Since the wide popularization of weddings among the working, middle, and upper classes, brides worldwide have seized on one mythical item: the wedding dress. From that monumental garment sprang traditions, not least among them that the search for one's gown was integral to the success of the day itself, and that, following the wedding, one's gown would live on forever more—in one's closet.
But these traditions, long taken as fact in many communities, may not be all they've cracked up to be. And the tragedy of any good wedding persists: the perfect dress shines for but one day before spending the rest of its existence in a dry cleaning bag. Doesn't that seem wrong?
Further, as weddings have become more lavish and extravagant (in the USA, the Knot clocked the average cost of a wedding in the USA at $33,900), so too have those dresses! But is this trend sustainable? And if not, what can we do to make them sustainable?
Photos from FashionFabricsClub.
Wedding Dress Production Is Not Sustainable
You probably knew where this was going, but let us break the news regardless: despite North America's and Europe's disposition toward climate awareness, wedding dresses seem to consistently evade such sense. Even the many listicles on hosting an "eco-friendly wedding" often neglect the one factor that might make the biggest difference: buying a consigned, pre-loved wedding dress.
There are a variety of factors which determine the ultimate environmental cost of wedding dress production, from one-of-a-kind patterns and specialty high-quality materials made by high end producers in New York City, for example, to mass-produced synthetic gowns made overseas. Then, of course, with the overseas factor, we also need to worry about the working conditions of the seamstresses that make our gowns. While data is scant on the details of wedding dress production, Terrapass reports that the average US wedding "creates about 400 to 600 pounds of garbage and emits 62 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere."
Eco-Friendly Wedding Dress Alternatives Aren't What They Seem
There are several steps one could take to reduce the carbon footprint of their wedding dress production, but only one truly environmentally sustainable option. Brides may choose to shop from boutiques rather than big box stores; they may ensure their gowns are produced locally, using sustainable materials. But these solutions are not as straightforward as many might assume: oftentimes, for example, bridal salons with showrooms in your city may actually have made-to-order products fabricated overseas, like Indochino does. Further, the raw bamboo used to make eco-friendly wedding gowns must undergo so much chemical processing that any gesture towards sustainability is undone.
This is why we started La Laurel
There's a very simple way to offset the colossal impact the production of a wedding dress—that you will wear for one single day—and it's a perfect solution. What can sidestep the carbon emissions created by designing a pattern, transporting materials, processing and dyeing those materials, discarding waste product (which doesn't break down!), then shipping the final order to a customer (and this is to say nothing of the environmental impact of running factories or production sites, or even small town tailors' offices)?
Buying Pre-Loved Wedding Dresses
Luckily for eco-friendly brides, the best option is the simplest: buying pre-loved consignment bridal gowns.
Pre-loved bridal gowns bring with them a host of benefits and qualities you can feel good about—from environmental impact to budget-friendly price tags—and crucially, there's nothing lost in wearing a consignment bridal gown on your wedding day.
For decades, brides felt it important to wear purpose-made, just-for-them wedding dresses on the big day. This is not at all unreasonable—everything about one's wedding day should feel special, and for many people, having a one of a kind gown epitomizes this quality. But there's no reason finding the perfect gown on consignment can't feel just as important and perfect for your big day.
Brides may, for example, find their favourite style has rotated out of fashion. Rather than settle for a trendy gown, brides could look to consignment to find their favourite vintage bridal gown style—this is more common than one might think! Take our current offerings, including some of the highlights of Truvelle Bridal's early years, the beautiful, flowy, sequined Rochelle Dress. Hardly vintage, true, but totally off the shelves otherwise!
Further, purchasing a pre-loved gown from our little Vancouver bridal shop all but guarantees you'll come in under your budget. The wonderful thing about wedding gowns and consignment bridal gowns is that they're so beautifully well made—there is very little depreciation. So while the price tag of a pre-loved gown drops substantially, you're essentially still purchasing a brand new gown. Tag on the alterations you'd normally get with a brand new gown, and you have the perfect dress for a fraction of the price.
And back to the larger point of this discussion: while sussing out your favourite trend and saving on your budget is great, buying a pre-loved from a local boutique is an excellent way to minimize the environmental impact your wedding will have. There's really no downside.
Featuring Enchanting by Mon Cheri, on sale now through La Laurel.
Let's Find Your Perfect Pre-Loved Bridal Gown
Our showroom is open and operational with all necessary COVID-19 precautions in place. As we launch this initiative, we're so excited to help brides find their dream gowns; if you're interested in a pre-loved bridal gown, swing by our shop in Vancouver, or get in touch. We're sure to have something you'll like!