We're taking the reuse revolution to fancy dress. With the rise of local fancy dress lending libraries, fancy dress is becoming more sustainable. It is possible to reduce waste and still look fabulous!
The unseen cost of fancy dress
In 2019, The Fairyland Trust investigated the waste generated from fancy dress costumes at Halloween and the results were pretty scary. They estimated that 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste would be created from 7 million discarded costumes.
Many fancy dress costumes are made from polyester. It’s a material which is cheap to produce making shop-bought costumes more affordable. But it’s also a type of plastic made from oil and often mixed with other materials making it almost impossible to recycle.
Sadly the Fairyland Trust found that many fancy dress costumes are treated as single-use; not only is this a waste of resources, it’s a huge waste of money.
Is there another way?
Growing up I was very lucky to have a mum who enjoyed making fancy dress costumes. The pinnacle of her needlework was a Tudor lady-in-waiting costume for my sister made from our granny’s old curtains.
For my son, I’ve often taken a repurpose approach to fancy dress. A toy sheep, a cutout tractor and clothes we already had made up a farmer's outfit for a fancy dress day at nursery. Admittedly his expectations were low as he was only 2, but I was pretty pleased - and it didn’t cost me anything, just the time to draw and cut out a tractor.
There's no shortage of fancy dress out there with many fashion retailers and supermarkets now stocking costumes, but many will lie forgotten in the back of wardrobes after just one wear. But things are changing.
In addition to the traditional fancy dress hire shop, there are more and more community-run projects making preloved fancy dress costumes accessible to their local community. These lending libraries are popping up all over the UK.
Check out the list of lending libraries and swap groups we've found so far at the bottom of this page.
Making fancy dress more sustainable
Here’s some more ways to reduce waste but still look fabulous...
Reuse what you have - perhaps with a little added imagination to fit the theme / character. Made for Mums has a great list of 102 Easy Last-Minute Costume Ideas for World Book Day
Arrange a swap at school or between kids in the same class
Ask if anyone fancies a swap via your local parents group on Facebook - you may find there is already a local group specific to fancy dress swaps (there's some listed below)
Make your own - head to your local scrapstore or charity shop for materials, or ask donated materials via a local buy nothing group
Embrace props and accessories rather than buying a whole new outfit
Take a look on Facebook Marketplace, eBay or Preloved.co.uk for secondhand costumes
Hire from a local costume hire store
Fancy Dress Leading Libraries & Facebook Swap Groups
East Lothian: Lil’s Preloved Fancy Dress (swaps also available by post)
Cardiff: Benthyg Borrow Library
Jersey: Many Happy Returns Jersey
Found more? If you know of a local lending library or swap group for fancy dress costumes please let us know!