11 Sustainable Formal Dresses For Wedding Season

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We all know how the onslaught of social events—our best friend’s bachelorette weekend, a coworker’s bridal shower, or a destination wedding— can make it all too easy for fast fashion dresses to pile up in our closets, getting only a few uses a year. One solution is to rent a dress, which is a great option when we have a single black tie event in a season of beach receptions and we know we won’t get a change to recycle the look. When we do buy, we can opt for dresses made with fair trade practices to ensure all employees are paid living wages while working under safe conditions, using materials that won’t harm the planet.

We’ve rounded up 11 brands whose stunning dresses are perfect for any formal event or occasion—and they’re made ethically. Let’s make sure that we look our best and do our best to support garment workers and artisans alike.

1. Reformation

Based In | Culver City, CA
Best For | Guest dresses for summer weddings
Price | $80–$700
Sizes | XSP–3X

Reformation puts people and planet at the center of everything they do: ¾ of their team are women or underrepresented populations; they also employ sustainable practices through and through, from the supply chain process through supporting employee use of public transportation. To top it off, they prioritize a perfect fit of each of their feminine dresses: they’ve launched a petites collection, extended size collection, and a collection for women with full C-DD cups to make sure all women look and feel their best. Most of their sustainable dresses are made with TENCEL, viscose, or linen, creating that lightweight yet flattering look, no matter where you are. Pair these with wedge sandals and a small clutch, and you’re all set for that summer wedding.

2. Christy Dawn

Based In | Los Angeles, CA
Best For | Bridal or baby shower dresses
Price | $200–$500
Sizes | XS–XL

Christy Dawn knows that everything we do impacts the planet and its people: “No matter how a piece of clothing looks, it cannot be considered beautiful if, in producing it, the environment is destroyed or people are exploited.” That’s why this stunning brand uses only deadstock (the residual fabrics leftover from other fashion houses) that are sewn together by seamstresses in Los Angeles, who are paid fair trade wages and given benefits. The outcome? Gorgeous, feminine, and flirty dresses with tulip sleeves, floral designs, and flattering fits. With sizing that includes petites and up to 3XL, they’re an inclusive and mindful brand that has formal wear for bridal showers, family celebrations, or a garden gala.

3. Rent The Runway

Based In | New York, NY
Best For | Dresses for galas and fundraisers
Price | $69-$235 per month
Sizes | 0–22

A nontraditional (yet feasible!) option for fair trade formal wear is Rent The Runway. Customers can rent a dress of their choice, casual or formal, for a set amount of time and return it after that special occasion, without the heavy price tag. When the average woman throws out 82 pounds of clothing a year, it’s easy to see how it can all add up to a more polluted world. Instead, RTR makes it easy with thousands of affordable options that suit any event. This is the solution for those of that need “special occasion” dresses to show off several times a year for fundraisers and galas, considering many of their brands are high-end designers.

4. Boden

Based In | New York, NY
Best For | Dresses for destination weddings
Price | $179–$798
Sizes | 2P–22T

A longstanding member of the Ethical Trading Initiative, Boden is also committed to using more eco-friendly fabrics, pledging for all of their clothing to be made from sustainable materials by 2025. Since traditional viscose isn’t great for the planet, the company has been turning to LENZING™ ECOVERO™ fibers that are derived from sustainable wood and pulp, coming from certified and controlled sources following the stringent guidelines of the Lenzing Wood and Pulp Policy. As you dance the night away in one of their bright, unique dresses, you can feel as good as you look about how it was made.


Based In | New York, NY
Best For | Dresses for casual weddings and gathering
Price | $90-$400
Sizes | XXS–3X

EILEEN FISHER, a longtime pioneer in human rights and sustainability, has put the well-being of the planet and its people at the core of their business model. So much so that their employees are all fair trade, nearly all of their materials and fabrics are sustainable, and they donate to girls’ and women’s empowerment initiatives regularly. Using TENCEL, organic cotton, and viscose, their dresses are perfect for that coworker’s engagement party or an extended relative’s birthday. What we love most about EF’s range is they work for any season—pair with a boot or leggings in the fall, or slip on some sandals and you’re all set.

6. Quince

Based In | San Francisco, CA
Best For | Casual reception dresses
Price | $60-$80
Sizes | XS–XL

San Francisco-based Quince is known for its affordable and sustainable classic clothes, perfect for timeless capsules. The company keeps prices low by shipping directly from their factories, cutting out costly middlemen and excessive packaging to boot. Slide into one of their washable silk slip dresses or try a fit & flare number made from TENCEL Lyocell, a fiber extracted from sustainably grown wood using a closed-loop system that minimizes the environmental impact of production. 

7. Stella McCartney

Based In | London, UK + New York, NY
Best For | Dresses for cold weather
Price | $975-$9,500
Sizes | 34–48

Stella McCartney’s mission is to operate as a modern and responsible business, and for them, that means having fair trade and sustainable practices. Every member of their supply chain earns a livable wage and has safe working conditions, from designers in New York to garment workers in Hungary and India. Plus, they give back to a number of causes each year, ranging from Oceana to the Hello Beautiful Foundation, incorporating charity regularly into their business model. With luxurious materials like soft velvet and sustainable viscose, their form-fitting dresses are the perfect option for an evening winter wedding, which are sure to keep you warm while still flattering your silhouette. From social to environmental responsibility, Stella McCartney does it all.

8. Mara Hoffman

Based In | New York, NY
Best For | Bold prints and modern dresses
Price | $265-$795
Sizes | XXS–3X

There’s something admirable about brands who shift over time to doing better—and that’s the case with Mara Hoffman. First launched in 2000, they began to shift their production and sourcing practices in 2015 when they realized sustainability and fair trade efforts were integral to a better fashion industry. They’ve since switched to responsibly-sourced and organic fabrics like linen, hemp, and TENCEL that are thoughtfully sewn together in fair-trade spaces across India, Peru, China, and the United States. There dresses are full of style and flair, in bold colors and eye-popping prints. And what we love most is the diversity of styles, fits, and models throughout the collection—there really is something for everyone.

9. Hope for Flowers

Based In | Detroit, MI
Best For | Bold silhouettes
Price | $200-$600
Sizes | XS–XL

After 30 years in the fashion industry, American designer Tracy Reese created Hope for Flowers to produce a line guided by the three key principles of sustainability: the health of people, planet, and equity in profit. Using a slow fashion model to create her signature silhouettes that celebrate color and pattern, these dresses are easy to wear and as gentle on the earth as the people who make them. Try a bold separates look to shake up your wedding season style! 

10. DÔEN

Based In | North Hollywood, CA
Best For | Boho and vintage-inspired dresses
Price | $128-$798
Sizes | XXS–XXL

DÔEN, started by a collective of LA-based women, is all about creating elevated pieces you can wear every day, whether at work or a special occasion. Channeling the 70s and 80s, this Bohemian-style brand launched in 2015 by two sisters, growing a coven of followers since. Whenever possible, they work with factories that are female- or co-owned, hire women in management roles, and supports workers’ unions to ensure all women have a voice. Whether handmade in California, Spain, or Peru, these beautiful vintage-inspired dresses are ideal for a family dinner, garden wedding, or baby shower. Each year, they also craft a children’s dress where 100% of proceeds support Room to Read, a nonprofit promoting literacy and gender equality across Asia and Africa.

11. Loud Bodies

Based In | Cluj Napoca, Romania
Best For | Free custom tailoring
Price | $80-$300
Sizes | XXS–10XL

Founded on the belief that style shouldn’t be dictated by size, Loud Bodies creates clothes designed to make everybody feel and look beautiful. The brand offers ready-to-wear sizes ranging from XXS-10XL, but also offers custom, free tailoring for all body types that might not fall within the range. (Extra petite? Longer torso? Need to accommodate a wheelchair? They got you!) Most pieces are made-to-order with sustainable materials, limiting overstock waste and making sure their customers get exactly what they’re looking for to look and feel their best for every occasion.

Featured image from Reformation