How to Find Your Perfect Sustainable Wedding Dress
a guide to eco-friendly, sustainable wedding gowns
Ah, the wedding dress. It’s an outfit a lot of people think about for years and years, a piece of clothing meant to be sentimental and spectacular, a heap of fabric made for your big day. As someone recently engaged, let me tell you that the wedding dress thoughts have only become more pressing than ever before. I’m not just fantasizing as a little girl or pinning cute photos anymore; I’m on the hunt for my *actual* wedding dress! And it’s a lot more complicated than I thought it would be.
My original plan was to alter my mom’s wedding dress. I’ve always loved her wedding photos, and she was totally on board with me taking the fabric and creating something totally new. Plus, it would’ve taken care of my “something old!” But when we pulled it out of the fancy, sealed box it had been resting in for 25 years, those dreams came crashing down. The dress looks like my mom got in a spaghetti fight at her wedding - and they didn’t even serve spaghetti! Tiny old stains tend to become much more obvious when they have a quarter of a century to set in. Her defense? “It was a party, I had a good time!”
Ok, mom. Valid. But now, my quest for the wedding dress of my dream begins anew. But the laundry list seems a bit daunting: ethical production, sustainable material, custom alterations, potentially locally made to try it on, something I might only wear once, the list goes on. And to me, it’s an important list. It has me rethinking the “traditional” expectations for a wedding dress and even wondering where those traditions come from.
A Brief History of the Wedding Dress
Wedding dresses are actually a pretty modern tradition in the scope of human existence. They’ve been around for less time than wedding rings, actual wedding ceremonies, and way less time than the concept of marriage. And the traditional white dress that comes to mind for a lot of us is actually a Western practice. Many Eastern brides wear significant colors, like red, on their wedding day.
And here’s a kicker: it wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century that wedding dresses became a “wear once” garment. Even the wealthiest of brides would repurpose her dress, dyeing or altering it to use as her new Sunday best outfit. In fact, “even Queen Victoria repurposed her own wedding dress and veil for subsequent use.” Yes, Queen. It was also Queen Victoria’s 1840 wedding that turns the tide toward white wedding dresses in Western culture, with the dispersal of images and photographs influencing the trend.
After those famous nuptials, the reign of the white wedding dress began.
If you want to dive deeper, I foundthis JSTOR Daily articlefascinating.
Thanks for the history lesson, but what about dresses in the present?
Learning the history of wedding dresses really opened me up to get creative with my options. Plus, sustainability is predicted as a2022 wedding trend. Women have worn dresses and garments with significant colors or meaning, they’ve repurposed gowns and veils to be worn again, and they’ve used what’s on hand to make something grand. They’ve done all of these things, so why can’t I?
Here Are a Few Ideas for Getting Creative With Your Wedding Dress
Find something that won’t sit in an airtight box for the rest of its life. Think of something that could work if you hemmed it short. Depending on the material and style, you could even dye it.
You can take an “untraditional” route and nix the white. The Pantone color of 2022 is Very Peri, a vibrant periwinkle color, or you could go for a white dress still, but one dappled with florals. It’s really whatever your heart desires.
Think about a “transitional dress,” or something that will be versatile on your wedding day and beyond. If you have a two-piece dress, you can swap the formal skirt out for pants to dance the night away. Later, you could wear the top out for your 1-year anniversary, or whenever. The key part of this idea is finding pieces you’ll use more than once.
Accessorize. Invest in a simple gown that can be worn other ways, but spice it up and make it special for the big day. Add a cape or dramatic gloves or a layer of fabric worn over the dress. Go big on the jewelry or the flowers or the shoes. You can get creative with it!
If you’re big on customizable items, do the research and find a local seamstress that can bring your vision to life. That way, you can prioritize your materials, like “Peace Silk” for a cruelty-free option or organic cotton, Fairtrade certified silk, linen, cashmere, cotton, bamboo - the list goes on!This siteprovides a crazy amount of info on materials and their impacts.
Love it! But Where Do I Start?
The actual finding and purchasing of the dress can get stressful. I’ve already been there, done that, and I don’t recommend it! Try to reframe the search in your mind as something positive. A creative project, a treasure hunt, or simply a way to find something truly special to you. Take these suggestions for a spin:
If your mom’s dress isn’t an option, maybe reach out to an aunt, grandmother, or your future mother-in-law! Ask your family members and friends to see who would part with their dress.
Go thrifting! The classic, long, white dress isn’t for everybody, but you can probably find some of those in your hunt too. Colored dresses, jumpsuits, full suits, you name it - your wedding “dress” is whatever *you* want it to be.
“But what if my daughter wants to wear my wedding gown?” Totally! Make sure you invest in the material now - get something high-quality and durable so you’re not let down in the future when it doesn’t look up to par. And take a lesson from my mom and try not to spill if the goal is preservation - ha!
If you’re planning to shop at local bridal boutiques, keep an eye out for the terms “made to order” and “micro-batch”. And if you’re a sample size, take advantage of your local shops. Plus, you may even be able to get a discount for buying “off the rack.” No harm in asking.
If you’re a two-birds-one-stone kind of person, consider renting your dress. That way, you don’t have to worry about splurging on something that’s only worn once, and you check off your “something borrowed”!
If secondhand shopping is your Thing, try these shops:
你可以从一个巨大的收集的二手商店wedding dresses on Stillwhite, and they make it easy to filter according to size, price, designer, silhouette shape, and more. And then, when you’re finished, you can resell the dress on the site so it can find another home. (Or, if you get a dress from another shop, you can still resell it on Stillwhite to make some of your money back!) So, not only is Stillwhite on a mission to increase the circularity of wedding dresses, but they also donate 1% of revenue to environmental non-profits. Plus, all the dresses purchased through Stillwhite have saved $20 million!
While slightly overwhelming in quantity, Etsy is a carbon-neutral company that supports artists around the world!
Shop secondhand/vintage, or even find a custom-made dress.
Sift through for shops that have great customer communication so you can really get detailed in the chat.
Rent the Runway
A perk of renting a dress is that you can go all out with a style you would never wear again because someone else will be able to wear it after you! Rent the Runway offers monthly memberships and one-time rentals. If you go for a monthly subscription, you could also rent your bridal shower, bachelorette party, and rehearsal dinner outfits, too! For the one-time renting option, you choose a 4- or 8-day span of time to rent the item. If you’re worried about trying styles on, you could always do a one-time rent months earlier for ease of mind, then rent again - it would still probably be cheaper than most bridal boutiques!
Pre-Owned Wedding Dresses
This company has been in the business of secondhand wedding gowns since 2004.
Similar to secondhand shopping apps like Poshmark or Depop, you can scroll through both sites to find your dream gown!
Also, if you end up finding a local seller, you can get in touch with them about potentially trying the dress on!
It’s all about options when you’re looking for “the one” (the dress version)!
Borrowing Magnolia has been connecting buyers and sellers since 2014.
甚至他们的网站功能“衣服估计它tor” for brides looking to sell their dresses and figure out what the listing price should be.
Nearly Newlywed is a secondhand dress brand founded on transparency: the first office space for this company was the founder, Jackie’s, living room! After finding her wedding dress secondhand, then having another bride buy it from her, and then *another* bride after that, Jackie realized that there were women out there who needed a platform to connect and put their gowns to good use. This site also provides risk-free returns for 5 business days after you get the dress, which helps a bit with peace of mind.
时尚周期任务的减速,KYHA Studios’ utilizes a made-to-order model to reduce waste and prevent deadstock. Fostering craftsmanship with ethical labor practices employing highly-skilled artisans, the brand’s signature beaded designs are crafted in-house over a 12-18 month period. Celebrating diversity and fostering inclusivity, KYHA Studios caters to sizes 00-18 and offers an invisible tulle color range to suit different skin tones. Their new sustainable initiative,Renew,further encourages circularity by offering a space for eco and budget-conscious customers to shop statement gowns for less.
P.S. A great personal option for these secondhand sites is off-setting your shipping costs (unless it’s Etsy, which does so automatically). I usethis sitea lot.
Or Get a New Dress from a Sustainable Brand
If you’re set on a designer gown, but want to keep sustainability in mind, check out these brands:
Reformation is one of the more well-known sustainable fashion brands on this list because they offer a plethora of styles, not just bridal.
They are a certified carbon neutral company and are working to be climate positive by 2025.
RefRecylcing gives customers the options of circularity and RefScale is their transparent calculator that shows the company’s impact compared to others. Huge perk: most of their options are less than $500!
We are just in awe of Christy Dawn’s new Bridal Collection! It is absolutely stunning and made with regenerative silk. From $2500-3000, their prices are very reasonable for bridal wear, and you are getting a truly sustainable and ethical gown. Christy Dawn is a very transparent brand that takes pride in creating clothing that is both good to the planet and people!
Fite Fashion is incredibly transparent, which is always a good sign. They openly discuss their circularity, working conditions, packaging, waste management, and more on their website - and bonus, it’s actually easy to find! This company was founded in 2018 and is located in the Northeastern U.S. and only uses deadstock, fair-trade, certified, organic, and low-impact dyed fabrics to create its pieces. They are big on creating “transitional” pieces that can be re-worn in multiple ways.
The pieces from this brand are made to order and are hand-sewn in NYC or LA. They have a list of each company they work with within these cities, the materials that are used, and their company’s certifications (GOTS for all materials and production, Seri.Co for silk, and RWS for wool). Nordeen places importance on the ability to have interchangeable pieces that you can reuse and re-wear for many years to come, not just the night of your wedding. They offer gowns, attachments, layers, and separates.
Wear Your Love
All Wear Your Love dresses are made by hand with comfort-focused materials in Northern California. It is also a direct-to-consumer company and makes each dress to the custom order.
They have a made-to-measure model on their website so that the gown you order is fitted solely for you.
You can order swatches of the material to make sure they fit your vision, and all of their dresses can be made vegan.
All production of Leanne Marshall gowns happens in NYC where they are hand-sewn one by one in order to create less waste. The fabric waste they do create is recycled through the program FABSCARP. Each gown on their site has a detailed materials list, and most of their gowns are made with silk and natural materials.
One perk of this more well-known bridal brand is that, depending on where you’re located, you may be able to go try some of these gowns on!
Lastly, here are some brides that have inspired me lately!
@JessMarlotook scissors to her dress and danced the night away in the new-length gown!
@TheBlendedBeautyrented her gown and all her accessories! If you’re in Georgia, look into Laine London.
@ReLaurenused her mother-in-law’s dress and worked with a local tailor to bring her vision to life.
@OatMilkLottieprovided this great post on how she found an inclusive brand for her dress.
@SustainablyChicused her mother’s wedding dress to make a reception dress.
About the Author:
佩奇Annelayne is a freelance writer and digital media specialist currently based in Alabama, who loves to cook, learn about intersectional sustainability, and read a lot of books. Her cat, Gnocchi, her plants, and a good cup of matcha bring her joy. You can connect with Paige on Instagram@vitality.blogand atwww.vtltyblog.com
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