Recycled Bride: Eco-Friendly Wedding Dresses: Everything You Need to Know, Part 1

By Azure Nelson, Published Dec 16, 2009

About Recycled Bride (Pssst... They don't have to be made of hemp, and can be fabulously glamorous- and affordable!) As the founder of, I'm often asked to help brides find wedding dresses that are sustainable and Earth-friendly. Many of them expect their options to be limited, and are surprised to learn that wedding dresses made from organic and sustainable fabrics are just the tip of the eco-wedding iceberg. There are lots of ways to choose ethical and responsible wedding attire without sacrificing style. Today I'll tell you how to turn just about any white dress green by recycling, redesigning, repurposing, sharing, and much more. But first, let's take a quick peek at the environmental impact of conventional wedding dresses (Bear with me, I promise this part will be more fun than it sounds!) Most white wedding gowns start as huge rolls of raw, tan-colored fabric that's bleached white. The bleaching process is ugly, consuming massive amounts of water and using industrial chemical compounds that are harmful for workers and the environment. Many wedding dresses are made of synthetic fabrics that contain nasty toxic chemicals, and even dresses made from natural fabrics may be lined with petroleum-based synthetic fabrics like polyester, rayon or nylon. Almost all of wedding dresses sold in the U.S. are manufactured in China or South America, which means that fair labor and fair trade standards aren't likely to be upheld, and the workers who "hand sew and bead" your fancy dress may not even be earning a living wage. And just imagine the carbon emissions generated when we transport enough dresses here to outfit 2.4 million American brides each year. Phew! Here are creative ways for you and your wedding dress to be part of the solution: • Recycle your wedding dress (and save oodles of cash) by buying a preowned gown, or by selling your dress to another bride after the wedding. Why are gently used wedding dresses the greenest gowns in town? Because if you buy something new, even if it's made from sustainable materials, you are still gobbling up all the energy and raw materials used to manufacture that new thing rather than reusing something that already exists and consumes no new resources. There are many ways to buy and sell once-worn gowns, including local consignment shops and free wedding websites like (Why yes, that was a shameless plug.) • If having a new dress is important to you, you'll find plenty of fabulous and fashionable gowns by a new generation of eco-chic designers who use organic, sustainable and fair trade materials. Deborah Lindquist's unique designs are made of fabrics like vintage lace, organic linen and hemp/silk organza. Many of her dresses are one-of-a-kind, using recycled elements like vintage bustiers and appliques. Jessica Iverson Eco Couture wedding dresses are made of innovative luxury eco-fabrics like hempsilk and natural shantung. They're guilt-free, affordable, and as gorgeous as any Vera or Monique. To be continued...Part deux of Eco-Friendly Wedding Dresses: Everything You Need to Know is coming next week!

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