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About Bride Chic Have you any idea the impact the production of clothing and textiles has had on the environment? Well check this out: In the UK alone according to 2006 statistics, clothing and textiles contributed in producing up to two million tons of waste, 3.1 million tons of CO2 and 70 million tons of waste water. Whoah! Time for a reality check: Have we become so used to fast food, fast technology and now fast fashion that we've created a manufacturing monster like this? No wonder designers are turning to sustainable fabrics and labor friendly alternatives to produce their creations. Welcoming it as an opportunity rather than limitation is making for some incredible designs as well as global partnerships. Going Green can mean many things . . . . . . ..wearing a dress in natural fibers: organic cotton, wool, linen, silk, and of course, hemp. It helps to have a knowledge of the natural dying process and thinking through what impact toxic dyes might have on the environment. Here are some questions to ask: Is that silk I love really its natural color? If it is tinted, was it done with non-toxic dye? Is that snow white silk taffeta chlorined? And was that cotton grown free of pesticides? OPTION #1 GO WITH DESIGNERS WHO USE SUSTAINABLE FABRICS Truth is, most designer/manufacturers have wised up of late reserving a portion of their collection for eco-conscious designs. The designs of Adele Weshler are cases in point. Wechsler honors her South African heritage by providing jobs to Zulu women who hand bead her sustainable fabrics (at fair market wages). The intricate designs found on the bodice above are rooted in African symbolism, resonant of fertility and the circle of life. Materials like cowrie, native to Africa, are incorporated into the bead work. And then we have designers like Rai-Lynne of Thread Head Creations who founded her company on eco-chic, offering it exclusively. Since 1999 Thread Head Creations has been creating environmental-friendly gowns. Their specialty is offering basic designs in well searched out sustainable fibers. A few examples of the fabrics they use include a Hemp/Silk Charmeuse combo. The hemp and silk combined in this fabric give a nice sheen and drape. The hemp is grown without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers blended with wild peace silk. 60% hemp, 40% silk. Also they have a hemp/raw silk blend that gives off a matte sheen and crisp body. The gowns offered in Peace Silk offer a moderate sheen. Cruelty free – the silk moths are allowed to emerge from their cocoons before the silk is harvested. 100% silk. Olivia Luca uses fair trade hand-woven silks in her collection. This means the fabric is hand-woven abroad in small villages on old looms. There's a fair trade price paid out to weavers for their handwork. The sale of these fabrics in turn gives the needed additional income for the villages. Imagine this: no dye, no bleach equals sustainable. True, you'll find some slubs in the fabric (normal). Each piece varies, has its own character. Her gowns tend to be very basic, perfect candidates for customizing with sashes and florals. OPTION#2 RECYCLE AND WEAR A PRE-OWNED GOWN You can either go to a gown site like Pre-owned Wedding and order online or visit a consignment bridal shop. Now if the word 'consignment' conjures images of Maria Shriver's gown hanging amid other like models full of the usual 1980s pouf and paste, perish that thought. Most dresses in these places are actually cutting edge and stepping into one is more like going to high-end designer salon. With catchy names like Encore Bridal and One More Time, these places offer some elegant, gently worn gowns in better shape than your average designer sample. In fact, the proprietors of these places can get real persnickety about what they take in—some only accepting top designer names like Vera Wang and Reem Acra in all natural fibers. In addition, once gowns are accepted they’re cleaned and pressed (Ask where though. More shops are specializing in environmentally safe cleaning). If you’re price conscious this is the place to shop. Gowns that retailed last season for $3000-4000 are typically half off but sometimes can go for as little as $500-600. More good news. You’re going to get very personalized assistance—the same as in a full service bridal salon. Though there will be re-altering involved, you won’t have to wait 4-6 months for your gown. Bear in mind once-worn gowns have already been pre-fit and altered to someone else’s body. Just make sure they’re once-worn; an over altered dress that’s been on more than one body could lose its original shape after a while. Ask how many and what kind of alterations the gown you want has had. Typically, if it’s gone through more than two brides, forget it. In addition to alterations your shop may offer customizing services (for a fee). Shops realize with previously-worn gowns, there’s a kind of possessive energy the new purchaser wants to create to make the gown her own. Therefore some shops focus on customizing. FYI: Naturally bridal consignment shops don’t stock set sizes like salons do. Small and larger brides might have to work closely with staff and keep a lookout locating a gown in their size. OPTION #3 GO VINTAGE Here's another recycling option. These incredible images hail from British Vogue circa 1950. You can draw inspiration for your gown and veil by borrowing concepts from ages past and fitting yourself into an actual vintage original. While these pieces are probably in a museum or private collection now there are rare finds out there similar. Check out Vintage Here you'll find an entire site devoted to collecting clothing from times past. If you're flirting with the idea of doing vintage and wearing that dress from your favorite era, here's the lowdown: Many vintage clothing stores stock actual gowns from by-gone eras as well as ‘retro-inspired’ selections that are brand new. The bride in love with a particular era of clothing usually checks vintage clothing stores first. Not all opt for an actual gown that survived her favorite era though. Some go for a newer style reflecting the period in natural, sustainable fibers. Why? Because that authentic 1916 Shiffli lace blouse may be so delicate, without proper restoration it could literally fall apart. Think of gowns belonging to the ages like you would certain antiques: some so precious to be considered museum quality. Depending on restoration, the rule of thumb is, the older the gown the less they should be worn. If you are set on wearing that 1910 dress find a specialist in restoration who can advise. At this point you may have to decide whether or not going green or wearing a repro Art Deco (possibly in synthetic or made in overseas sweatshops) is the more important. OPTION #4 BORROW FROM A FRIEND OR FAMILY That is, unless your friend or sister has creepy taste. On the other hand all the luckier you are if an Audrey Hepburn is in your close-knit circle. Did you know Jean Kennedy (Smith--sister to JFK) wore her sister Pat's (Patricia Kennedy Lawford) Hattie Carnagie sheath for her 1956 wedding? With a little customizing (sash, shrug, a few florals added) you've got a whole new gown. OPTION #5 GO CUSTOM Here you'll have complete leeway selecting any sustainable fabric your heart desires. So what defines a custom gown? It's made from scratch and will require more fittings than gowns ordered through a salon so you'll need to be open to the experience of watching your gown develop from the ground up. In addition, a custom designer or skilled seamstress puts many hours and a high level of craftsmanship into the creation of a custom gown. Working with fragile white fabric and delicate lace is an art form. Figure any custom gown crafted by a designer usually takes four to six months to complete from a listing of your measurements. As I mentioned above, the design process involved with a custom gown is more of a direct collaboration between you, so you'll have more input with decisions not only regarding fabric but silhouette and style. Custom gowns are typically 80-90% handmade. This means machines do some work like the side seams, cross seams, etc. There are however stitches on these one-of-a-kind gowns only expert handwork can touch in order to produce that exquisite finish. Since more brides are going custom or buying wedding wear in green-alternative boutiques, there's not only a need to know what materials go into the making of a dress but also who is making the piece and where. As one bride put it, "I couldn't stand up and make such an important commitment, knowing any part of what I was wearing might have been put together by prison labor or in a sweat mill. It just goes against everything I believe in." Amy-Jo Tatum --Bride Chic-- Useful Links to Finding Your Green Gown Amy-Jo Tatum Bridal Couture . . . . . Custom gowns in sustainable fibers icluding swiss cotton, hemp and upcycled fabrics . . Chris Kole-The Cotton Bride. . . . Love cotton? How about Egyptian cotton? Or try English- Swiss fiber Georgette? Kole has every sustainable cotton in the world in his new Fall collection it seems. Deborah Lindquist . . . .Collection of bridal wear in sustainable fibers Posh Girl Vintage . . . . Vintage gowns and bridal wear circa 1930s-1950s A Vintage Wedding . . . . Bridal gown and veils from 1920-1980s. Cherished . . . Beautiful and dazzling array of gowns circa 1930s-1960s and beyond. Vintage . . . . Another gorgeous site full of images and info for vintageholics. The Bridal Garden . . . Non-profit consignment shop in NYC. Features couture designer gowns and accessories. Profits go to NYC education.
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