Early fall is prime wedding dress shopping season for brides who are getting married May/June of following year, so I have handpicked the gowns that you can feel good about wearing (tough job, I know). A note about fabrics: some of these gowns are made of 100% organic, vegan fibers (cotton, even linen!) or synthetic satin. But I’ve also included ones that are made with silk, and here’s why. Before I switched over to publishing, I had a brief albeit adventurous stint in fashion, designing, producing in the Garment District, and selling under my own label. So I know that sourcing is a huge problem for indie designers and labels. When you’re a big company, you can work directly with mills because you’re buying fabric by thousands of yards. With that, you gain the power to ensure quality, fair treatment of employees, and natural processes–though for most big companies, these are definitely not top priorities. On the other hand, an indie designer has to go to the retail/wholesale fabric stores (most often in New York’s Garment District) and choose from fabric bolts on display–just a handful of which are labeled organic. Most likely, none of those organic fabrics are the type of material suitable for bridal gowns (jersey or shirting is great for Ts, not so much for wedding dresses). That leaves the option of buying synthetic materials, of which there are plenty–but there is no way to guarantee that these were from a responsible company and not a sweatshop. All in all, it is extremely difficult financially and logistically to source ethically when you’re not Vera Wang (luxury) or David’s Bridal (mass).
That is why I know that each of these indie designers are making a huge commitment by sourcing green. The Solitary Pearl, for instance, sources their silk from a Fair Trade certified company in Cambodia, which employees local women artisans and uses all natural processes. Silk is categorically a non-vegan fabric, since it’s made from the fibers of the silk worm cocoon. But for me personally, veganism has never been black and white, nor is it even about the Jain/Buddhist philosophy of not killing any living things. Instinctively, I admit I don’t feel as deep a moral responsibility toward insects; and if a silk worm or a moth appeared in my bedroom, I would scream until my boyfriend kills it for me. Unless you can say you love ALL insects (including cockroaches!) the question of not killing silk worms is more of a theoretical-philosophical one than an instinctive-moral one. (Specifically I am more or less in line with Peter Singer’s line of thinking when it comes to termination of life). And when I weigh the situation theoretically, I find that it is far better to support eco-conscious Fair Trade companies rather than garment behemoths that turn out cheap synthetics with no consideration for the environment or the employees. Plus, each of these designers cut and sew their dresses in the U.S. or Canada, so you are supporting domestic garment production–which is good for our larger economy (jobs) and employees themselves (fair wages). So without further ado–here are my picks for dresses, by your eco conscious wedding style.
Kyra (B1005) by The Cotton Bride. Czech Tufted Stripe 100% Linen Sweetheart Neck Gown w/ Gathered Ballgown Skirt with Pockets. 100% Cotton Lining. Sugg. Retail: $2650
If you’re having a casual beach wedding, don’t limit yourself to a sheath. Think about the scenery: against the magnificent backdrop of the beach, you need something bold and dramatic, and this vegan wedding dress does just that. (Ever seen a ball gown picture at the beach? Love!) The linen keeps things breezy, and up close the stripe pattern is the perfect match for the maritime theme.
For the Rustic, Country Chic wedding:
Parthena (B1009) by The Cotton Bride: Swiss Satin-Face 100% Cotton Batiste Strapless Gown w/ Tonal Cut-Bead Lily Leaf Design Bodice & Gathered Skirt with Pockets. 100% Cotton Lining. (Optional Satin Belt in any color – Grass Green shown here). Sugg. Retail: $2695
This vegan wedding dress made of satin-face cotton (with pockets!) is perfect for a barn wedding with lots of wild flowers. Wear your hair loose and flowy; skip the veil and wear a flower wreathe instead.
For the Garden Wedding:
Gwendolyn by Solitary Pearl: 100% handwoven Fair Trade Silk sourced from artisans in Cambodia, and sewn in Columbus, OH. Price upon request.
If you’re getting married in a botanical garden or even your backyard, this sweet gown is the perfect choice. Think loosely wavy low bun, romantic pink makeup, hydrangeas and peonies, and twinkling Christmas lights overhead.
For the Church Wedding:
Madeline by Solitary Pearl: Short sleeve round neck gown trimmed with European lace. 100% handwoven Fair Trade Silk sourced from artisans in Cambodia, and sewn in Columbus, OH. Price upon request.
If you’re getting married in a church or a temple, this dress is the demure yet sophisticated and modern choice. I would pair this with a single strand crystal necklace, fingertip veil, and classic white flowers like gardenias.
The low cut U back keeps things youthful and sexy.
Halle by Damsel White Label: One shoulder mermaid gown with hip and shoulder ruffles and sweep train. 100% Mystique Satin (polyester). Cut and sewn in Houston, TX. Retail price upon request.
If you’re getting married in an art gallery with a rooftop reception, wear this city chic dress with a sleek chignon, and a dramatic red lip.
For the Bohemian Contessa:
The Garden Dress with Lace by Pure Magnolia: Ethically sourced Dupioni silk with organic cotton lining. Retail $1,500.
The black lace detail and the dramatic V neck reminds me of the sultry women of the Mediterranean. Think southern Italy or Spain. Wear red roses and a beaded jet comb in your hair.
For the Vintage Wedding:
Winterlace Cap Sleeve dress by Pure Magnolia Couture: Boatneck sheath with chapel train. Organic cotton lace shell and organic cotton lining. Retail around $2,360.
This beautiful vegan wedding dress is made with 100% organic cotton, and perfect for a vintage glamour-themed wedding. Think camellias, birdcage veil, multi strand necklaces, and gloves.
What’s your pick? (I love them all but I’m very drawn to the Bohemian Contessa one, which appeals to my unending fascination for Carmen. It’s sensual and alluring without resorting to the typical “sexy mermaid.” And if you’re married already, tell us about your dress!
More in Weddings: 5 Conflict Free Engagement Rings for Vegan Brides
See contributing editor Kate Coffey’s wedding dress/ story here!
Also in Style: Editor’s Picks- Fall Shopping Guide by Style
Photo: The Cotton Bride; Solitary Pearl; Damsel White Label; Pure Magnolia; Vanessa Voth