Party dressing doesn't have to cost the earth, and team Marie Claire just proved it

From rented to pre-loved, here's how to embrace party dressing the sustainable way.

Team Marie Claire wears pre-loved and rented party wear
(Image credit: Future)

Sequins, feathers and metallic fabrics at the ready, party dress season is officially upon us! While this time of year is often about indulgence and celebration, the harsh reality is that party season also results in quite a lot of waste. 

According to Oxfam, a reported 1.7 million sequinned items are binned after party season. In addition to this, eBay reports that 58% of people only wear their sequin outfits once or twice before either donating to charity or throwing the item away. Given that sequins are made from plastic, these items will never biodegrade, meaning that all those discarded sparkly dresses are set to sit in landfill for years to come. 

That's why, this year, team Marie Claire thought we'd try a sustainable solution. I enlisted some of my fellow editors to join me in delving into the world of pre-loved and rental fashion to bring you the bead-embellished, feather-covered proof that party dressing can, in fact, be an eco-conscious endeavour. 

If you're in the market to own something, eBay has an incredible array of secondhand items. The platform's stylish selection is especially evident across resale expert Nikki Bradford's second-hand store and Love Island star, Tasha Ghouri's, edit of pre-loved sparkle. If the freedom of renting is more your speed, then there are plenty of options across HURR, Cloan, ByRotation and newly launched luxury rental platform Matches Fashion Rental

Save the sequins from landfill this party season, there are so many alternative options around. Keep scrolling for an edit of the best secondhand and rental party dresses, as hand-selected by team Marie Claire.  

Ally Head, Health & Sustainability Editor

Rented 16Arlington dress from HURR

Marie Claire editor wears rented Party Dress

(Image credit: Future)

"I'd be lying if I said Zoe hadn't chosen this dress for me, but I trusted her excellent taste and had seen the gorgeous 16Arlington dresses popping up on my Instagram feed. You can see from the photos that I fell in love with it. Combine a stunning bold colour with feathered wrist trims and a collarbone detail and it's hard not to feel great. 

As a Sustainability Editor, I'm a huge fan of vintage and thrifted finds (I found a beautiful Nodbody's Child dress in a charity shop last week) and regularly rent, too. I'll definitely be renting a few items this party season - I love being able to wear items I'd never normally go for. I've also listed some of my own dresses I likely won't be wearing so they're getting good use this Christmas season." - Ally Head

16Arlington Adelaide Dress | HURR

16Arlington Adelaide Dress | HURR

Rent from £100 | RRP £800

Zoe Anastasiou, Fashion Editor

Pre-loved Stella McCartney dress from eBay

Marie Claire Editor wears pre-loved party dress from eBay

(Image credit: Future)

"While party season is often synonymous with sequins, sparkles and everything shimmer, I love the idea of wearing green as a subtle nod to Christmas without being too obvious. This Stella McCartney dress from Nikki Bradford's eBay store is such a cool party-season option. The one-shoulder silhouette feels so modern alongside the green and white check print. 

Although this dress is second-hand, buying from a top seller like Nikki Bradford means you can feel confident in knowing that the dress will have maintained its quality and be in top condition. Plus, purchasing pre-loved helps to keep clothes out of landfill and reduce your carbon footprint. So it's a win, win really!" - Zoe Anastasiou

Jenny Proudfoot, Features Editor

Rented Saloni dress from Matches Fashion Rental

Marie Claire editor wears rented Party Dress

(Image credit: Future)

"This dress is exactly what I look for in a Christmas party dress - it's chic, flattering and extremely festive. I felt really comfortable with the classic silhouette and fell in love with the split neckline. I've never been the person to wear head-to-toe sequins or sparkles - even during the festivities, so this dress with its embellished bows is perfect for me to embrace the sparkle without feeling like a Christmas decoration. Would I wear it again? 100%. In fact, after trialling this party dress for our shoot, I have already signed up to Matches Fashion Rental so I can rent it over Christmas."  - Jenny Proudfoot

Grace Lindsay, Ecommerce Writer

Rented Nadine Merabi set from HURR

Marie Claire editor wears rented party outfit from HURR

(Image credit: Future)

"Every year I buy a new sparkly top, wear it to the seasonal Christmas parties and then rarely take if out of the wardrobe for the next 12 months. This year, I decided enough was enough and looked into renting an outfit instead. Turns out, you can get some stunning designer pieces for a fraction of the price! As much as I love party dresses, I'm more of a trouser girl myself, so when I saw this fluffy two piece, I knew I would love it. Not only did it look super cute, but I also felt incredibly comfortable. Feeling good and doing good for the planet? Sign me up." - Grace Lindsay 

Sofia Piza, Freelance Producer

Pre-loved Reformation Dress from eBay 

Marie Claire editor wears eBay pre-loved party dress

(Image credit: Future)

"I can officially say I will now be renting or shopping pre-loved for all of my special occasions! Shopping pre-loved with eBay was simple, effortless, and sustainable. So, what's not to love? 

I've always tried to avoid wearing red dresses during the holiday season to avoid being a classic cliché. However, I decided to give it a go this year and I couldn't be happier. The two tones of red felt super elevated and the shape of the dress felt super flattering, making me feel very confident!"  - Sofia Piza

Dionne Brighton, Trainee Writer

Rented Nensi Dojaka dress from Matches Fashion Rental

Marie Claire writer wears rented party dress

(Image credit: Future)

"I fell in love with this dress as soon as I slipped into it. All black may not instantly scream party season, but when else could you do thigh-high split and cut out? I adore the open back and mesh sleeves, a sleek but sexy look that I am already planning on renting again."  - Dionne Brighton

Alice Carter, Social Editor

Rented Susamusa Skirt Set from HURR

Marie Claire editor wears rented party dress

(Image credit: Future)

"I love the fact that with HURR I can rent an amazing dress for a one-off occasion and not have it sit in my wardrobe collecting dust for the rest of the year. Not to metion, it also saves me so much money! HURR has some amazing designers, such as Susamusa, that I’ve never heard of before and wouldn’t ordinarily stumble across so it's a great platform to discover new brands! 

The reason I chose this dress was because it's reversible, so it's one of those clothing items you can wear in about 10 different ways. I don’t normally opt for this colour or bodycon style but I decided to step out of my comfort zone and I loved it."  - Alice Carter

Zoe Anastasiou
Fashion Editor

Zoe Anastasiou is a Fashion Editor with over eight years of experience working across digital publications in New York, London and Australia. She has contributed to publications including Harper’s BAZAAR and ELLE Australia, and was the Fashion and Social Media Editor at Who What Wear UK before joining Marie Claire.