Sustainability-minded shoppers like you are now the majority — According to McKinsey’s State of Fashion 2021 report, more than 3 in 5 consumers agree that environmental impact influences their purchasing decisions. That’s a lot of eco-conscious consumers!
And while the fashion industry is still a major polluter and source of carbon emissions, more and more people look for eco friendly places to shop.
Just how bad is the fashion industry? Well, the industry is responsible for creating 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions — that’s as much as Germany, France, and the UK combined. If allowed to go unchecked, that number could balloon to 26% of all carbon emissions by 2050.
Carbon emissions aren’t the only environmental issue. With the rise of fast fashion, people buy 60% more clothing and keep it for half as long. That means tons of clothes end up in landfill each year — 11.3 million tons, to be exact. And by 2030, it could be as much as 148 million tons annually.
It’s clear why shopping for ethical, sustainably made clothing is critical. While it’s true that the most sustainable dress is the one already in your closet — sometimes buying new garments is necessary. If we focus on buying from eco-friendly brands, together, we can stem the tide of wasteful clothing manufacturing in favor of intentional design and production of long-lasting garments.
What Are Sustainable Dresses?
So, what is a sustainable fashion brand? You can tell a dress (or any other piece of clothing) is sustainable when it meets certain criteria. When we look for sustainable clothing, we consider the following:
- the source and ecological impact of the fibers the fabric is made of
- how the garment was manufactured, including dyes and treatments
- who made it, how well they were paid, and their working conditions
- how it was transported from the factory to the retailer, to you, the consumer.
Many women’s sustainable clothing brands are creating eco-friendly clothing for the planet-aware shopper. While some fibers are more sustainable than others (think organic, pesticide-free, natural fibers), it also matters a lot how the clothing is made.
Sustainable clothing companies look at their operations — from the farm to the finished garment — to ensure they use renewable energy and high-efficiency machinery and provide safe factories with reasonable working hours and fair pay.
Oversight is essential in sustainable clothing too. That’s why sticking to apparel with the appropriate certifications is a good idea. Look for Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), OEKO-TEX®, or Bluesign® for sustainable fabric certification, and Fairtrade, Wear Fair, and SA8000 for ethical operations and manufacturing.
The truth is a company isn’t sustainable if they just use eco-friendly fabrics. If they use outdated and high emissions equipment, contaminate the local environment and water supply with chemicals, and exploit local workers — they’re not doing good for the planet.
Sustainable fashion brands offer customers an alternative to the majorly extractive practices of fast fashion. Many brands pay less than the minimum wage, profiting from exploiting (primarily women) laborers. And often, by force.
Today, there are 27.6 million people under forced labor, many in the garment industry. The number of people enslaved or coerced for their labor has only grown during the COVID-19 pandemic. As consumers, we must demand a slavery-free supply chain for everything we buy.
Which Fabric Is Most Sustainable?
We’ve seen how clothing production can be exploitative toward humans and the environment. It can also be incredibly wasteful. In a report on circular economies, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found less than 1% of clothing produced is recycled into anything more, losing about $100 billion in materials annually.
Not only that, the fashion industry is the second largest polluter of water — due to dyeing processes with the wastewater frequently dumped into streams and rivers. Plus, when a synthetic garment is washed, it releases microplastics into the water, creating 35% of microplastic pollution.
If you’re looking for more sustainable clothing, you’re not alone. The demand for organic, natural fibers is increasing. Organic cotton production more than doubled between 2013 and 2019, from 107,000 tons to 240,000 tons.
While this is a step in the right direction, eco-conscious shoppers know to look for Organic Content Standard (OCS), USDA Organic, or the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) to ensure their garment is actually made of what’s on the label.
Here are some of the best environmentally friendly fabrics:
- Bamboo is used to make eco-friendly fabrics as it is resilient, fast-growing, and needs no pesticides to grow
- Organic hemp is one of the highest-rated sustainable fibers as it’s hearty, renewable, non-GMO, and requires no pesticides
- Flax (linen) is biodegradable and good for carbon sequestration — European flax cultivation captures 250,000 tons of carbon annually
- Organic cotton uses less water, fewer pesticides, and less processing than conventional cotton
- Recycled Polyester is made by reusing existing plastic-based fabrics to make new materials, diverting it from landfills, and reducing new polyester production. It’s often used to make more sustainable activewear and outdoor gear than net-new polyester products.
- TENCELTM is a fiber made from cellulose from wood pulp, making it a biodegradable alternative to polyester
Looking for more eco-friendly tips? Check out our guide to eco friendly apps to help make your everyday activities a little bit greener. Now that we know what to look for in a sustainable dress let’s meet some of our favorite sustainable brands.
Eco-Friendly Dresses for Any Occasion
Check out Amour Vert for organic cotton, bluesign® certified silk, and TENCEL™ dresses (sizes XS-XL) in versatile basics to perfect silhouettes for the weekend or an evening out. They also partner with American Forests® to plant a tree for every purchase, sequestering 146,963 tons of CO2 since 2010.
We love Bastet Noir — a sustainable, zero-waste brand with made-to-order garments created from deadstock fabrics for a circular and fair production economy. The profits are reinvested in the maker’s community of single mothers in North Macedonia. Oh, and the dresses are gorgeous too!
Boden offers a wide selection of women’s dresses (US sizes 2-22) created from sustainable fabrics like Better Cotton Intiative certified cotton, TENCEL™, and linen. The brand balances timeless cuts with modern prints for the perfect everyday dress.
If you’re looking for versatile slow-fashion dresses, Christy Dawn is for you. Available in XS-XL (and some in 1X-3X), this collection of bohemian chic dresses is 100% regeneratively grown cotton and dyed with organic dyes, making them a great choice for any occasion.
Faithfull the Brand
Founded in Indonesia, Faithfull the Brand offers modern, certified organic cotton dresses in sizes XS-XXL (and international shipping). The vibrant color palette is sure to grab your attention!
Specializing in simple, modern sustainable clothing, For Days does not disappoint in the dress department. Slip, wrap, shirt, and trapeze dress styles in linen, organic cotton, and Cupro (a vegan silk alternative) are available in XS-XL and are 100% recyclable through the brand’s circular program.
For certified fair trade clothing, visit Kowtow. The brand uses only GOTS-approved inks and dyes free from harmful chemicals, and 100% Fairtrade organic cotton when creating its timeless basics in XXS-XXL.
Meet Lanius — a completely carbon-neutral German brand featuring organic cotton, linen, and TENCEL™. View their collection of classic dresses in EU sizes 34-44 shipped internationally in eco-friendly packaging.
Mara Hoffman’s bright and bold dress collection is made of recycled polyester, organic cotton, and hemp, available in XXS-XL (and sometimes 2X-3X). The brand is also climate-neutral certified and circular — with its own resale market, Full Circle.
Mata Traders specializes in casual, everyday dresses for the eco-friendly shopper. They stock a selection of XS-3X dresses made fair trade in India using sustainable processes and fabrics and ship to Canada and the US.
Mother of Pearl
For the minimalist, Mother of Pearl should be on your list. Carrying a variety of neutral palette midi and maxi dresses in UK sizes 6-18, crafted from organic, natural fibers, traceable from fabric to final, and with their international shipping, you can shop sustainable dresses from anywhere.
If you’re an eco-friendly fashionista in Germany, Nina Rein is a brand to watch for. Carrying a bold and bright collection of classic cut dresses in EU sizes 34-42 made from organic cotton, lyocell, and deadstock fabrics, available with climate-neutral shipping across Europe.
People Tree is a great option for certified fair trade clothing made with organic cotton, TENCEL™, linen, and wool by artisans in India and Bangladesh. They carry sizes S-L in a variety of casual to formal dresses — there’s something for every aesthetic.
Sezane designed a collection of modern, sophisticated dresses (sizes 2-14) using OEKO-TEX® certified silk and organic cotton. The brand is also a B-Corp with a recycling program, reducing the carbon footprint of its garments by 22%!
Featuring pretty prints and feminine silhouettes, TAMGA Designs is a go-to for sustainable dresses in linen, TENCEL™, and sustainable viscose fabrics and sizes XS-XXL. Many garments are carbon neutral, and the brand offers carbon-offset international shipping.
Are you thinking about adding more green options to your closet? Then Thought is for you! Organic cotton, hemp, sustainable viscose, and bamboo fabrics make their collection of easy-to-wear casual dresses in UK sizes 6-18 perfect for any sustainability-minded shopper.
Sustainable Cocktail Dresses
& Other Stories
Based in Sweden, & Other Stories has gorgeous florals, day-to-night wrap dresses, and sustainable dresses for wedding guests. The garments are made from linen, hemp, silk, and organic or recycled cotton in EU 32-44, and the Brand offers international shipping AND a recycling program.
Fashionistas will love Autumn Adeigbo’s made-to-order collection of dresses in bold retro prints and cutting-edge cuts. Available in sizes 0-16, these eco-friendly cocktail dresses are worth the wait!
From statement gowns to bridal, Loud Bodies has the sustainable shopper covered for formalwear. Available in an inclusive XXS-10XL range (and custom sizes), these dresses also use OEKO-TEX® and GOTS-certified fabric in SA 8000 facilities.
Luna + Sun
For a more laidback look, Australian brand Luna + Sun has a sustainable range of wrap and tiered dresses made with lightweight linen in sizes AU 6-18. With the bonus of carbon-neutral international shipping in compostable packaging, you can feel good about your purchase.
Rare & Fair
Exclusively made to order, Rare & Fair cocktail dresses are the image of sustainable sophistication. Made from mulberry silk at a cooperative in Thailand and available in XXS-XL for international shipping.
We love Reformation for their pledge to be Climate Positive by 2025 and their modern dresses. Available in XS-XL (some in 1X-3X), each dress has a sustainability impact report, so you know just how much wastewater and CO2 were saved during its production.
Wrap dresses, kimonos, and caftans are Symbology’s specialty. In XS-3X, all of this eco-friendly brand’s dresses are handmade by artisans in India using traditional techniques and sustainable manufacturing practices.
For ethical luxury, VOZ has you covered. Made by indigenous women artisans in South America using silk and linen, the brand offers classic slip, wrap, and column dresses in XS-XL, sure to make a statement.
Whimsy + Row
Whimsy + Row’s dresses are made in limited quantities from deadstock, upcycled fabric, certified organic cotton, and TENCEL™ in 0-12 and extended 1X-3X sizes. International shipping means any eco-friendly shopper can purchase bohemian chic dresses from this carbon-neutral company.
Eco-Friendly Casual Dresses
Visit ABLE for casual slip, smocked, wrap, and button-down dresses in XXS-3X made from cotton, linen, and viscose. You can shop with confidence as the brand has a lifetime guarantee on its products to ensure they don’t end up in a landfill.
Shop for everyday dresses with Altar. Their tiered, sleeveless, and shirt dresses (XS-6X) are made by sustainable, ethical, and independent manufacturers from deadstock fabrics made in the US and delivered internationally with carbon-offset shipping.
Apiece Apart offers a collection of timeless casual dresses in bright colors and classic options. Available in XS-2XL, the dresses are made in India from regenerative cotton and shipped (US only) in compostable packaging. Keep an eye out for their resale platform — launching later this year!
Make a sustainability statement in a Baukjen dress. Almost all of the collection (UK sizes 6-18) is made of organic cotton, TENCEL™, sustainable viscose, or upcycled fabric. Ethically made in Europe and shipped internationally, this carbon-negative B-Corp is spreading its slow fashion ethos around the globe.
Elegantees casual dresses (XS-1X) are easy to wear, everyday styles that easily fit into a green wardrobe. The brand uses deadstock and cotton jersey to create its fair trade dresses, all while creating jobs for the survivors of human trafficking in Nepal.
For the bold, Elk offers shirt dresses in AU sizes 6-20 made from sustainable viscose, linen, and certified organic cotton in electric prints. With international shipping and total transparency into sustainability goals and progress, climate-conscious shoppers can feel good about this Australian brand.
Hackwith Design House
Hackwith Design House carries a range of tiered, trapeze, and shift dresses (sizes XS-4X) for an effortless casual look. The recycling program and garments made in the US make it impossible not to love.
Jyoti – Fair Works
Offering clean, simple classic dresses and jumpsuits, Jyoti – Fair Works carries GOTS-certified organic and sustainable viscose garments in S-XL with shipping within Germany and the rest of Europe.
Simplify your wardrobe with Kotn’s everyday dresses — versatile pieces made of all-natural fibers, designed in Canada, ethically produced in Egypt and Portugal, and shipped internationally (with carbon offset shipping). Check out their solid color selection of t-shirts, tanks, and fit and flare certified OEKO-TEX® dresses in XS-XXL.
Mayamiko is a UK-based sustainable fashion brand offering vibrant casual dresses (UK size 8 -16) in organic cotton, linen, and deadstock fabrics. International shipping is available, as is a resale market!
Visit Passion Lilie for sustainable, fair-trade dresses made with GOTS-certified organic jersey cotton in XS-XXL. Lovers of classic wrap dress styles and pretty patterns will love this Fair Trade Federation member brand.
Seek Collective’s dresses put a lively spin on timeless styles with their hand-block printed patterns. Available in XS-4XL and shipped internationally, the garments are handmade by artisans in India who weave, embroider, and dye by hand using traditional, sustainable methods.
We love tonlé for its circular model and zero-waste designs and manufacturing processes. Shoppers will find classic wrap, t-shirt, and tiered dress styles to choose from in GOTS-certified organic cotton or upcycled natural fibers in sizes XS-3XL.
For lovers of subdued hues, B-Corp WVN’s wrap, tiered, and slip dresses (XS-XL) are for you. The brand works only with Fair Trade CertifiedTM factories using GOTS-certified organic cotton for its hand block-dyed garments, which are international shipping eligible.
Sustainable Summer Dresses
Who knows summer better than the Australian brand, Afends? Check out their sustainable summer dress collection (sizes XS-XL) featuring hemp, organic, and recycled fabrics.
All the Wild Roses
Featuring vintage-inspired florals, All the Wild Roses is a go-to for sustainable dresses made from upcycled fabrics (AU sizes 6-18). Another certified B-Corp, this eco-friendly brand offers international shipping for their upcycled fashions.
Beaumont Organic is a must-shop if you’re in the market for an organic cotton summer dress (XS-L). The collection features a wide variety of breezy, timeless dresses, perfect for a summer vacation.
A source of vintage-inspired summer dresses, HarperSage offers a curated collection of wrap, tiered, and shirt dresses in XS-XL. The company is committed to empowering women, ending human trafficking, and promoting ethical manufacturing in its SEDEX-certified factory.
The Katla specialty is ever-chic and sustainable viscose slip dresses (XS-XL). This Iceland-based brand manufactures zero-waste garments in the US using only sustainable fibers and processes.
New Zealand designer Maggie Marilyn brings their take on a trendy, youthful organic cotton midi dress to the world, along with their sustainability ethos and focus on ethical and certified fabrics.
Magic Linen’s OEKO-TEX® certified linen summer dresses are designed and handcrafted in Lithuania and shipped across Europe and North America.
No Nasties is an apt description for the organic cotton sundress collection (sizes XXS-XL) this circular, zero-waste, sustainable brand offers. They’re also “planet positive,” which means carbon negative, water-conserving, and reforesting to fight the climate crisis.
Threads 4 Thought
What’s better than an organic cotton sundress? Threads 4 Thought’s carbon-neutral sundresses! View this sustainable brand’s collection of classic summer styles in XS-XXL, shipped internationally in Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified packaging.
For perfectly no-fuss summer dresses, check out Toad&Co. The brand carries classic styles in pretty prints and simple solids, sizes XS-XL, and is made from organic cotton, hemp, and recycled fabrics.
The “ethics and aesthetics” of the Danish brand Underprotection will have slip-dress lovers celebrating. Available in XS-XL and for international shipping, this B-Corp uses only TENCEL™, organic cotton, recycled fibers, and other naturally sourced fibers in their fabrics.
Minimalist Eco-Friendly Dresses
Meet Dorsu, a Cambodia-based brand creating beautiful basic dresses from sustainable natural fibers and deadstock fabrics in XS-2XL. Any minimalist dresser can shop this collection with its carbon-neutral international shipping.
Eileen Fisher is a pioneer in the eco-friendly fashion space. With a circular model and sustainable fabrics made from wool, organic linen, cotton, and silk, there’s a modern eco-friendly dress (XS-3XL) for everyone.
There’s an Everlane organic cotton tank dress or linen shirt dress for every minimalist, eco-aware shopper. Available in XXS-XXL, this brand offers full transparency into its sustainability goals and progress to go with its versatile dresses.
Malaika New York
Designer Malaika New York creates organic cotton streetwear (sizes S-XL) in a neutral palette so sustainability can take center stage. Available to shop within the US, Europe, and Australia, this collection is a must for fashion-forward eco-friendly clothing.
Go green with a. organic cotton tank dress from Mila.Vert. This Slovenia-based brand creates versatile basics in a neutral solar palette from organic cotton, European linen, Tencel™, and recycled wool that will last a lifetime.
Perfectly designed linen and Tencel™ slip, wrap, and shirt dresses from Neu Nomads will surely please the sustainability-focused fashionista (sizes XS-XL). Based in Germany and available for international shipping, these timeless pieces are a minimalist closet staple.
Convertible dresses from Vetta give buyers more ways to wear fewer pieces. Available in XS-XL and made from Tencel™, linen, and organic cotton, these sustainable dresses are sure to fit right into a capsule wardrobe or green closet.