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What is the environmental impact of your wardrobe? Each year, the average American throws away about 81 pounds of clothing, an amount that equates to 92 million tonnes of textile waste each year if you include everyone across the globe. Unfortunately, given that only 13.6% of all clothing and footwear thrown out in the United States ends up being recycled, it’s likely that much of what you throw away will end up in a landfill or incinerator – a decidedly non-green end.
Investing in sustainable fashion is an easy way to change that rhetoric. Buying from sustainable brands that use natural clothing materials and low impact manufacturing can quickly reduce the environmental impact of your wardrobe. To help you, we’ve looked at sustainable, eco-friendly brands that use natural and organic materials, or fibers made from recycled synthetics; animal corpses (excess material from textile factories or clothing factories) are also included in some lines.
The best part? The durable dresses we find are as on-trend as their fast fashion rivals and with the emphasis on sustainable fashion to create a wardrobe that will last and look fantastic for years to come, these choices are guaranteed to be a great investment in your wardrobe and the planet.
So here are the best sustainable dresses from our favorite environmentally and socially conscious brands.
Look stunning, whatever the occasion with the versatile sleeveless dress from Toad & Co (see on toadandco.com) made from some of the industry’s leading sustainable fibers. If you’re looking to spend some cash on a timeless dress to add to your capsule wardrobe, go for Christy Dawn’s one-of-a-kind Brooklyn Dress (see on christydawn.com), whose Farm-to-Closet initiative is something we can certainly support.
What to look for in a durable dress
Organic and natural fibers
The most durable clothes are made from natural fibers. The reason is that these materials require less mechanical processing than synthetic materials and are biodegradable, which means they can be returned to the earth at the end of their lifespan.
Organic cultivation processes, in which no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers are used, are preferred when it comes to natural fibers, as they can drastically reduce the environmental impact of growing a certain material. For example, in the case of cotton, its organic cultivation reduces the use of water and pesticides. Look for certifications, such as Organic Content Standards (OCS) and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), to prove that a brand uses certified organic cotton in its clothing. Those that only use a single fiber, rather than a blend, are much easier to recycle, so opting for these is the surest way to be conscientious in your fashion choices.
Although we have included recycled materials in this roundup, buy these products with caution. The problem with synthetics, even those that have been recycled, is that every time these clothes are washed, they release microplastics that pollute the waterways.
Sustainability in the fashion industry isn’t just about buying natural or recycled materials, it’s also about consuming less in the first place, a key part of slow fashion. Buying high quality clothes that will become a centerpiece of your wardrobe for years to come is a sustainable alternative to fast fashion.
Buy items that have been made locally, and you are also removing key parts of the manufacturing process where the greatest environmental and social damage can take place. This is because the United States tends to protect workers and the environment better than most of the countries where the majority of clothing is made. If you buy clothing made overseas, look for brands that follow ethical manufacturing processes by paying their workers a fair wage, providing safe working conditions, and offering secure employment contracts. Keep an eye out for certifications such as Fair trade.
Buying locally made clothes also avoids the pollution associated with shipping clothes made abroad.
Sustainable fashion designed to last and not based on abusive labor practices tends to cost more than fast fashion. If being price conscious is a deciding factor for you, all is not lost. Buying vintage or buying second-hand items from your local thrift store is a truly sustainable alternative and can often result in you buying iconic pieces from decades past at bargain prices.
What kind of dress should I include in a capsule wardrobe?
The concept of a capsule wardrobe is based on a series of basic pieces that can be mixed and matched according to the occasion. As a result, you want dresses that can be easily combined with other clothing; day dresses are easy to dress up for a more elegant evening or occasion, or worn simply as is for more casual affairs. Likewise, sweater dresses are a great item to use in the winter, when they can be worn with tights, leggings, or even jeans, depending on the look you’re going for. A summer dress that’s perfect for the beach or lounging in the park, but can be dressed up for dinner, is another key item in your capsule.
Keep in mind that most capsule wardrobes stick to monochrome color palettes and use accessories to add pizzazz and interest to your look; However, there is no hard and fast rule in this matter. Ultimately, the whole point of a capsule wardrobe is to showcase pieces that you love enough to wear frequently, so if a pop of color reflects your style and personality, then embrace it.
Is renting a dress sustainable?
Not as much as you might think. While clothing rental has been touted as an exciting new branch of the sharing economy, there are a number of issues. One of the most problematic is the mode of transportation used to move an item between people. Normally this relies on delivery services using vehicles running on petroleum or diesel, which like a study by Finnish researchers, results in higher emissions. To make clothing rental a sustainable option, this study concluded that low-carbon modes of transportation are essential, which only works if you live in an urban area with businesses offering this service located locally.
Ultimately, the more sustainable option is to buy fewer dresses, keep them longer, and donate them to a thrift store when you’re done with them.
Greenwashing is a particular headache when it comes to researching sustainable fashion, and it can be difficult to know which certifications to trust and whether clothing brands are transparent in their green claims. Our aim was to clear things up, which is why we focused on the types of materials used in the manufacture of clothing, as well as any other actions taken by brands to offset carbon emissions or increase transparency or the fairness of their manufacturing processes. .
Slow fashion author Steph Dyson has spent years polishing his own capsule wardrobe, with an emphasis on using eco-friendly fabrics and keeping much-loved pieces for the longest time. possible.