There are an endless amount of wedding dresses out there in the world, but only a select few bridal gowns are ethical. Not all designers have sustainable options, and even those who solely create eco-friendly dresses might have a limited selection.
To find a dress that matches your style, budget and values follow this guide for different ideas and sources.
Decide What You Want
When you start looking for the perfect wedding dress you need to understand your vision. Sketch some ideas out or take pictures of dresses you like from the Internet or magazines. Think of the different styles—ball gown, A-line, sheath, mini—and which ones you would like to don on your big day.
Once you have an idea in your head, then you can start looking at the type of dress you want, taking into consideration your budget and the material. You can choose from a new, traditional, affordable, or sustainable gown, but not all four.
Traditional wedding dresses are often more expensive than modern ones because they are typically ornate with layers of material. An ethical dress is created by workers who are fairly paid to bead and sew the material, making it sustainable but costly when compared to those made in sweat shops. Finally, new dresses will always be more expensive than secondhand ones.
If you are looking for a completely new, sustainable, and traditional dress, then you will need to acknowledge that in your budget. Though if you wouldn’t mind a used or more modern wedding dress, then there are many options to choose from.
Buy an Ethical Dress From a Conventional Salon
While you will be likely to find what you are looking for with this method, it can come with a price. This is the most expensive option expressly because you will know where each swatch of fabric or sequin is coming from and who put it there. Be specific with what you want. Do you want your dress made in the U.S., Europe, Canada, where there are strong labor laws or do you want to risk a child worker hand beading your fabric in Taiwan? Don’t be afraid to ask where the décor, lace, and fabrics were made, so you can guarantee that you are buying an ethical wedding dress.
Seek Out a Sustainable Designer
This is probably the easiest way to find an ethical dress, but can also be difficult, as not all boutiques will carry these products. Explore dresses hand made out of silk like Leanne Marshall’s line or eco-conscious fabrics created by Deborah Lindquist. Again, a new dress will always be more expensive, though there is no price tag on being sustainable to the environment and those creating your gown.
Buy a White Dress
Who’s to say a white dress can’t be a wedding dress? If you aren’t that fussed about visiting a bridal salon, then check out some designers who create beautiful white gowns you can wear instead. Check out Rent the Runway for a smaller price tag on stunning full-length gowns or white party dresses. They also have a selection of wedding dresses you can rent as well.
Rent or Buy, and Go Vintage
If you are looking to buy a sustainable wedding dress, then renting or buying used is a great option. Instead of using new resources to create a brand new dress, you are reusing, which is eco-friendly even if the dress itself isn’t. More than likely you won’t wear your wedding dress again, so why spend all of that money for a one-time use? Rent a dress at the fraction of the price or buy a vintage piece unique to what they sell in boutiques. Sites like Nearly Newlywed or Borrowing Magnolia specialize in renting or selling used and sample dresses.
Eco-friendly Wedding Dress Designers
Explore some of the ethical and eco-friendly wedding dresses and designers we’ve included above. Try to get a vision in your head of what you are looking for and then narrow it down with sustainable dresses. Pop into a wedding salon or even consignment shop to see if you find a dress that you love. Not all beautiful gowns come new from a high-end shop and you can be surprised at what you find.