Bridgette Meinhold

GREEN WEDDING GUIDE: Eco-friendly Wedding Dresses!

by , 08/15/09
filed under: GreenWeddingGuide

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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.

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DRESSES

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

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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.

Jill & Peter Wedding: First Dance

DESIGNER
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.

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SHOES

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.

+ Olsen Haus and Beyond Skin sell some great vegan footwear.

+ 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.

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BRIDGETTE’S STORY

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.

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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.

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JILL’S STORY

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.

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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.

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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!

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10 Comments

  1. cocoandrico December 22, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    I love vintage styles, but shopping for old stuff can be trick when you’re new to it. If you’re considering a vintage wedding dress, check this link out for some good shooping tips:
    http://www.bluecollarbride.com/how-to-spot-vintage-gold/

  2. barbh June 7, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Another great place to donate your wedding gown is The Brides Project (www.thebridesproject.org). They start selling dresses this fall and give all of the money from the sales to cancer support services. Great cause!

  3. janesm May 1, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Another great website worth a mention is http://www.stillwhite.com

    I bought my dress from another bride for half price.

    Jane

  4. Huhau April 23, 2011 at 2:30 am

    She is very beautiful and happy~~i with you two have a very happy life just like the prince and princess ~~~~~

  5. CycleMary July 12, 2010 at 11:21 am

    When my hubby and I got married last month we challenged ourselves to have a carbon neutral wedding. We only invited our closest friends and family, asked them to carpool, take public transport, etc. I bought my dress from a local consignment shop (it was BEAUTIFUL), swapped a pair of cool leather boots for a pair of awesome formal sandals from http://shoeswappers.com, and managed to get a lot of the food made from local ingredients which was the hardest part. Everyone loved it.

  6. GreenGuy2 June 29, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    This is great information particularly with what happens to most wedding dresses, they either end up sitting in a closet for life, or in the trash after a break-up, why not make it green! More cool green clothing here – http://www.gogreenblog.net/category/shop/clothing/

  7. monicajsb March 5, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Im all about the DIY/Martha Stewart-Green wedding, you really have to search the web. I just found this today and am very excited, http://www.fourgreensteps.com/community/blogs/health-wellness-fashion/elegant-table-setting Don’t forget a vegetarian menu too! Some people think it’s controversial not to serve meat at a wedding but it’s a non-issue especially if what you’re serving is delicious

  8. AdrianneC September 8, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    Very useful article! I recently got married and purchased my dress used from http://www.smartbrideboutique.ca. I would definitely recommend to anyone to buy their dress from a similar place. I also saved on shipping charges because I purchased from a local seller. I plan to sell my dress the same way so another bride can save the way I did! :)

  9. DressDiva August 19, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    Thank you for sharing some fantastic resources for eco-inclined brides and grooms. Just wanted to add another e-Boutique where you can find pre-owned couture wedding dresses that uses green business practices…

    http://www.EncoreBridal.com

  10. Curious Luke August 17, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    The best way to do a wedding: keep it small, and embrace the DIY aspects of it.

    I just got married. We planned our wedding short notice, and it was 3 weeks from the first plan to the ceremony. My bride and I have been living together for a year, and we dated for several more years before that. But we found out recently that she is pregnant, and we decided that it would be easier to take care of the baby if we were married. We seriously considered eloping at the courthouse, but we decided that our parents wouldn’t let us live that one down.

    So, we chose a date where several members her family were traveling to our house for a normal weekend-visit. We rented some tables and chairs from a nearby party-supply place, set them up in the back yard, and decorated our garden with a few frills. We invited our immediate families and a few of best-friends, and all of the extended-family members who wanted to crash it were welcome. We encouraged family members who have special skills to do their thing (decorating, photography, music, crafts etc), and we kept everything else as simple and modest as possible. My wife made her own dress, and I built the garden fence that the officiant stood in front of. We are modest practical people with a DIY mentality.

    Like any wedding, the biggest environmental and cost impact was travel. But, by keeping it small and not getting worked up over who could and couldn’t make it (most of my 5 siblings live far away and couldn’t make it on such short notice), the travel was was minimized. It really was more modest than most family reunions.

    The whole thing felt like a weekend with family and friends that happened to feature a wedding. It was great, and since whole reason was to take care of the baby and to be kind to our families, it didn’t have to be perfect, which meant that it was very low-stress. We also got to socialize with everyone who came to see us, which hasn’t always happened with weddings. Spending 18 months attempting to plan the perfect wedding would have driven both of us crazy! I would really recommend the 3-week wedding-with-a-purpose to anyone who has a modest and practical mentality.

    This was exactly the right way for us to get married — it matches our personalities, and it was absolutely perfect for us!!!

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