Updated: Jun 10, 2020
Many of us want to shop more ethically or sustainably when buying a wedding dress but where do we start?
If buying new there are 2 big factors in looking for an ethical/sustainable options:-
1) How the dress was made; and
2) What is it made from?
How was it made?
When looking for a dress you can ask the person selling you the dress where it was made and who made it. If they don't know the answer to both of those questions then there is a very good chance that your dress is not an ethical or sustainable option.
Why is this important?
In terms of where your dress is made - locally (or at least in the country in which you live) is more likely to be a more sustainable option. The less the dress has to travel to be delivered to you the less carbon footprint it is likely to use.
As to who made your dress - if your supplier knows this there is a much higher chance that the dress has been made by an independent seamstress or a factory/manufacturer which they have a relationship with (either directly or indirectly).
And if this is the case then there is a higher chance that some thought has gone into whether the people making your dress are being paid a fair wage and are working in good conditions.
If your dress has been mass produced in faraway shores by a factory who has no direct links to the supplier then there is a much higher risk that the dress has not been ethically produced. In contrast, if your dress was made locally by a seamstress or small manufacturer you can be more confident of it's ethical production.
What is it made from?
Very few dresses at the current time are made with sustainable fabrics. Traditional wedding gown fabrics are silk, satin, or various polyesters.
Silk and traditional silk satins are made from silkworm cocoons. Most modern satins and silk like fabrics are made from virgin/raw polyester which is not envrionmentally friendly.
If you want a more sustainable alternative suitable for your big day you could look out for dresses made of fabrics such as bamboo silk, peace silk, organic fabrics, and recycled fabrics. At Frock Goddess we are excited to have sourced bridal fabric which is made up of 50% recycled plastic bottles. It is beautifully silky and can currently be seen in our 'Carmen' dress as shown here.
Some designers use 'deadstock' fabric. This is fabric which has been over ordered by big companies and would otherwise end up in landfill. Other inventive ways to create more sustainable wedding clothes is to use re-purposed fabric; or to upcycle dresses.
If buying a new dress which is not made of a sustainable fabric then one option is to go for something minimal. As a rule of thumb the less fabric and trimmings that a dress has, the more sustainable it will be. One of the reasons that we keep our designs minimalist at Frock Goddess is that, to date we have not been able to find eco friendly beads or sequins! (plus, by handy coincidence we love pared down design).
It is not easy for every designer/dress maker to be fully sustainable. We hope that sustainable and ethical bridalwear will one day be the norm.
Also there are many other areas where a company can be more sustainable (such as use of packaging, methods of working, waste reduction). I'll talk about those more another time. But in the meantime we think that any designer or dressmaker who is working towards the two areas we have talked about above should be applauded.