-sized, rented suit jackets just waiting to come off. Nowhere is safe, they’re even at McDonald’s or neighborhood diners,that’s right, ladies and gentlemen, it’s Prom Season!

I was alerted to this fact on a recent date when I witnessed a couple, who sauntered into the area of the swanky restaurant with a view where I was seated as though they were walking on clouds, clad in full prom regalia. He wore what I assume to be a rented tux, it fit awfully, and he couldn’t wait to get free of the polyester coat. She wore a beautiful floor length cobalt blue gown, with a fitted empire waist and small sequins detailing ( you can’t forget the sequins on prom day ladies) on the dropped shoulders.  They seemed unaffected by this disproportionately poor service our waiter was providing them, as they ordered half the amount of food me and my dining partner had received. It was simply another high school date night for the two of them. They didn’t talk much, their clothing was enough to speak to the whole room as to why they were there.

Molly Ringwald as Andie Walsh in the film Pretty in Pink

Being aware of the deficits and perks of prom even in my youth I have a mixed vision of what a prom represents. When friends who were smart attended a Maceo Parker concert the night of my senior year ritual I should have followed, but could not pass up the joy of creating and then sporting an Andie Walsh-inspired creation. I can only offer that prom was both something I was uninspired by as well as very much looking forward to. The runway aspect, with the pleasures of gawking and gossiping about what each person wore was certainly the major appeal to me when I recall that evening. However, in 2010, there is the fantastic opportunity for prom to be yet another time to incorporate sustainable beliefs and messaging to a large segment of your local community.

The organization, Project Green Prom, who launched their US-wide effort in spring of 2009, helps prom-goers to do just that.  Project Green Prom’s website notes that they offer ” a challenge  to engage high school students across the country to “green” their high school prom (and their own prom preparation.) By making thoughtful decisions and informed purchases for prom season.” This is extended throughout the prom-goers process of planning to attending the prom, and certainly has it’s aim in ensuring enhanced awareness for sustainability. On the site the organization also notes that their “goal is to inspire teens across the country to action that will sustain our health and that of our planet.”

But what does a more Eco Friendly prom look like? And who is able to attend? In a recent response to a high school environmentalist’s question about how to shape a green prom, Morieka Johnson of  Mother Nature Network made some great suggestions about searching for green materials to construct your dress out of, heading to a thrift or vintage shop to find the perfect dress or something with great potential to alter, or better, yet, going all the way.

Johnson writes, “Turn the whole prom green! You and your dress will be the center of attention if you seize the chance to make your entire prom green. Join the event committee and make sure trash gets sorted and recycled after the event. Avoid gas-guzzling limo rides for two and encourage groups to carpool. Opt for pesticide-free flowers or craft a bouquet based on what’s in your garden. In this digital age, ask about paperless ticketing options and, most of all, have a great time!”

Teens search for re-used gowns via The Corsage Project

So now prom has become another forum for fashion and the environment to mix. As most of you post-prom go-ers out there know, there are few times when you’ll wear the dress/tux that you danced in all night long again, so it’s an excellent model for accessing the value of sustainability in your closet. In addition, the teens that started Project Green Prom also push the benefits of wearing Eco Friendly make-up, corsage, and certainly attempting to travel to the prom using as many low-impact methods as are available.

There is of course the question of cost and accessibility which plays largely into the discussion of how easy it is for all high-schoolers to afford to be more sustainable at their proms. Treehuger reports that the average teen spends upwards of an astounding $500 for their prom ensemble, more than most college freshman’s first month rent in their new dorm. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Organizations such as  The Corsage Project, seek to obtain used prom dresses and they supply them to girls who would otherwise be unable to purchase their gowns.

It appears as though with prom-goers leading the way there are many more options to incorporate sustainability into this ritual of celebration of self than when I was hitting up the prom. It’s delightful to note that teens have led the way in these efforts, as it shows how intelligent and far-sighted this population is and how much they’re doing now that will impact the way we all engage and are effected by the cultural and natural world. So HVC readers, I leave you with a nod to those couples you may encounter in your next travels out and about, and salute the Class of 2010 for their innovations in making proms a more Eco Friendly place to be And as always, we want to hear from you about your green proms, so send us photos of you putting your best foot forward at your special night! Who knows, we may just crown you our next Eco Fashion Diva!!

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