Weddings are joyful celebrations but they can be hard on the environment. The associated travel, food, and other services can produce hundreds of pounds of waste and tons of carbon emissions. One of the many choices you can make to lower your wedding’s environmental impact involves the wedding dress. Making an informed choice about buying new or going with a pre-loved gown can help your big day be more sustainable for the planet.
The tradition of buying a new wedding gown to wear for a single day is expensive, wasteful, and bad for the environment. What’s the simplest alternative? Wear a pre-loved dress. It’s more affordable and environmentally responsible than buying a brand-new gown.
Dressing for a More Sustainable Wedding
Though environmental impact information about the bridal segment of the heavily polluting fashion industry is limited, it’s not hard to imagine that a fancy gown you wear for a single day is pretty wasteful. Consider the amount of fabric — and water — required for a silk dress, one of the most popular fabrics for wedding gowns. Approximately 2,542 gallons of water are used to produce just one yard of silk fabric. That means that the average ballroom gown, which requires eight to 10 yards of fabric, uses up to 26,420 gallons of water. A mermaid gown uses four to six yards or up to 15,850 gallons of water, and a tea-length dress, at around 3 yards of fabric, consumes almost 8,000 gallons before you try it on.
You can reduce the footprint of your wedding dress considerably by wearing a pre-loved gown.
Finding a Pre-Loved Wedding Dress
Is there a wedding gown in your family that you could wear? Your mother or grandmother might have a gown she would love to let you wear. Ask your relatives if they have a dress they’d be willing to share with you. If the right gown isn’t available, then consider shopping for a pre-loved dress.
Sites like Stillwhite.com, Nearly Newlywed, BravoBride, and even eBay are convenient marketplaces for buying previously owned wedding dresses. With plenty of selection from various brands, you might find what you’re looking for online.
If you’re looking for local consignment shops that sell gowns, you’ll have to do a little online research. I bought my gown, which was lovely and in great condition, in a small thrift shop in a college town. No large physical chains are doing bridal consignment yet, though La Laurel in Vancouver, Canada, is one bridal consignment store you can check out if you live in the area.
If you can’t find a used dress you love, you can shop for a new dress with a lower impact.
Buying a Brand-New Gown
When shopping for a new wedding dress, avoid gowns made with fabrics with a significant environmental impact, such as nylon, rayon, polyester, or conventional cotton. Organic or recycled cotton, hemp or linen, or even recycled polyester are more sustainable choices, and some brands specialize in dresses made with these fabrics.
The number of brands working to make their gowns more sustainable is growing as brides become more environmentally conscious. For people looking to find an affordable (under $500) dress that’s fabulous, consider brands like Loulette Bridal and Larimeloom. If you are interested in midrange priced gowns, which cost more than $500, check out Wear Your Love, Pure Magnolia, Indiebride London, or Poémia. If price is no issue, you can add Grace Loves Lace, Scout Bridal, and Lost in Paris to add to your consideration list.
Planning for After the Wedding
What are your plans for your dress after the wedding? Unless it was badly damaged, it still has life to it. One option is to keep the dress to pass it down to your children, grandchildren, or other family member. Unfortunately, with this option, the gown is likely to sit unused for years.
Another option is to sell the dress after your wedding. You will give someone else the pleasure of wearing the dress and recoup some of the cost of your wedding. And each time another person wears your dress, you’ve helped lower the carbon emissions and water impacts of making the dress. Every new wedding gown we avoid manufacturing is a win for the environment.
You can use online marketplaces like Stillwhite.com, Nearly Newlywed, and eBay to sell your dress. The process often includes paying a fee to list the dress. You will also need to ship the dress to the buyer. Sometimes, the listing site charges a sales commission, but we recommend you check out Budget Savvy Bride’s ranking to help you choose where to sell your dress. If you find a local consignment store that accepts bridal gowns, that’s also an option, although it isn’t that common yet.
Whether you sell or store your dress, make sure it’s clean and well packed so it does not get damaged. We recommend that you take your dress to a professional dry cleaner before storing or shipping it. You don’t want the next person who wears it to find it damaged. With plenty of bridal preservation kits to choose from, you can sell or store your dress safely so it’s ready for the next wearer.
Starting a New Tradition
Starting a tradition of sharing dresses with other brides is not only green, it also has the potential to create a story for each bridal generation beyond yours. A well-made gown can be worn by daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters. While a new dress made with more sustainable materials is a step in the right direction, the smallest environmental impact comes with wearing a pre-loved gown.
You’ll wear your wedding dress on one of the most memorable days in your life. If you pass it on, you bind more joy to the gown. Think of your dress as a flower that can blossom again and again with appropriate care. So why not be kind to the earth, spread happiness, and give someone else a chance to have their bridal moment with your dress? Let’s start a tradition of passing on the dress, creating a legacy of joy for each special gown that includes more than one bride.