The church bells of this weekend’s royal wedding may have stopped ringing, but the topic of Meghan Markle’s dress is still on everyone’s lips. Having worn a bespoke creation by British designer Clare Waight Keller (said to have cost between £200,000 and £400,000) for the church ceremony, the new Duchess of Sussex then changed into a custom-made gown created by eco-conscious designer Stella McCartney. While the majority of us don’t have the sort of budget that allows for bespoke dresses made by the likes of McCartney and Waight Keller, there are ways that us mere mortals can ensure that our choice of wedding gown is an ethical one – without a royal-sized budget.
Five ways to buy an ethical wedding dress
– Look out for designers that use environmentally friendly fabrics or which ensure ethical and fair working conditions. River Elliot‘s wedding dresses are created from peace silks (peace silks are made using a more humane process than conventional silks), hemp-based silks, organic cotton knitted lace and other fair trade fabrics. All of Minna‘s wedding dresses are locally made, with the entire design and handmade production process taking place in its London-based studio. The brand uses sustainable and vegan fabrics, as well as a zero-waste pattern cutting technique, with fabrics being recycled to create the company’s accessories line. Tamman has been making luxury sustainable wedding dresses since 2006. The brand has a ‘fibre to finish’ monitored supply chain and its fabrics, which are made by fair trade artisans, are 100 percent vegetarian and cruelty-free. For those on a smaller budget, Tamman offers a wedding dress hire service.
– Check out the Natural Wedding Company, an online resource for planning an eco-friendly wedding. The website features a directory of suppliers with eco credentials, including a number of UK-based wedding dress designers whose creations are made from organic and fair trade fabrics. You can also find pretty much anything else you’ll need here for your special day, from ethical wedding rings to organic and locally grown wedding flowers.
– Go second-hand. Reduce the environmental impact of your wedding dress by opting for a second-hand gown. You’ll also save yourself a significant amount of money on an outfit that you’ll only wear once. This doesn’t mean that you have to settle for some old-fashioned monstrosity or grubby dress: today, the wealth of shops and online platforms selling top-quality, contemporary second-hand dresses is impressive. Websites like Still White facilitate easy selling of wedding dresses between past and future brides (I should know: I ended up buying two wedding dresses as I couldn’t quite make up my mind, and was relieved to be able to quickly sell the one I didn’t want). Oxfam has an online bridal shop with over 1,000 wedding dresses, including designer gowns and brand-new dresses at reduced prices (buy a dress from here and you’ll also be supporting the organisation’s charitable work).
— Buy from Brides Do Good. Social enterprise Brides Do Good sells pre-loved and sample wedding dresses donated by brides, designers and retailers. These dresses are seriously gorgeous: designers on offer at the moment include Valentino and Galia Lahav. By purchasing your dress from here, you’ll be helping to eradicate child marriage, as a third of all proceeds go to Plan International or Too Young To Wed.
– Buy a sample sale dress. Ex-sample wedding dresses are the gowns that brides-to-be try on in-store, and most bridal shops hold regular sample sales throughout the year. While they will have been tried on a few or several times, sample dresses are often in excellent condition and are considerably cheaper than buying new. I bought my own wedding dress from the London-based Betty McCaul outlet – which exclusively sells sample dresses – and I loved it: it was beautiful and in perfect condition (and half of what I would have paid for it originally).
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