Ecology Club Starts Dress Drive for Dances


SLHS Ecology Club

The Ecology Club heavily promoted the Homecoming Dress Drive as an alternate to fast fashion.

A young woman bends over a sewing machine in a poorly-lit factory. Her fingers are blistered and swollen from the tiresome hours she works simply to keep a roof over her head and pay her ill mother’s medical bills. Finally, after all of her shifts are completed for the week, she receives her wages only for a portion to be pocketed by her manager. Unfortunately, this scenario is a reality for many; up to 80 million laborers work in factories across the world, many under similar conditions, and all part of a system now known as “fast fashion.”

So, what is fast fashion? Well, think of it like fast food. Studies have shown that many fast food chains use ingredients and cooking processes that can be detrimental to your health, and yet consumers still buy from them because of their low prices. And fast fashion is no different. 

In response, Southern Lehigh High School’s Ecology Club founded the Homecoming Dress Drive. Though the Ecology Club is still a rather young organization, their goal is to make students more environmentally aware and to mitigate the high school’s ecological footprint. 

The idea of the Dress Drive, introduced by senior Andrea Keiper, aims to do just that by providing a platform for students to share dresses for school dances. As a senior, she has attended many such events, and as a member of the Ecology Club, she’s come to realize the environmental danger they pose.

“For the past few school dances I didn’t want to buy a dress from some fast fashion brand and only wear it once, so I asked around my friends to find one of their old dresses. I thought [the Dress Drive] could be a good concept to help others with the same thing.” Keiper said. “I also hoped to alleviate some people’s stress of the purchase of a new dress.”

Many participants loved the idea and truly benefited from it for the homecoming dance.

“It saved me time from having to go out to shop for a dress with my busy schedule,” junior Felicity Parrish said. “It is practical and works to save our environment; I would definitely participate again!” 

In addition to saving money, the online form allows students to save time, not unlike the instant-gratification appeal that many popular fast fashion websites play to, though different in every other sense. 

“I feel a lot of them [fast fashion brands] now are more online stores, like Shein,”  freshman Ecology Club member Jaclyn Bossert said, “The reason they have such low prices is because they outsource their labor to places like China, Thailand, or other such countries that have incredibly weak labor laws. Avoid sites that are too good to be true, too good to be ethical.”

“My fear with fast fashion, and a lot of consumption in general, is that we are detached from the real cost of what we purchase,” Ecology Club advisor and civics teacher Dr. Katie Quartuch said. “For example, we may not consider the ‘costs’ of  how things are made, what resources they require, what resources are needed for their transportation in global markets, and the working conditions for those who participate in their manufacturing. So we make decisions based on price and want, often derived from excellent marketing efforts, but not based on an accurate account of the consequences of our purchases.”  

Through the Dress Drive, the Ecology Club encourages students to find work-arounds and more sustainable options to fast fashion.  

 “Good alternatives are thrift stores, which aren’t just physical, as a lot of online thrift stores have been popping up and also have great items,” Bossert said.

“A lot of people think buying ethically means getting expensive clothing that is made sustainably,” said senior Addison Matsamura, who is a member of both the Ecology Club and the Fashion Club. “But I think that the best way to stop contributing to fast fashion is to buy clothing you know you will wear for many years, donate your old clothing, borrow from friends, and thrift.”

In order to aid the fight against fast fashion, Keiper and the rest of the Ecology Club hope to continue to run dress drives in the future.   

“I absolutely hope to do this for prom and any other dances we may have this year,” Keiper said.