Monday, July 18, 2016


 Thinking about going green on your wedding day? First off, the Green definition is changing all the time. 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?  So where do you start if you're seriously pondering green-friendly alternatives on your wedding day and still want to look like a bride? It's a loaded question so we'll begin with what makes for an eco-friendly fiber.

1. Production of fabric follows fair trade practices (read: no prison contracted or sweat-shop labor involved)
2. Free or low on chemicals and pesticides
3. Eco-conscious land management practices
4. Sustainable farming
5. Animal friendly practices
                                                       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 dress I created above was made out of  fair trade hand-woven silk. This means the fabric is hand-woven abroad (in this case Thailand) 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. This gown called, Flora is very basic, the perfect candidate for customizing with sashes and florals. 

OPTION#2  WEAR A PRE-OWNED GOWN You can either go to a gown site like Tradesy and order online or visit a consignment bridal shop. Now if the word 'consignment' conjures images of Maria Shriver's atrosity 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. Emerald City Gowns in Berkeley, California offers 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 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 $4000-5000 are typically half off but sometimes can go for as little as $800-900. 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. 
The dress and veil above are both authentic vintage--veil circa 1930s and dress, 60s.  Photo by Rob Marsden
OPTION #3 GO VINTAGE Here's another recycling option. 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 on you. 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. 
A custom gown I made from an array of upcycled laces//Photo by Ryan Chua

OPTION #4 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
Above: Me in The GRETEL Dress, a custom collection piece created out of a hunk of cotton eyelet  my mother gave me.

OPTION 5: UPCYCLE Have a cut of great fabric just sitting in that trunk?  Love that sexy corset but can' t figure out what to do with it?..Trending and really catching fire are upcycled wedding and bridesmaid dresses. Thrift stores and flea markets are just two sourcing grounds for the designers who create these free form pieces--one of a kind dresses you just can't find anywhere else, making treasure from someone's cast off fabrics, trims and laces. Brides who wear these gems are pretty unique themselves, searching online for something different, playful, daring, sweet and sexy all at once. You'll be surprised to find salvage chic surprisingly affordable. The fabrics and trims have been rescued and any additions are usually inexpensive. Construction is more free than say a couture dress that requires hours of painstaking detail in the finest materials. Raw edges, as well as an overall tattered appearance are not only acceptable on upcycled garments but sometimes an integral part of the design. 


Sheila said...

So informative, and such beautiful gowns. Many thanks, Amy-Jo!
I think two of my favorites are Option # 2 and Option #3. I also love Option # 1 – I am a great fan if long gloves, which I feel always add so much elegance. As far as I can tell, these long gloves are fabric – much greener I suppose than kid gloves.

mana76445 said...

You create sense out of the foremost complex topics. singlemantravel,