That white wedding dress you see in the window at a bridal salon has caused so much damage! Not just to the credit card of the bride who over-spends on it, but to the environment! The fabric isn’t organic. It was made in a country that doesn’t practice fair trade. Children did the bead-sewing for a pittance. And in its boat rides and plane flights to reach this artistically-lit bridal gown shop, it stamped out quite a carbon footprint. Who wants a hateful, hurtful wedding gown like that? Not us, and not you, so welcome to the easier-than-ever task of planning for an eco-friendly wedding dress.
Brides just ten years ago didn’t have it this easy. You’re quite the lucky bride to have so many sources of eco-happy wedding gowns and gown fabrics at your fingertips. Before I share some great, green gown designers’ websites, let’s talk first about fabric. Because many of the big-name designers out there do offer gowns in sustainable, earth-friendly materials. You just might be able to wear your dream designer.
The wedding gown fabrics that qualify as earth-friendly, and still provide the right amount of sway, flow or structure that makes a wedding ballgown dreamy are:
• Organic cotton
• Eco-silk/raw silk
• Hemp linen
• Natural linen
Those are the Fantastic Five of wedding gown fabrics, and you can raise the bar on your sustainable fabric finds by using materials that are grown and milled locally. Once you start looking at the DNA of your wedding gown’s material, you’ll jump for joy when you see a gown listed as being made from eco-friendly charmeuse mixed with hemp and silk. Oh, and the hemp was grown without pesticides or fertilizer. And the silk was harvested only after the moths have left the cocoons.
Pretty soon, you’ll have your green fabrics MBA, and your new knowledge of eco-friendly fabrics will surely give your everyday wardrobe choices a gorgeously green makeover, too.
If you’re among the many brides out there who say No to a $2,000 new wedding gown and choose instead to wear or remake your mom’s, sister’s, or a friend’s hand-along wedding gown, you’re a repurposing genius in so many ways. Saving money, saving the environment, and bringing a sentimental touch to your wedding gown. Even if you have those puffy sleeves removed by a professional seamstress, you still get points for repurposing an heirloom gown.
Brides are hitting up relatives and hitting the consignment stores to find amazing gowns – sometimes two or three found for free, or for under $30 – and then the mass of dresses, pearls, crystals and silk trains goes right into the capable hands of your seamstress designer for the creation of the dress you envision for yourself. Brides get featured in magazines for this! We want to see your Before and After pictures if you’re repurposing a wedding gown! We want to see the magic you work on an heirloom, antique or consignment shop discovery gown. So send us your images, and tell us your stories!
If you’re a savvy eBay shopper, and you know how to tell a faux from a designer find, you know how to shop securely, and you know how to spot a reputable dealers, your eagle eye on wedding gown auctions could net you that Vera Wang for under $20. And if your Vera is made from eco-friendly fabrics, three cheers to you!
Consignment shop finds
I know, I already mentioned consignment shops in the repurposing your gown section, but some consignment shops are goldmines for finding second-hand dresses, especially if the shop in question happens to be located in an upscale neighborhood. Those society gals like to unload their pricy finds and make room in their closets for their new wardrobe pieces, so you do the earth a favor by bringing their castoffs home. And let’s not forget that some women who cancel their weddings do face no-return policies at their bridal shops, so their wedding gowns go right into consignment as a form of recycling.
And some consignment shops donate a percentage of your purchase to charity! At Brides Against Breast Cancer, you’ll find out where to shop in their own consignment stores, giving 10%, 20% or more to the cause. And at The I Do Foundation, they accept gown donations from all over the world, selling them through their consignment shop partners for a nice, big donation to your choice of charity. Pick an enviro-friendly cause, and you’re golden! The Salvation Army and other local charities also run their own thrift shops, which could be your source for giveaway gowns and accessories. Don’t forget, those veils and headpieces cost over $200 in the bridal shops. At these consignment stores, it could be $10 or less. And you get a gold star for eco-smarts.
Making your own gown
You don’t have to have a friend who made the finals on Project Runway to have your gown custom-made. (Although it would be super-cool if you did! If only Carol Hannah could make a gown for me!) A simple, elegant style of gown can be easily made by an experienced DIY guru using an easy pattern and sustainable fabrics. Check out these fabulous sources for eco-friendly materials: Near Sea Naturals, Green Sage Fabric, and Harmony Art Fabric as some of the most popular collections of gown-worthy, green materials. From cotton and eco-silk to fabulous blends, you’ll stock up here.
Shopping from eco-friendly gown designers
Again, lucky you for being the bride during this green-minded era! There’s never been such a great assortment of talented gown designers who live and breathe their passion for saving the environment and creating gorgeous, majestic gowns from sustainable materials. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order of preference [you’ll love them all!]:
• Annatarian, the site of designer Anna Mkhitarian. Anna creates fabulous gowns from vintage and repurposed fabrics, and she’ll include the pearls and beads from your own heirloom gown pieces and jewelry to make your gown uniquely your own
• Chris Kole’s Cotton Bride Collection is your eco-rescue for your outdoor, beach, destination or other breezy wedding style, with simpler cotton wedding gown looks
• Deborah Lindquist also repurposes fabrics and blends them with new sustainable fabrics to create wedding gowns and red-carpet-worthy formal gowns that are favorites of Demi Moore, Charlize Theron and other big-name, eco-minded celebrities
• Get Conscious specializes in hemp wedding-wear
• Rawganique, promising all-natural fabrics and no sweatshop nor child labor, with each gown lined in raw silk for that creamy, fabulous, smooth feeling to your gown
• Rene Geneva, creating gorgeous gown and corset numbers, using hemp, cotton and eco-silk
• Tara Lynn, one of my favorite eco-smart designers, recently featured on WE-TV’s “Wedding Central”
• Thread Head Creations, based in Tennessee and using hemp, silk, bamboo and other fabrics, with a great tool allowing you to design your dream gown online
• J Crew, the company that makes big news with the First Family and also provides us with lovely, pure cotton gowns that work for formal weddings and the most informal destination wedding
Want to make a difference? Write to your favorite gown designers to ask them for more gowns in green fabrics, or praise them for their existing line of eco-friendly dresses. When the consumer speaks, the corporations listen, and your voice added to others could mean a complete overhaul of the bridal gown industry that could make those scary, carbon-nightmare gowns a thing of the past.
Do you have a green wedding gown victory to share? We’d love to read your story here in the Comments section!
I’m thrilled that Sophie invited me to be your Green Wedding expert, and I’m working right now on new articles to help you make your wedding gorgeously green. Visit me at www.sharonnaylor.net and let me know what you’d like me to report on next!