Confessions of a slow bride: The Frock part 1

In 2011 I was asked to be a bridesmaid for the first time.  My dear friend, the bride, who had been a bridesmaid an impressive eight times, assured me I wouldn’t be asked to wear anything I find repellent (a fate that has befallen her on numerous occasions).  She added however that I was unlikely to ever wear the dress again.  As a slow fashion convert this did not sit well with me - the first commandment of sustainable style is ‘thou shalt not buy a garment unless thou wilt get a lot of wear out of it’ – til death do us part!

I am getting married in April and my forthcoming nuputals have unleashed in me a near obsessive, steely determination. But not of the bridezilla variety I hasten to add. No, now it’s my turn, I’m prepared to beg, steal, borrow, hire, re-make or up-cycle to find bridesmaid dresses with great ‘eco’ credentials that they love, look great in and will want to wear again. To some people, wearing something they own already takes the fun out of it the whole affair, but luckily one of my bridesmaids has already come forward with her own wedding dress – a 1950s floral pink and green floral number that I will use as the colour scheme for the others. Not a bad starting point.

But for the bride it’s a different matter – not many of us have something in the cupboard that we’d want to get married in. So what are the options? Dress hire is an increasingly popular choice for brides who yearn for a beautiful wedding dress, don’t feel the burning desire to keep it in their wardrobe for years afterwards.  Others simply want to avoid beginning married life by going into debt after spending thousands on a dress they’ll wear once. 

I chatted to newly-wed Alba Basterra who told me about her search for the perfect dress.  “The wedding dress was one of my main issues when planning my wedding. I was absolutely opposed to paying thousands of pounds for one dress for one day. I started looking at cheaper alternatives and lots of times I came across greener designers whose styles also suited me better than traditional wedding dress designers.”  On the challenges she’s come across she told me that “lots of wedding dresses, although ethically sourced and produced, are still ascribing to certain styles that are not modern or in keeping with current fashions.  We should not have to sacrifice style or design for sustainability, and vice versa.”

Brides in Alba’s position may find the answer lies in the ingenious site Girl Meets Dress (above right), from which it is possible to hire an amazing array of dresses suitable for all occasions. They stock dozens of designers and as hire prices for bridal frocks start at around £59 for two nights it could solve Alba’s style dilemma without costing her the earth.

There are plenty of options if you do decide you want to buy that all important dress, but like me, want to purchase in a responsible way.  You could opt for one of the increasing number of designers who work with sustainable fabrics such as hemp silk, organic cotton and soya. Tammam  creates beautiful bespoke and ready to wear dresses that are designed from their Bloomsbury Atelier and produced under fair working conditions in India   

And you don’t have to wear white - the navy poppy print ‘Emi dress by Beautiful Soul London (top) could be worn by bridesmaids or a bride taking a more relaxed approach to the day – and, as the style is modern and fresh it could have a long, happy and useful life with its new owner.  Alternatively they also offer a bespoke service and could conjure up something ethereal in white organic silk (right).

Increasingly bridal designers are creating gowns that are versatile and can easily be worn for other occasions. Among the very best is Sanyukta Shrestha who designs stunning gowns using innovative fabrics. Some designs are modern and multi-purpose - the components can be worn separately; others are more traditional and can be naturally dyed or shortened to be worn again as an evening dress; all are thoughtfully designed with the future use of the garment in mind.

Next time I’ll be reporting on my search through second hand, repurposed and upcycled dresses. 

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Founder and Director of The Good Wardrobe. Lover of charity shops and mending stuff. New to Bristol. Follow on Twitter

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