We all know that the fast fashion industry has exploded in the past several years. With that explosion has come an explosion in clothing waste, textile industry-related CO2 emissions, and water pollution. As trends come and go at the beginning and end of every season, more and more consumers find themselves constantly buying new, cheaply-made clothing to replace outfits that they haven’t even worn more than a couple of times.
As fun as it can be to go shopping for new clothing, it’s definitely not fun to think about how mass-produced clothing affects the environment. Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives to the fast-fashion industry. Thrifting, for example, is a great way to find sustainable dresses and clothing and allows you to give new life to secondhand clothing.
But if you’re still in the mood to buy new instead of used, you’re in luck. Recently, more and more companies are making efforts to introduce more sustainable fashion to the market- clothing that is ethically sourced, more durably made, and leaves less of a carbon footprint. Although sustainable clothing is usually more expensive, it also lasts longer, saving you money in the long run. Not to mention, several of these sustainable brands partner with local artisans to produce their pieces, which means that supporting them helps craftsmen and craftswomen keep their textile arts alive.
Here are some of our favorite sustainable dresses on the market right now:
First on the list is a beautiful Edwardian-inspired dress by Christy Dawn. Christy Dawn aims to be more than a sustainable clothing company- it aims to be a regenerative one, putting resources into renourishing the land used to grow the cotton in their dresses.
Made of 100% organic cotton and dyed with organic dyes, the Florentine dress boasts a flattering Edwardian silhouette and beautiful lacework around the neckline. If you’re looking for something classy but not too formal, this might be a great option for you.
This dress by Tove & Libra puts a classy spin on the casual shirtdress look. With its wide belt, you can choose how to wrap and tie it to suit your own style, or to vary your look from day to day. The shirtdress is made from triacetate-- sustainably upcycled-- and is lightweight enough for those late summer days when you can feel the autumn breeze just around the corner.
Trove & Libra puts a focus on using ethically-sourced fabrics and recyclable packaging in order to make its products sustainable. They also love to produce clothing that offers a variety of style options for each article-- meaning more bang for your buck.
Looking for something formal and flattering? The Nadira dress by Reformation is a beautiful option. It’s made from viscose, a wood-based fiber sourced from sustainably-managed forests, and has a lightweight feel to it, making it great for a summer night out. With its sweetheart neckline, tie straps, and fitted style, this dress has both a modern and vintage feel. Reformation even does alterations to make sure that your dress fits you exactly the way it’s meant to.
This Azalea-print midi dress by Faithfull the Brand is a standout for several reasons. Like all Faithfull products, it is handmade by local artisans in Indonesia, where the company is based-- meaning that great skill and love went into making it. This dress is hand-sewn from hand-printed floral fabric, which means it doesn’t have a huge ecological impact on the environment. Plus, it’s beautiful and would fit in during the day as well as during a night out.
If you’re looking to update your winter wardrobe, this knitted dress might be right for you. Made from 100% organic cotton-- like all of Mila.Vert’s knitwear-- this dress boasts a clean, straight, contemporary fit. Besides that, it’s cozy! Great for a brisk winter day.
Besides that, buying from Mila.Vert helps a woman-owned and completely female-staffed company grow. Sustainable clothing made by women, for women-- sounds like a great option!
This hooded daybreaker dress is great for those easygoing, casual days. Made of hemp and organic cotton, soft brushed on the inside, and boasting a simple, straight shape, this is a comfortable dress to lounge around in-- and it looks good, too.
This dress by Amour Vert is gorgeous with its simple-- and flattering-- straight fit and wrap tie. Made mostly from organic cotton and modal, an environmentally friendly semi-synthetic fabric, it’s cozy, too, perfect for the colder months. This is a great option for semi-formal events, and wouldn’t look out of place in the office, either.
Price: $84 (Regular Price: $168)
If you’re looking for sustainable activewear, Girlfriend Collective is a great place to look. This company is committed to using recycled plastics and eco-friendly dyeing processes in order to help the planet. This exercise dress is super flattering with its sweetheart neckline and cross-over straps. Plus it has pockets!
Best of all, like all Girlfriend Collective products, this dress comes in a wide variety of sizes-- from XXS to 6XL-- meaning that it’s available to and flattering on a variety of body types.
This beautiful dress is made from 100% natural, sustainable silk-- like many of Rare and Fair’s products. Anything not made from silk is made from natural cotton, so the company is definitely committed to minimizing its carbon footprint and using sustainable, eco-friendly fabrics.
Also, all products sold by Rare and Fair are handmade, giving the Maya dress a lovely personal touch. We have a bit of a weak spot for handmade clothing and the time and effort that goes into crafting it, and the flattering style of this dress only makes it stand out even more. Although it’s a bit more expensive than other dresses on this list, for a handmade dress made entirely out of silk, that doesn’t seem unreasonable. Its floral pattern would fit right in during the summer months, or, paired with a nice jacket, it could work wonderfully as a formal outfit.
Price: $385 (Regular Price: $552)
Pinafores are kind of a classic. They’re so easy-- toss them on over a T-shirt, and bam! You have a cute, comfortable outfit, easy to move around in. This pinafore dress from MagicLinen has a soft sort of charm to it, with its loose fit and pockets. The woodrose color makes it perfect for the spring, but it also comes in tan. And, since it’s made entirely from linen, it’s biodegradable and easy to recycle.
Price: $55 (Regular Price: $86)
The Audrey dress, found through Velvety, has a beautiful vintage feel to it, making it a must-have for those who want sustainable clothing and love feeling classy. The half-length sleeves and tied belt accent the straight cut of the dress beautifully. In this dress, made from 100% sustainable linen and boasting subtle pockets, it would be hard to feel like less than a queen.
Last-- but certainly not least-- on our list of amazing sustainable dresses is the Antonia dress, found on ourCommonplace. ourCommonplace, like Velvety, is a marketplace that curates clothing from sustainable brands. It carefully evaluates brands for the sustainability of their products and the ethicality of their manufacturing process-- so you can be sure that anything you get off of the site is cruelty-free and helps the environment.
The Antonia dress, made of sustainable cotton, has a classic feel to it, similar to the Audrey dress. With its half-length mutton sleeves, shell buttons, and cotton ruffle along the neckline and pockets, it would look great in the spring or summer-- for either casual or semi-formal events.
In a world undergoing an environmental crisis, sustainable dresses and eco-friendly clothing manufacturing processes are going to be crucial to minimizing the impact of the fashion industry on the planet. Although newly-bought sustainable dresses do run more expensive than their mass-produced counterparts, they are designed with the goals of decreasing the environmental impact of the fashion industry and lasting for a long time in your closet-- saving both the planet and your wallet in the long run.