Tonight’s Dress: Villanova Student Business Spotlight

Tallulah Laska, Staff Writer

Pink or blue? Long or short? Tight or flowy? The question of what to wear to a formal never ends. It is one that plagues many at Villanova, especially those involved in Greek life. Spending money on multiple dresses each semester is the worst part…but what if the money aspect could be eliminated? 

Alina Rubin is a junior Communication major specializing in Public Relations and Advertising with a minor in Ethics, and she hopes to go into experiential marketing post-graduation. For now, she is busy with Villanova’s newest app: Tonight’s Dress (TD). 

Tonight’s Dress is an online platform where students can find and rent formal dresses on their college campus. In what looks similar to a dating app, students can scroll through a feed of dresses, showing size and price. Sign up requires using a school email, so the app shows dresses from the user’s specific campus. Rubin believes the importance of Tonight’s Dress is not just about making and saving money on old and new dresses, but has to do with the environmental effects of fast fashion. 

“College students are the primary consumers of fast fashion, so I wanted to build an app that facilitates multiple wears of an item,” Rubin said. 

Rubin faced significant long-term COVID-19 symptoms, which left her out of many social opportunities in the 2021-22 school year. As a result, Tonight’s Dress was born. 

“I found myself bored with the surplus of free time,” Rubin said. “To pass the time and help keep me sane, my dad started to teach me about some useful topics including business and product development. He had me begin by coming up with a hypothetical business idea, my pitch: a way for girls in my sorority to share their once-worn formal dresses.

“I spent the evenings learning how to make pitch desks, business proposals, and spreadsheets. It was just a fun way to spend time with my dad and gave me something to do. After a few weeks of playing around with the idea, the pitch deck was surprisingly strong and I thought that it could actually be a good business. And I also had the time to pursue it. During a particularly difficult semester it gave me something to focus my energy into, gave me purpose during the school year, and I enjoyed it.” 

Next came what seemed to be the hardest part of founding a business: money. Rubin struggled with brainstorming where to fundraise for Tonight’s Dress. Somehow, the stars aligned. The next morning, Rubin stumbled across a flyer for the Villanova Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) posted in Bartley Hall. The IIE was hosting its Student Entrepreneurship Competition, so Rubin utilized the institute’s resources leading up to the competition. In May, Rubin won $13,000 funding for Tonight’s Dress. 

Since acquiring funding, Rubin has fully launched Tonight’s Dress on Villanova’s campus and expanded her team. There are now more than 300 active users on the app and the TD team has developed partnerships with local businesses. Rubin attributes much of TD’s successes to her support system, including her Alpha Chi Omega sorority sisters. 

“The support from girls in AXO is amazing,” Rubin said. “Cristina Seaver joined our small team to help with marketing which is so incredible because that’s not my area of expertise. It is really great because everyone on our team (Rubin, the engineer, and Seaver, the user experience designer) are all just learning as we go. It has been such a fun project to use what we have learned in the classroom and apply it to something we are passionate about.”

Seaver is a sophomore Finance major with a Philosophy minor. A member of the Investment Fellows team within the IIE, Seaver was able to watch Rubin’s initial proposal to the IIE. Seaver loved the idea for this project and knew it was something she needed to be a part of. 

“As a member of the target market, I was really interested in [TD’s] ability to create a streamlined solution to a problem I have experienced first hand,” Seaver said. 

As the school year picks up again, Rubin plans to expand Tonight’s Dress to other college campuses. In the coming months, it will launch at the University of Virginia, University of California, Los Angeles and Chapman University. The end goal is to be on all college campuses, but for now, Rubin and the team are taking it slow and enjoying TD’s success here at Villanova.