Sustainable and Conscious Wedding Guide

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Finding the Perfect Dress

We got married last May and I finally get around to writing about how we approached our entire celebration. We planned the event with sustainability and conscious living in mind. The first post of my 10 part series on our conscious wedding is dedicated to finding the perfect wedding dress.

The Beauty of Preloved Wedding Dresses

Arguably one of the things brides-to-be spend the most time with in preparation for their wedding is finding the perfect dress or attire. I found two (!) wedding dresses for our special day by chance at my local thrift store. I saw them, tried them, and took a gamble on them by having them altered by a local seamstress. They both turned out amazing and they cost me a total of 600 CHF (around 600 USD).

I had very specific ideas about the perfect wedding dress. Most brides do.
I looked at A LOT of dresses online and in stores but nothing had me feeling convinced. I started my wedding boards on Pinterest about 4 years ago so quite a bit of material had come together. I looked at ethical, second-hand and regular dresses (for inspiration) but just didn’t find what I was looking for.

I knew I wanted a used or ethical wedding dress in either a clean, modern style or a flowy, boho style. Nice, used dresses are hard to come by in Switzerland and to not be able to try the dress on before committing felt weird. If you are lucky you’ll find great FB groups for used wedding dresses in your country but unfortunately that option was very limited for me here.

A new fancy ethical dress comes with a price tag that honestly just wasn’t worth it for a dress I would only be wearing once. So I was left with ordering an affordable dress from Reformation (that still needed to be bought without trying it on beforehand) or to just hope for the best and find a used dress by chance.

It wasn’t until I was kind of over the whole dress search that I found not one but two dresses at my local thrift store!
I immediately saw the potential in the two dresses that fit me well enough to be altered without it costing a fortune. So I bought them both, one for our civil wedding and one for our intimate ceremony in nature. The dresses were completely different from each other which I loved because it meant I could style them exactly the way I envisioned.

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Civil wedding dress

Civil Wedding Dress: Modern and Sleek

I wore this modern sheath dress for our civil wedding. It cost 60 CHF (around 60 USD.) Would you have guessed this is a thrift store find? Thing is, it didn’t look modern at all when I first bought it. In fact, this is an 80s dress made by Scott McClintock. Scott McClintock is the son of Jessica McClintock, who is one of the most famous prom dress designers in the US (Google told me all that.)
The dress is made of polyester, which of course is not sustainable. There is a reason why polyester is so pervasively used in fashion: it’s light, cheap and comfortable. But it’s also very toxic in its production. But being a second-hand item in near perfect conditions, it lessens its negative impact.

This dress was everything I wanted for our simple and short civil wedding! Of course, it didn’t fit me perfectly when I bought it (as wedding dresses rarely do.) I couldn’t even close the zipper in the back. Because I’d always wanted a low back dress though, it didn’t matter.

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Grainy before picture of me trying the dress on at the thrift store

I decided to take a gamble on it and have it altered. I checked with a local seamstress, telling her exactly what I wanted and she turned it into a wonderfully comfortable, modern looking sheath dress. The dress came with a horrid bolero that we turned into a belt to create a more fitted look. And the best thing was: no bra needed!

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Customized low-back sheath dress


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Accessories from my own jewelry box

I wanted a wedding dress that didn’t feel like a cage, that made me feel free and was comfortable above all else. That also meant freeing the nipples and going braless. Oh the perks of being small breasted (pun intended.) Best decision I made! First of all, it was a very warm late Spring day and a bra would have made everything unnecessarily hot. Second, having to find the perfect (sustainable) bra…I simply didn’t have the patience. This dress had corset elements in the torso part and thus gave me some much-needed shape in the front and the low back balanced it all out and created freedom of movement. I accessorized it with my own art deco style crystal earrings, rings, and my own silver strappy sandals in which I was confident walking around comfortably for the entire day.

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Civil wedding dress


Outdoor Ceremony Dress: Boho-Chic and Flowy

For our intimate outdoor ceremony, I wore a more bohemian looking, flowy tulle dress with an embroidered top. This dress cost 80 CHF (around 80 USD.) It was likely made in China (from googling the brand) but again, it was second-hand so it wasn’t as bad as buying it new.

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Before look with wide boat neck

The dress originally looked a bit boring with a wide boat neck that made me look wide on top but again, I saw potential. I had it altered completely: I opted for a (very) low v-neck and a low back. It allowed me to go braless again and gave it a more easy, breezy vibe. The short underskirt and side slit were already part of the original design.

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Customized version of a thrift store dress

One of the amazing powers of Pinterest is to gift us with endless inspiration. I modeled my wedding dress after a gown I saw on Pinterest. Especially when it comes to making clothes your own by altering them, the non-ethical pieces can serve as inspiration for style and fit. Finding a good seamstress /tailor was key as I could have never done this myself. They will be able to tell you what is and isn’t possible and when to give up on crazy ideas. We took a gamble on whether the top would have enough support to not slide off my shoulders and it worked.

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Altered v-neck lace and tulle wedding dress
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Flowy, boho lace and tulle wedding dress
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Lace v-neck details

I loved wearing two wedding dresses that were both one of a kind and reflected parts of my personality. In this I felt ethereal, feminine, soft and dreamy. It was flowy and moved beautifully. The low back and the side slit gave it a sexy touch. What better occasion is there to let loose and go all in than your wedding day?

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Flowy boho dress
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Twirling bride

So my advice to you if you plan to wear something fair, ethical or sustainable: If you see a second-hand wedding dress you like, try to see the potential. Alterations are your best friend! Since almost every wedding dress needs to be altered anyway, it’s a viable option and you can let your ideal dress come to life on a budget.

After the wedding: What to do with your dress(es) after the wedding? Sell, repurpose, or donate?
I decided to dye my civil wedding dress black because the style is timeless and it will make for a smoking evening gown! Anyone with experience in dyeing polyester, please let me know. The tulle dress was too damaged after all the walking and dancing in waist high grass and cut fields and could not be saved.

Let Your Imagination Run Wild

I hope this has inspired you to go second-hand shopping for your wedding dress, the possibilities are truly endless. It is one of the more sustainable options as you are not only wearing something that has already been worn but you also get to support a seamstress. Plus, you will be wearing a one-of-a-kind piece that is truly and uniquely you.

» Fashion, Home, Living, Mindfulness » Sustainable and Conscious Wedding Guide
On January 3, 2019
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