Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dress Hunt for a Non-Bride-y, Eco-Conscious, California Mountain Woman


Dear ESB, 

I've loved reading your blog for the past few months-- it's such a breath of fresh air. You have amazing fashion sense, and that's why I'm writing to you now. 

First of all: I'm a professional naturalist and a former park ranger. I spend my a big chunk of my life encouraging people to develop their connection to nature and the rest of society, to care for the earth, and to explore the wild. I try to teach people that what they buy affects the world socially and environmentally, and it's best to know how and where products are made before we buy them. I'm marrying an adorable woodworker (shameless plug here) who makes his furniture out of 100% reclaimed wood. He comes home wearing plaid covered in sawdust. Hot. 

Second: I live in the middle of nowhere, up next to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in a tiny little town that doesn't even have a signal light. And I LOVE it. But... there is almost nowhere to shop. LA and the Bay Area are a few hundred miles from me, so I'm reluctant to make the drive and aimlessly run around looking for dresses. 

Third: I committed the ultimate sin and bought this BHLDN dress. The shame. But I was in Houston with all of my relatives, it was one of the few opportunities I'd have to try on a cute dress, and I bit. But now I want to return it because it was probably made in a sweat shop. And it's polyester. Ick. 

Could you and your readers help me find another dress? Here are some basic guidelines:

1. I look a little bit like Botticelli's Venus: full thighs, small waist, small boobs, and curly blonde hair. So the dress needs to have a fuller skirt and a fitted top to be flattering. I'm about 5'8 and a dress size 4.

2. What I dislike: the bride-y cupcake look. I've looked at some of the eco dress posts on ESB, and they weren't really my style. None of the eco Etsy dresses I've looked at are appealing to me at all because they're either white and floofy or they look like a pile doilies stitched together.

3. What I love: natural, clean lines, embellished details that make the outfit pop. I love Alabama Chanin because the looks are simple but elegant, they use natural materials, the clothes are ethically made in the US... but it's crazy expensive. This is my favorite AC outfit.  It's for the tune of about $6,000 in total, so sadly not an option. The cheaper, simpler AC clothes may be just a bit too everyday to be a wedding dress. 

4. Designer or company needs to have a genuine environmental and workplace policies in place.

5. The dress does not need to be white. I'm happy with blue or earthy tones, just so long as it makes me look like a total goddess. 

6. The dress needs to be made in the USA. It would be awesome if someone found a dress made in California because I think it's important to shop locally. 

7. It's essential that the dress is made of natural materials, preferably organic, such as silk, cotton, hemp, etc. 

8. It may be a little chilly during the wedding (50 - 65 F), so it needs to have a little bit of sleeve or have something to go over it, like a cute jacket.

9. I'd prefer a full length dress to impress the fiance. 

10. My budget is under $1,000. $2,000 for something really amazing.

11. Something I could wear again would be huge bonus points, even if it needed to be dyed or altered. 

I hope y'all (that's right, I'm from Texas) can find something. Thanks!!

*****

Blah blah blah

Blah blah

Blah Blah

Does anyone feel like helping this GODDESS out?

Because honestly I couldn't even get through her email.

70 comments:

  1. It may be time to adjust your expectations.

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  2. ethicalweddings.com


    ** Go to a vintage shop close to wear you reside.

    I don't even know where to start to find a dress like what you are asking for - perhaps finding a seamstress would be the best way to go.

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  3. 4 kind of kills me...
    Seriously, Anon 6.21 - find a seamstress, some recycled fabric that you like and go for it. Otherwise cough up the dough for the Alabama Chanin dress... (which does not look like a wedding dress to me at all).

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  4. Wai-Ching is your friend. Chrissy rocks, her dresses rock, and she makes stuff to order. Including jackets. (I'm a sucker because she made my dress, but I'm in Seattle so I got to walk to her studio.)

    http://wai-ching.com/content/yowying-dress

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  5. Etsy it up. A good friend of mine, also a fomrer park ranger and with requirements very similar to yours got married in a white organic hemp convertible dress (like this! but white and not polyestery). High fashion it was not, but she looked gorgeous and it was perfect for her.

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  6. Look to LeeAnn Marshall. She won project runway one season and is all organic and eco friendly. Here's a custom dress she did that screams goddess http://www.etsy.com/listing/86396190/velma-silklace-wedding-gown-with-cap

    This one is awesome as well
    http://www.etsy.com/listing/53362958/julie-wedding-gown

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  7. No brainer: Wai Ching. I'm a sucker because her shit is amazeballs and she will make a custom dress to your specifications. I'm in Pittsburgh and ordered my dress sight unseen.

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  8. A custom-made gown by Stone Cold Fox would be my pick for this California goddess.

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  9. For someone who's all about communing with nature and shit, you're pretty high maintenance.

    Maybe you should contact these guys

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  10. you should probably just copy Venus and be naked

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  11. was this whole email just a plug for her soon to be husband?

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  12. People, for the love if all things good, please hyperlink your links. PLZ. THX.

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  13. BWAHA! i stopped half way through #3.

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  14. I was all good until the end of three when I realized that wasn't actually the end. I hate to jump on the OMG, FIND IT YOURSELF bandwagon, but with requirements like these (I barely skimmed the rest) I think the most "eco" thing you could do is find a local, free-range sheep, shear it, process the wool by hand or solar power, spin it into yarn, and knit/crochet the damn dress yourself. Which is basically what my great-grandma did for my cousin. This was before the word "eco" even existed.

    Actually, no. The most eco thing you could do is wear a dress you already have.

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  15. If you're serious about being 100% eco, just buy a dress from the kind of place you'd normally buy stuff (as I'm guessing everything else you wear meets the above criteria). If you're not into the "bride" look, why look for an eco-friendly wedding dress? They're so few and far between that it'll be very hard to find one which genuinely meets all your criteria.

    Other than that, it's got to be a seamstress: buying a vintage dress and getting it altered would hit all the eco-points, likewise secondhand fabric.

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  16. http://alabamachanin.com/items/long-baby-doll-dress

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  17. You already bought one dress, isn't it pretty non-eco-friendly to buy ANOTHER ONE?

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  18. That's a lot of criteria for a little budget. I think you're on your own.

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  19. Venus. You set yourself up for all these comments! Pick one or two from the criteria you listed and start there. If you're incorporating other earth-friendly elements into the wedding then maybe lighten up a smidge on the dress? It won't make you a hipocrite. I promise.

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  20. I agree with Nicole, and I think this dress, with a lining sewn in would be perf. It is similar in style to the dress Venus bought but doesn't want for eco reasons.

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  21. I actually read through all of that and the dress that I think you are describing is the one I bought for myself. I don't mind sharing.

    Check out Lynn Lugo the Dakota with long daisy skirt. It's %100 silk. I don't know if it's eco, but I have a similar body shape to you and this highlights my tiny waist.

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  22. 100% silk, hand dyed in NYC there is an incredible red one as well. http://shabdismyname.com/shop/dresses/arctic-tea-gown/

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  23. I am quite sympathetic with your eco/social repsonsibility requirements, but I suspect a little bit of mission creep. Your wedding will be a ceremony and a celebration, not a representation of all aspects of your life, personality, and values. Your clothes on that day will be more on display than they usually are, but they will not drastically change anyone's opinion of you or their consumer behavior. It is just one dress. You probably sometimes compromise when you buy other clothes, and you for sure are going to have to compromise when planning other parts of your wedding (unless you have a kajillion dollars and no other demands on your time). So, you may have to buy a dress whose manufacturing process is not transparent to you, or compromise on the style of your dress.
    Some suggestions:
    Amy Kuschel is a San Francisco designer, and all of her dresses are made there. They are more traditional but than the ones you linked to, but some of them might suit you and the simpler ones are between $1-2K. Most are silk, and if you buy from the SF studio they are made to measure, or you might get a good deal on a sample.
    Saja dresses might fit your style, are in your price range, and are all silk I think, but they are made in China.
    Dresses from both of these labels are frequently available on resale sites. Also, I would strongly recommend selling your dress rather than altering it. I know some people do alter and then re-wear their wedding dress, but I bet you'd probably rather have the $$ and buy something more suited to your everyday life.

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  24. Yeesh. I have to agree with the suggestions for Wai-Ching -- not my style but it sounds like it might be yours? Other than that, Adele Wechsler has some great stuff, and specifically designs dresses for "the bride who cares about the world in which she lives".

    Also have to second everything Anon 9:10AM said, times a million.

    GOOD LUCK!

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  25. Hot dress Chelsea. I'm not a huge tie-dye fan but that shape is INCREDIBLE.

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  26. You are a saint for even putting this request up. If someone can be that picky about everything in their lives, they should definitely be forced to pick their own wedding dress. Ugh.

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  27. Not in California, but in Seattle, so at least on the same coast.

    Chrissy Wai-Ching

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  28. Mean esb is back. Hooray!

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  29. What... is happening... with this shit?

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  30. Is it time for a "FIND YOUR OWN DAMN DRESS" manifesto? Because seriously guys...we are adults who should know the lay of the (consumerist) land by now, right?

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  31. Maybe it was the natural lube review that made her think you'd give a shit?

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  32. FYI: Sometimes "Made in the USA" means made in a prison. Prisoners make clothing in CA. In fact, they make your Victoria's Secret lingerie, too. Just a friendly heads up.

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  33. Anon 11:09 - I don't see a problem with this. Prisoners need something to do. After all, they're getting free room and board. Seems like a fair trade to me.

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  34. agree with chesapeake. wear a dress you already own or borrow one from a friend.

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  35. if you want to live sustainability you should buy something that already exists. a vintage or second hand dress - or maybe the one in your closet

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  36. @11:27- If you think American citizens should work for free to make corporations rich, then right on. You would have done well pre-abolishion era.

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  37. Rather, abolition.

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  38. You shouldn't want a new dress that meets all of these standards without paying up serious money for it. If you do find this unicorn, it undoubtedly means the designer isn't paying themselves enough for their hard work, or something else is amiss.

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  39. @Anon 12:23- Ok, fine. I will admit I made my previous comment somewhat out of frustration. Apparently there is *nothing* that I can purchase without exploiting someone, somewhere. If I have to exploit someone, I would prefer it be prisoners (who did something to get into that situation) rather than child slave labor. And I don't really have any problem with prisoners working to produce government goods, since the government incurs costs imprisoning them. But I will admit that the idea of corporations using prison labor (and not being subject to minimum wage regulations) bothers me and is going too far.

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  40. My question is this: if you're so committed to the cause why on earth did you ever go to Anthro in the first place? I know you're pleading temporary bride insanity but I don't buy it. I think you love it in all it's synthetic fiber glory and are just feeling guilty. Which is silly. It sounds like you and your hubby are doing more than your fair share to be one with the earth so go ahead and wear the dress. I am sure whatever other earth friendly elements you incorporate into the wedding --not to mention the way you live your everyday life--will more than make up for it.

    Anon 9:10 said it best when they suggested mission creep at work. Let yourself off the hook and enjoy, already!

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  41. In addition to Wai-Ching, you might be interested in Siri. Local to, and made in, San Francisco. Lots of silk options.

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  42. I'm sorry. I stopped reading after she compared herself to Botticelli's Venus. A size 4 Botticelli's Venus, no less.

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  43. oh my gosh ridic list of requirements, my eyeballs hurt. My answer to everything is as always, Morgan Le Fay. Get out the forest and head to their store in Santa Monica or Malibu where you'll sure to find something that won't make you look like a cupcake and will fall within your price range.

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  44. @anon 1:03- This is anon 12:23. I fully agree that it is sooo annoying that it seems you can buy nothing affordable without exploiting someone. It *is* so frustrating! Intellectually I support the cause, but because I'm a starving grad student who owes the federal government $80,000 for my higher education, I bought a $500 dress at JCrew. Didn't even glance at where it's made. I loved it and could afford it. Done.

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  45. Check out Beklina.com. done.

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  46. *snoring* Oh, wait, sorry. Is the email over?

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  47. Also, @esb: This one needs a LAZYPANTSES.

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  48. wear the dress you already bought!

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  49. I saw the picture, read 'naturalist' and immediately thought she was talking about being a 'naturist' and imagined it was going to be a question about having a nude wedding... then I realised my mistake

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  50. I second the Stone Cold Fox recommendation. Check out the dress she made for her sister's wedding. http://sproutedkitchen.com/?p=2397 Love.

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  51. Whoever has recommended wai-ching is fired for having no taste level whatsoever. After more thought than this is worth, I have decided to place my vote in the just wear the dress you already have column.

    Do something else to save the environment/the children working in sweatshops that you normally wouldn't have if you feel that bad about it, because fact of the matter is, you already bought the thing.

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  52. @jemina and joy, thank you, i'm glad someone pointed that out

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  53. i vote: the bhldn dress you already bought. its pretty.

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  54. I have to agree with Anon 1.12pm, why were you in Anthro in the first place?

    Unless you have a lot more cash, it's going to be pretty diffcult to meet all the criteria on that list (and surely, looking at that list now you must see just how crazy it looks to other people?) so you just need to pick the important parts and go with them.

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  55. From one Earth-loving lady to another: I've been here, I did this same dress search, and unfortunately I don't think you can find a dress that fits every single one of your criteria. You know the ol saying: "Good. Cheap. Choose one." (Or something like that.) You will probs have to make a compromise here... Or spend the money for the ethical + quality product. Personally I went with a silk dress that was name in the USA (Jim Hjelm) and I spent more than I wanted to on it, but it was really important to me, so I made that choice and we scraped a little off the budget from elsewhere to make it happen. Good for you for caring about where your money goes and the impact it makes! I wish you luck finding what you're looking for!

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  56. Oh Look! The Jim Hjelm website lists like 20 trunk shows happening in CA! That almost makes it local! ;)

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  57. I totally read naturist instead of naturalist.
    A naturist wedding would be ultra-eco...

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  58. Custom-made floor-length burlap sack dyed with blueberries.

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  59. The saying is GOOD, CHEAP, FAST - choose 2.

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  60. Check out Morgan Boszilkov's Natural Bridals:
    http://www.naturalbridals.com/collections/all
    She's in Atlanta, but I think it hits all the other points.

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  61. The tone of the letter may be annoying, BUT the green/fair trade ideals are admirable.

    Wear second hand. It solves all your problems. You can buy any dress second hand and you're not consuming and creating demand for new clothes.

    However, you've already bought a dress. So that complicates things. So wear the dress you bought. That may be the most eco-friendly thing you can do at this stage. Sell it afterwards to alleviate your guilt and increase it's life.

    I think there's a difference between being green and wearing clothes that look like they're earth friendly or natural. You can do both, but don't mistake the latter for the former.

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  62. @actsofbeauty: true!!!

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  63. I was mixing up "naturalist" with "naturist" and thought a dress was irrelevant. No dress uses less resources than no dress.

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  64. You have a dress already. Wear it.

    You can't have everything you want all the time. That is life.

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  65. I also thought of Wai Ching when i saw this ... it has to be the closest to all that is wanted ...
    http://wai-ching.com/

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  66. my god. she doesn't need advice. she's going to end up being so terribly pleased with herself no matter what she ends up wearing.

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