5 Simple Ways to Shop For a Sustainable Wedding Dress

You're probably doing #1 without even realizing it.
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
by
Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Associate Editor
  • Sarah is an Associate Digital Editor for The Knot, with special focuses in fashion, pop culture and wedding trends.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Mar 01, 2022
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It can often feel like hundreds—if not thousands—of decisions go into planning a wedding, from picking decor to choosing your vendors to narrowing down cake flavors. And if you're interested in prioritizing sustainability along the way, that adds another layer of considerations to keep in mind. We'll let you in on a secret, though: There are plenty of attainable ways to make eco-conscious choices, especially when it comes to your attire.

Wedding dresses, in particular, are known to require a lot of material and production output for a one-time wear item. Coupled with the fact that excess mass-produced styles may end up in landfills, wedding dress production has contributed to high waste in the past. Today, though, increasing calls for conscious practices throughout the entire fashion industry mean it's easier than ever to find an ethical wedding dress. Plus, more wedding dress brands are committing to eco-friendly means of production to move the needle forward.

While the notion of "shopping for a sustainable wedding dress" may seem overwhelming at first, there are actually five insanely simple ways to do so. In other words, you barely have to go out of your way to find wedding dress designers and brands that make sustainability accessible and stylish. Read on to learn about the easiest ways to shop for a sustainable wedding dress, straight from industry experts.

Consider Sustainable Wedding Dress Designers

The first way to begin your search for an ethical wedding dress is to browse styles from sustainable designers. Picking the "right" sustainable wedding dress designer ultimately depends on what ethical practices mean the most to you. Are you interested in buying a gown made completely of recycled materials? Do you want to support a brand that uses ethical production means, or one that's partnered with impactful nonprofits around the world? Use your most valued principles to guide your decision when choosing a brand.

Luckily, plenty of wedding dress designers have begun following eco-conscious practices. Here are seven of our favorite sustainable wedding dress brands to kickstart your search:

Pronovias

A member of the UN's Global Compact Program, Pronovias has committed to several sustainable practices, including waste reduction, less energy consumption, and eco-friendly packaging. In 2020, the brand launched #WeDoEco dresses, made with 100% ecological fabrics and materials. Some styles are even locally manufactured, thus reducing their carbon footprint. By 2025, Pronovias aims to gradually increase the sustainability component of all collections to 40%. "We believe that sustainability is not a trend, so we're treating it as one of our company priorities," says Amandine Ohayon, CEO of Pronovias Group. "We have an obligation to do everything we can to drive the company and the industry to the improvement of sustainable standards."

Grace Loves Lace

The brand behind the most Pinned wedding dress of all time is built upon sustainable practices. The Grace Loves Lace production team handmakes every gown in their Australian headquarters, and they're committed to using sustainably sourced fabrics and ethical manufacturing systems. The brand's latest eco-friendly wedding gown—named Peaches Pearl—is made using 100% recycled materials.

Reformation

You might know Reformation as a go-to destination for wedding guest dresses, but the popular eco-friendly brand has an extensive bridal collection too. Everything Reformation produces is made from low-impact materials, rescued deadstock fabrics, and repurposed vintage clothing. Plus, items that aren't produced in their LA facility are outsourced to sustainable partner factories around the world. Reformation drops are also made in limited edition collections, keeping production less wasteful and exclusive.

Leanne Marshall

Designer Leanne Marshall's eponymous brand creates one dress at a time, which minimizes over-production, surplus inventory, and waste compared to mass production. The design team also opts for sustainable textiles and natural fibers as opposed to polyester, a commonly used fabric that can take up to 200 years to decompose. Plus, excess scraps, trimmings, and textile waste are recycled by FABSCRAP, an organization dedicated to maximizing the value of unused fabric and ending commercial textile waste.

Pure Magnolia

Based in Canada, Pure Magnolia is a bridal line committed to responsible fabric sourcing and waste reduction. To minimize their output footprint, each item is made in-house with natural fabrics. Everything that isn't used is collected by FABCYCLE, a Canadian store that resells excess fabric donated by fashion brands. Plus, employees are compensated with fair wages too.

Wear Your Love

The majority of Wear Your Love's designs are made with organic cotton, which is known to preserve freshwater resources and produces roughly 45% less CO2 compared to traditional cotton. Every design is made in the brand's Northern California studio, thus forgoing outsourced labor practices. And in an effort to prioritize low-waste production, items are made in small batches and shipped in recycled packaging. An extra-cute bonus? All leftover textiles are donated to local preschools for craft projects. (Yes, really!)

Anita Dongre

Indian fashion house Anita Dongre participates in a variety of sustainable practices and production methods, including using biodegradable fabrics and sustainable packaging, as well as participating in conscious recycling programs. Beyond that, the brand's headquarters in Navi Mumbai was constructed as an eco-conscious building, relying on energy-saving equipment and lighting, recycled irrigation, and segregated composting stations. Dongre has also spearheaded partnerships with conscious organizations like Lucro Plastecycle Private Limited and Bassi Wildlife Sanctuary, while also using her namesake foundation to support women's empowerment.

Look for Brands That Participate in Eco-Friendly Programs

There are other ways bridal fashion brands can follow sustainable practices. We also recommend searching for designers that participate in eco-friendly partnerships with accredited organizations. For example, bridal fashion brand Azazie recently joined forces with the non-profit recycling charity Green Education Foundation to donate its unused garments to the organization's Closed Loop Recycling Program. "Closing the loop is a growing idea in the world of sustainable design and manufacturing," explains Ranu Coleman, CMO of Azazie. "Instead of a discarded product ending up in a landfill, this concept ensures that each part of that product is made into a brand new one." She notes that, once excess items are delivered to the foundation, they're expertly shredded and transformed into fiber that's later used for materials like carpet pads and mattresses.

Such collaborations with esteemed eco-friendly organizations also help brands commit to conscious practices that are realistic and safe, Coleman adds. "It's important to use safe and healthy materials in a closed-loop cycle," she tells us. "We don't want to recycle or reuse materials that are toxic or bad for the environment."

If bridal fashion brands participate in similar partnerships, you'll almost always be able to find out by reading the "About" or "FAQ" pages on their website. Just as it's important to vet your wedding vendors, we also recommend vetting potential brands too, whether for your own outfit, your wedding party's outfits, or even your mom's dress. A quick scan of a brand's website will reveal what sort of sustainable practices they've committed to.

Shop Vintage Wedding Dresses

Shopping for a vintage wedding dress is yet another great way to consciously source your outfit, particularly because it extends the life of something that's traditionally made for one wear. "The bridal industry specifically is notoriously wasteful, as so much of what is purchased is often used only once," explains Melissa Sullivan, founder of Los Angeles-based vintage atelier Maison Sully. "A vintage wedding dress helps cut down on all of that waste because it's already made, requiring no new materials, except minor amounts for alterations. It also saves a beautiful existing piece from going into a landfill or being incinerated, which is what happens to the vast majority of discarded clothes."

In addition to the immense sustainable benefits that come from shopping vintage, this option is particularly fitting for those who don't want to look like anyone else on their big day. "Shopping for a vintage wedding dress is one way to get a completely unique, one-of-a-kind look, especially when upcycled, which is increasingly hard to do in our mass-produced world," Sullivan adds. "Most often, the craftsmanship and techniques used to create a vintage piece are ones that are not seen much anymore, or are exorbitantly expensive if they are."

Plus, vintage wedding dresses often have rich, interesting backstories that will make your wedding feel that much more special. "Each vintage dress is a true little piece of history with its own story, and there are some really incredible stories that we hear accompanying our acquisitions."

Repurpose Your Gown

You'll inevitably dedicate a lot of time and energy to finding *the* gown, so why limit its use to just one day? Repurposing your wedding dress after the big day ensures you'll maximize your budget, and it's also a great way to extend the life of a dress that's often only worn once.

In addition to its sustainable methods mentioned above, Pronovias also recently launched the "Second Life" collection, a selection of over 50 gowns that can be repurposed with a set of alteration options that include shortening the length, eliminating sleeves, and adding belts, straps and sashes to create a new look. The best part? It comes at no extra cost to the buyer. "With the Second Life program, we're challenging the circularity practices of bridal fashion," Ohayon explains. "We also hope to create a new mindset that moves away from the concept of disposability in the bridal industry, which has so far been slow to adopt sustainability trends."

While this newly-launched perk is specific for Pronovias dresses, you can hire any trusted tailor or seamstress to repurpose your gown from another designer. Whether you shorten the skirt, alter the neckline or totally change up the structure, repurposing your wedding dress is an eco-conscious way to keep it in your closet rotation for years to come.

Donate Your Dress After the Wedding

If you don't love the idea of letting your wedding dress hang in your closet untouched after your nuptials, consider donating it to a charitable organization to make someone else's wedding day just as special as yours. There are plenty of great charities that will take wedding dress donations, such as Brides for a Cause, Brides Against Breast Cancer, which supports early detection education, or the NICU Angel Fund Program, which repurposes your gown to support families who have tragically lost a baby. Many companies will also accept accessories like veils, hair pieces or shoes too.

Not only is this a lovely way to pay it forward and support a great cause, it also significantly cuts down on waste. Instead of your dress eventually ending up in a landfill, donating ensures that its legacy gets to live on through another wearer too—and it doesn't get more meaningful than that.

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