Welcome back to our Green Wedding Guide! If you’ve missed any of our issues in weeks past, we’ve already covered finding conflict-free eco-wedding rings, greener wedding locations, more sustainable invitations, and great gift & registry ideas. This issue of the Green Wedding Guide will highlight eco-friendly wedding dresses! We’ve got tips on finding the best eco-friendly wedding gown designers out there, as well as some other alternatives to find the dress of your dreams without putting a dent in the environment.
Every bride wants to look her best on the day of the wedding and who could blame them? Looking your best means finding the most fabulous dress in your own style. White, cream, peach, blue, long, short, modest, racy — each bride has their own taste, own body type and own eco-style to shop for. There are a number of options out there for finding an eco-wedding gown: local and handmade, used or vintage, new designer or even renting.
LOCAL AND HANDMADE
If the dress is new or being made for you, look to have it made from sustainable fabrics, like hemp, peace silk, organic cotton, bamboo, other silk blends, or vintage fabrics. If you’re more of a DIY-er and have your own design, find a local dress maker or seamstress to fashion your own one-of-a-kind gown. If the dressmaker doesn’t have a source for sustainable fabrics, you can order them from NearSea Naturals. If you can’t find anyone in your area, there are a number of designers on Etsy who would love to make your dress, or maybe you could try your own like this organic cotton t-shirt dress
VINTAGE OR USED
If you are buying vintage or gently-used, there are tons of great online resources for you to browse. If you specifically want a vintage dress, check out Vintage Wedding, Cherished Bride, and The Frock. For used dresses, check out Ebay, Craigslist, Pre Owned Wedding Dresses, or trunk shows for Brides Against Breast Cancer. Also start prowling your local thrift stores, because you might just get lucky. A few things to consider when shopping for used or vintage dresses: keep an open mind; dresses can be altered to fit you if they are too big, but not very easily if they are too small; and for online shopping know your measurements.
As for designer and eco-couture gowns, you’re in luck. A year ago, it was challenging to find many online wedding gown designers who work with sustainable fabrics, but now there are tons. We’ve picked our favorite designers who focus on sustainable fabrics, like hemp, peace silk, organic cotton, bamboo, and vintage fabrics.
+ Annatarian – Unique dresses from vintage remnant fabrics along with bamboo, organic cotton, peace silk.
+ Isadora Clothing – A fabulous Etsy seller with a versatile organic cotton, bamboo jersey dress that can be worn in multiple ways, with bridesmaid options as well.
+ Leanne Marshall – Eco-star from Project Runway, who designed a short wedding dress from hemp silk, bamboo and cotton.
+ Natural Bridals – Atlanta-based designer whose gowns are glamorous, unique and have a bit of southern charm.
Nicole Lenzen – Jill’s NY-based wedding dress designer does custom dresses and gowns with eco-friendly fabrics
+ Olivia Luca – Portland-based custom dress-maker for both brides and bridesmaids.
+ Poetic Justice Gowns – Charlotte, NC-based designer with sweet handmade dresses.
+ Puridee – Santa Monica-based designer with absolutely stunning flowing gowns, that look and probably feel like wearing a nightgown.
+ Tara Lynn – Designed Miss Vermont’s Pageant Gown, and creates handmade wedding gowns from hemp with beautiful appliques.
+ Threadhead Creations, Rawganique, and Conscious Clothing – All three carry dresses for those looking for something simple, natural and sustainably-made.
+ Wai-Ching Bridal – Seattle-based designer with exotically hand-dyed, and luxuriously handmade dresses to order using peace silk and hemp fabrics.
AFTER THE WEDDING
It can be hard to part with your wedding dress – not only because is might be the most beautiful thing you’ve ever worn, but it also made you feel gorgeous. If you are able to part with it, consider donating it to such amazing non-profit organizations like the I Do Foundation and Brides Against Breast Cancer, who use the proceeds from the sale of your dress for very worthy causes.
You can’t arrive to the ball without eco-worthy shoes. Try these green options:
+ Mohops – They create wooden platform sandals with infinite different looks and styles. The sandals have nifty elastic loops that allow you to thread ribbons or string for a different look each time you wear them so that you can keep them well past the wedding.
+ Melissa Ultra Clear, a sustainable jelly shoe ethically made in Brazil in a closed loop system so there is no waste, (there’s also a fabulous gold sandal option as well.) and looks a lot like a Cinderella-like slipper.
If none of those tickle your fancy, hit the thrift shops both online and in your home town. You could also browse vintage shoes on Etsy by size.
Oh, I tried on some fancy schmancy dresses from high-end bridal couture shops. I had to, it’s an experience I’ve always dreamed about. What I never dreamed about was buying a $7,600 hand beaded Italian silk gown, but I sure did love trying it on. I never thought about my wedding gown until Matt asked me to marry him, but within two weeks of him asking, I was already scouring the local thrift stores, craigslist and ebay. Fortuately, we had a long engagement, so I had plenty of time to look and I love the hunt of thrift store shopping.
I finally found my dress in a small thrift store in Salt Lake City called Pibb’s Exchange. It was nothing like I had envisioned: it was frilly, lacy, beaded with 3/4 bell sleeves.Go figure, I thought I wanted something simple and floaty with spaghetti straps. The dress was a mere $40, and the alterations costs $300. I knew I had a steal when the amazing tailor we went to said he was certain my dress would have cost at least $2,000 brand new, even without a famous designer’s name on it. I love that dress. I have never felt more glamorous or fashionable in anything. I wish I had good enough reason to wear it again. I also adore my shoes, which were green and a $14 steal at a consignment shop.
When I started thinking about getting married, I knew straight away that I didn’t want a big frilly, floor-length white wedding gown. I personally wanted something that looked like me, that didn’t scream ‘wedding dress’, and that I could wear again on another occasion – so it wasn’t a single use purchase. The idea of spending a lot of time and energy (not to mention money) on a dress that I would only wear once broke my heart. Therefore, I decided that I wanted something knee length and spaghetti strapped, so it wasn’t too formal and overly bridal.
When my mother-in-law asked me if I wanted her grandmother’s Victorian wedding dress to fix-up, I jumped at the opportunity. The turn-of-the-century lace wedding dress was in bad shape: it was ripped, full of holes and discolored – but the handmade lace fabric was so beautiful and evocative of quality hand-crafting that just doesn’t exist today, I knew I could make something really special out of it.
Through a friend of a friend I met eco-inclined wedding dress designer Nicole Lenzen, who offered to help me revamp the vintage Victorian wedding dress into something more my style. We found some green Indian silk, which we used as the under-layer of the dress, and then we re-constructed the lace bits of the vintage dress (which in true Victorian style originally had long sleeves and a high collar) into something a little more breezy. We used the green indian silk for almost every accent on my dress and in the wedding: from my waist bow, to the groom’s and groomsmen’s ties, to ties for flowers, and scarves especially made for my bridesmaids.
Looking back on my experience, I was thrilled with how everything turned out with my wedding dress. In true ‘something old, something new,’ style, I was able to take a meaningful family heirloom and make it feel new and my own with the help of a great designer. The experience of drawing and coming up with dress designs, and ultimately arriving on the completed dress was hugely gratifying as well. I recommend going this route for anyone who has the time and patience, and highly recommend designer Nicole Lenzen for all your eco-fancy-gown needs!