Eco-chic wedding dresses are all the rage, and for one very good reason: brides want to feel good on their wedding day!
The thought of wearing a wedding dress that is laced with chemicals or made in a factory with unsavory labor practices is entirely unappealing to most brides. But if you’re not sure what to look for on the label or what questions to ask the salesperson, that may be the dress you’ll end up with.
A wedding dress is eco-chic if…
- It is a new dress made from environmentally and socially responsible materials and manufacturing processes.
- Or it extends the life of an existing dress that’s been worn before.
How To Ensure Your Wedding Dress is Eco-Chic
- Ask questions about the workers, fabric and manufacturing
- Are the workers who produced the fabric and the finished dress paid a fair living wage?
- Are their working conditions clean, safe and free from harassment or abuse of any kind?
- How can you be certain that neither the fabric manufacturer nor the dress manufacturer uses forced or child labor?
- Was the fabric whitened with chlorine bleach or colored using harmful chemical dyes?
- Was the dress treated with harmful chemicals to help it to resist wrinkles, stains or fire?
- Does the fabric or dress manufacturer follow any certifications standards? Which one(s)?
- Feel confident that responsible practices were followed
- Look for a certification that ensures fair trade and fair labor practices. Examples include Fair Trade Certified and GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard).
- Or choose from fabrics and dresses that were manufactured entirely in the US, UK, Canada, Australia or other countries that actively enforce health, safety and wage laws.
- Choose a new eco-chic dress
- Look for fabrics that have not been chlorine bleached, chemically dyed or treated with chemicals that can harm workers and the environment.
- Choose wild peace silk as an alternative to conventionally cultivated silk.
- Choose viscose rayon or lyocell (trademarked as Tencel®) as an animal-free alternative to silk. These fabrics closely mimic the look, feel and drape of real silk, though they do require chemical processing.
- Choose handwoven fabrics over those produced by a machine. Traditional techniques where silk and other fabrics are woven by loom continue in villages around the world. The purchase of these fabrics helps to support these villages. Fabrics that are made by hand are not as uniform as those produced in a factory, but the inconsistencies in texture and color often add to the beauty, authenticity and meaning of an eco-chic dress.
- Extend the life of an existing dress
- Extending the life of an existing dress helps to avoid the use of virgin materials. Even with alterations, these options tend to be more budget-friendly, which means you have more to spend on the honeymoon!
- Rent a luxury wedding dress for a fraction of the price it would cost to buy it.
- Consignment shops (both online and physical stores) are a great place find gently-worn wedding dresses at deep discount.
- Restore an heirloom dress. A professional seamstress or dry cleaner can let out the seams and darts, turn zipped backs into corset lacing, and brighten or whiten colors that have become dingy over time.
- Shop for beautiful vintage wedding dresses in-store or online.
- If you or a friend are especially crafty, try sourcing fabrics from second-hand clothing outlets and turning them into a stylish and unique gown.
- Extend the life of your dress after the wedding
- Have your dress professionally cleaned, preferably without chemicals.
- If you’d like to eventually pass the dress onto a friend, sister or future daughter, preserve it in a box with acid-free tissue paper to slow the aging process. (Dry cleaners can often do this for you.) Store the box in a dry place, such as a closet or under a bed. Do not store the box in a musty basement or attic.
- Another option is to reuse the dress now. A skilled seamstress can turn your wedding dress into a cocktail dress, children’s christening gown, communion gown or baby’s blanket.
Good To Know
- Formal organic and fair trade certifications can be cost prohibitive, so emerging designers may follow eco-friendly and fair trade practices, but not apply for certification. Check the designer’s website or ask them directly about their practices, processes and fabrics to ensure they meet your values.
- Organizations that certify fair trade and fair labor practices may go beyond just protecting basic human rights. These organizations often work with impoverished villages to support better education, clean water initiatives, new roads or other projects that help the workers and their community to rise from poverty and become more self-sufficient.