What is an ethical wedding dress?
“Green” weddings are a growing trend, with nearly 50% of brides making an effort to be environmentally conscious (David’s Bridal 2009 What’s on Brides’ Minds survey). Some brides think not only about the environmental impact of their wedding, but also about how they can have a socially-conscious, or “ethical” wedding.
But what exactly does “ethical” mean when it comes to wedding dresses? There is no one answer – read on to learn more and decide what “ethical” means to you.
Ethical Can Mean Eco Friendly
A wedding dress that protects the environment (or at least minimizes harm to it) is one way to define an ethical wedding gown. Eco wedding dresses are often defined by their fabrics. Most wedding dresses are made from petroleum-based polyester, the production of which “requires high energy inputs and releases significant greenhouse gas emissions,” according to NRDC’s Clean by Design. Eco fabrics usually use natural and non-toxic materials and dyes. Fabric options include: organic cotton, hemp, or hemp/silk blends; recycled polyester; vegan/cruelty-free fabrics; reclaimed/up-cycled/ vintage fabrics; handmade or fair trade fabrics that use little water or electricity to produce.
Ideas for Eco Wedding Gown Makers:
• Deborah Lindquist – uses upcycled and organic/sustainable fabrics, made in CA
• Celia Grace Bridal – uses hand woven, heirloom, low-impact silk
• Wai Ching – Exclusively organic, hand-dyed silk, made in Washington
Ethical Can Mean Made in the USA
With the recent garment factory tragedy in Bangladesh, customers are more aware of the problems in clothing making – unhealthy and unsafe work conditions, excessive work hours, and low wages. One way to avoid such problems is to buy products that are made in the USA or other developed countries where health and safety, wage, and overtime laws are strong and enforced. There are many options for wedding dresses made in the USA – from mainstream brands sold in bridal shops to independent designers and seamstresses.
Here are a few of my favorites:
• Janay A Handmade – Customizable, AND eco dresses made in Missouri
• Dame Couture – Independent, vintage, and custom bridal made in Illinois
• ARIA – Wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses made in the USA
Ethical Means Fair Trade
Another way to avoid sweatshops and define “ethical” is fair trade. Fair trade is a global movement to end poverty through trade between the developing and developed world. Fair trade ensures fair wages or payments, healthy and safe work conditions, preventing child labor, environmental protection, and economic development — in short, a purchase you can feel good about. Many people are familiar with fair trade coffee and chocolate but other fair trade foods, gifts, and even wedding dresses are now available.
Fair Trade Wedding Dress How to:
• As far as I can tell, the only fair trade wedding dress brand in the US is Celia Grace, an amazing company I have the honor to own and run.
• Solitary Pearl and Olivia Luca both offer made in the USA dresses with Fair Trade fabric options
Ethical Can Mean Vegan or Cruelty Free
If you want a wedding dress that prevents harm to animals, look for a wedding dress that does not contain feathers, pearls, leather, wool, or silk. There is some debate about whether Ahmisa, vegetarian, or “Peace Silk,” (which allow the silk worm to leave its silk cocoon unharmed) is a good option for vegan brides. Instead, look for cotton, man-made fabrics, or recycled or upcycled options.
Brands that sell vegan dresses include:
I wish I could provide one simple answer to what an “ethical wedding dress” is but as you can see this is a complicated issue! I hope this overview helps you define “ethical” for yourself and your more meaningful wedding.