Sustainable Saints: St Andrews Ball Dress Swap

Hannah Bowey
Tuesday 29 March 2022

As a University that empowers our students and their innovative initiatives, our sustainability communications team have decided to showcase these initiatives and achievements over the next few weeks.

Today we highlight the work of Naomi Smith, a 2nd year Sustainable Development and German student, who has created for the upcoming University Ball season, the St Andrews Ball Dress Swap.  We had the pleasure of catching up with Naomi last week to discuss how she developed this initiative.

Tell us a little bit about the initiative 

Basically, I started an Instagram account to allow students to post photos of formal attire including but not limited to dresses, suits, etc. I also take their contact information, the size of the clothing, and the availability of the certain pieces. Followers of the account can contact the individual owning the item of clothing, pick it up and return it in their own time. I obviously encourage the cleanliness of all the clothing and so make a point of responsibly using and returning the items borrowed.

Although not an idea from the start of the initiative, it is also possible for students to post that they are looking for an item for a specific event. Currently, we have about 20 dresses posted and are still looking for lots more as we expand.

Are you part of any environmental group/ society? 

The original reason I started this initiative is because I am the Environmental Representative for McIntosh Hall! I am also a member of the Student Geography and Sustainable Development Working Group and a member of the Environment Subcommittee, here at the University of St Andrews. I also try to go to as many environmental/eco events as possible that involve Transition, Sustainable Style, and other campus environmental organisations.

How did you come up with this idea?

I went to high school in the US, where dances are such a large part of high school culture. I originally worked on this idea in my hometown, Park City, UT, for students that didn’t have enough money to afford expensive homecoming and prom apparel and so this was a free way to allow students to borrow clothing for dances.

I noticed that St Andrews had so many balls, but I already assumed that for such an eco-friendly university there had to be a system in place allowing the swapping of formal attire. I guess now it’s a bit late in spring semester to be starting it but I’m hoping we can continue the swapping and create a positive, sustainable culture of reuse and second-hand of items and clothing in St Andrews, especially where the amount of affordable clothing shops seems to be limited.

What are you hopes for this project? 

I’ve already started thinking about ideas how we can expand the idea, and some include organisations such as Transition St Andrews to make second-hand shopping more accessible for students. I know for myself that the charity shops only go so far, and the Transition St AndReuse are superb, but we should somehow make it easier and more accessible for students who seem to believe that online shopping is the only way to find the perfect outfit.

I would also love to work with Sustainable Style and other sustainable fashion organisations to educate our student population on this issue.

How can people get involved?

The best way to get involved is to go and follow the Instagram which is @staballdressswap!

I would love for anyone interested to please allow the borrowing or swapping of your ball attire as well as sending me information if you’re looking for something in particular!

If you have any other questions or want to be updated because you don’t have social media, please feel free to contact me at: [email protected]. Hopefully in the future, we can expand to other platforms and make the initiative more successful!

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