Wedding Dresses and Accessories

Celebrate Sustainable Style with Eco-Friendly Gowns and Wedding Accessories

If you're trying to limit your wedding's environmental impact, your choice of dress and wedding accessories can make a big difference. Deciding on fabric and style is always a fun part of the planning, but the eco-savvy bride-to-be will want to consider just what goes into a conventional wedding dress – and how those things mesh with her principles.

Green Alternatives to the White Dress

A gleaming white gown is still the gold standard for weddings, but that fresh, clean color is far from fresh and clean when it comes to the environment. Since these stunning shades of white are not found in nature, designers and producers count on serious chemicals to get the look, and these nasty, non-biodegradable dyes can cause lasting damage. When you consider how much fabric goes into the average dress, it's easy to see how that big white gown can make a big black carbon footprint.

Luckily, there are several alternatives to bright white volumes of fabric, and some don't stray too far from convention:

  • Get back to basics. One way to honor tradition as well as Mother Nature is to choose a dress made from a naturally light-colored fabric such as flax, hemp or linen. More and more designers are playing with natural textiles that have beautiful drape, interesting texture and way more breathability than the satins, laces and brocades of by-gone eras.
  • Break color convention. If you're up for a truly modern statement, leave white behind and go for color -- naturally porous fabrics like organic cotton, bamboo and hemp can easily take on a myriad of vegetable or plant dyes that are as gentle on the environment as they are vibrant.
  • Go for simple, sleek and sophisticated. There's a reason why cocktail dresses are generally form fitting and uncomplicated – a simple style that fits your body will always be flattering. Carry that concept over to your wedding dress and opt for less fabric that's cut to flatter your shape, and you'll save material, money and the discomfort of moving around in a puddle of heavy cloth all day.

An eco-friendly fabric and dye is a great idea, but the best way to keep things green is to reuse and recycle. If the thought of wearing a stranger's outdated dress makes you cringe, rest assured that there are some charming gently used gowns out there just waiting for a new chance to shine. You can check out charitable projects in your city that collect and re-sell old wedding dresses for a good cause, or else visit a consignment store to see what gems they may have on the rack.

Think Outside the Boutique

Your wedding is a fantastic opportunity to get creative, and nothing will showcase your style and ingenuity better than a one-of-a-kind dress. You don't need to know your way around a sewing machine to get a stylish gown with a perfect fit, you just need to find a custom dress-maker or talented seamstress in your region that's up for the challenge. Spend some time looking at wedding dress styles and trends, then work with your dress maker to develop your perfect gown out of fabric you already have, old dresses and interesting textiles you find at second-hand stores. The best part about upcycling your dress? It's guaranteed to be the only one of its kind in the whole world.

Go for Sustainable Sparkle

Once you've decided on a dress, be sure to go green with your accessories, too. Keep in mind those perennial eco-friendly principles: reduce, reuse and recycle. This is the perfect time to borrow a piece from a friend or family member, or consider updating a family heirloom to mesh with your personal style and wedding décor. If you do choose to buy something new, there are a few points to consider if you want to stay on an eco-conscious track:

  • Gold and diamonds often leave trails of environmental and social devastation. If you're in the market for a wedding ring, find a jeweler who works with recycled gold, or is able to recycle your old pieces of gold into a new ring for you. Instead of a store-bought diamond, try to use a stone that you already own, or look to ethically sourced gems from online companies for the perfect sparkle.
  • Wedding shoes can be very ornate, and you probably won't have another opportunity to wear them. Unless you'll be wearing a shorter dress that draws attention to your footwear, opt for simple, neutral shoes that will find a home in your wardrobe after the big day is over.
  • Hair accessories and flashy jewelry will tend to wind up in the back of a drawer soon after your wedding is over, so think about borrowing a friend's jewelry and making your own fascinator out of some fresh, local flowers. If you're keen on a designer piece, look into renting instead of buying.

All eyes will be on the bride throughout the party, so use this as an opportunity to impress and enlighten your guests with your eco-conscious style. You'll sleep soundly knowing how your wedding fashion choices have barely impacted the earth, and you'll convince others that sustainable living can also be stunning.