If you're searching for summer dresses that are crafted using ethical and sustainable practices, you're in the right place. We've rounded up 6 of our favourite summer eco-friendly dresses that are perfect for any occasion.
For most people, summer is the best season of all. Light nights, feeling the warm sun on your face and finally being able to bring your favourite summer dresses out of hibernation. There's nothing better, is there?
Sustainable fashion is becoming increasingly popular as people become more conscious of their purchases and their impact on our planet. Additionally, natural, eco-friendly fabrics are perfect for summer, thanks to their breathability, temperature regulation and quick-drying properties.
Before we jump straight in to the list, we'll take a look at the best eco-friendly fabrics and the benefits of natural materials, so you know exactly what to look for when finding your perfect eco-friendly summer dress.
The Best Eco-Friendly Fabrics For Summer Dresses
If grown in the right way, organic cotton is one of the best fabrics for the environment. Organic cotton doesn't contain any harsh chemicals, unlike much of the mass-produced cotton we see on the high-street. Much of the standard cotton farming today involves the use of fertilizers and pesticides. These harmful chemicals have been found to pollute nearby water streams, destroying the wildlife that live in them and the communities that rely on them for water and food.
Organic cotton uses approximately 62% less energy and 88% less water than standard cotton, making it one of the most eco-conscious fabrics available.
Next on our list of the best eco-friendly materials is linen. Linen creates a relaxed, earthy feel that's super comfortable and breathable, making it an ideal summer fabric. It's also a plant-based fibre derived from flax.
This fibre has been used for thousands of years and was especially popular with ancient Eqyptians. As well as being breathable, linen is anti-bacterial, moth-resistant, and absorbent.
As for sustainability, linen is another eco-friendly fabric that uses significantly less water than conventional cotton. There's no need for harsh chemicals or pesticides either, and it's biodegradable.
It may come as a surprise, but silk is a great eco-friendly and sustainable fabric. For example, compared with many other fibres, it impacts the water, air, and land a lot less, and it doesn't involve using pesticides or chemicals.
Silk is great as a summer fabric because it's lightweight and will keep you much cooler than polyester or nylon. It also boasts high wicking abilities and thermal properties that make it very good at regulating body temperature. This is why silk is so often used to make base layers.
It's also a natural fibre, so it will biodegrade over time. The mulberry trees used to raise silkworms don't need harmful fertilisers or pesticides and require substantially less water, especially if grown in their native South-East Asia, where we source our sustainable community silk.
Derived from the bamboo plant, bamboo is a natural fibre. It has a very silky texture, and it's incredibly durable with fantastic moisture-wicking abilities. Even better, bamboo is biodegradable and needs very little water, as well as no pesticides or fertilizers, to grow.
Unfortunately, bamboo does have an unethical side. Turning bamboo into a wearable fabric can require a lot of chemicals and also creates more waste than other fabrics. Sadly, this means it isn't as sustainable as you first think, but will tend come out more sustainable and ethical than your standard poly fabrics.
Lastly, we have deadstock fabrics. Essentially, this is the leftover fabric that is considered disposable. Many sustainable dress brands are actually using these recycled fabrics and giving them a new lease of life by transforming them into gorgeous eco-friendly dresses!
Deadstock fabrics usually have minor flaws, but otherwise, they are completely fine to use. Sometimes a supplier orders too much fabric, and the leftovers are known as deadstock.
Advantages Of Natural Fabrics
Good drying ability
Natural fabrics have high absorption abilities. Their moisture-wicking properties result in great ventilation, allowing any dampness to dry out quickly. This is why an organic cotton blouse will keep you comfortable even on hot summer days.
Polyester, acrylic, and other synthetic materials are water-resistant and aren't able to wick moisture away. Consequently, they have no water absorption abilities at all, so you'll end up feeling clammy and uncomfortable in hot weather.
Did you know that wool, silk, and bamboo are fabrics that boast self-adjusting thermal abilities? Many skiers wear base layers made from pure silk because they regulate their body temperatures while skiing.
These fabrics also trap air between the creases and micro-holes in the material. This trapped air is then used as insulation to create warmth during the winter and cool relief during the hot summer months.
Gentle on the skin
Another benefit of natural fabrics is their hypoallergenic and anti-bacterial nature. For example, bamboo contains a unique bio-agent called bamboo kun.
This anti-bacterial agent is completely natural and is preserved during the manufacturing process. It makes the bamboo garment naturally anti-fungal, odour-resistant, and anti-bacterial.
This is one of the reasons it's advisable to use bedsheets made from pure silk for babies and adults who suffer from super sensitive skin. Synthetic fabrics such as rayon and nylon can really irritate the skin and potentially cause or agitate skin conditions.
These synthetic materials have been intensely treated with chemicals during production, and they can cause nasty rashes and other allergies.
Natural materials are also incredibly durable. This is because of the cellulose structure, which is what makes up these natural fabrics.
Many plant-based fibres are tough and strong, as well as animal-based fibres, such as silk and wool. Unlike the fast fashion industry, sustainable fabrics go through more thorough manufacturing and quality control.
Apart from being kinder to skin and more breathable, natural fabrics help to reduce carbon footprint. These fabrics all derive from plants, trees and animals that can be raised and regrown repeatedly.
Natural fabrics are biodegradable and will harmlessly decompose once they're no longer useful. Either that or they can be repurposed or recycled. Synthetic materials aren't as easy to recycle.
Polyester and nylon are manufactured and contain chemicals that produce even more chemical waste. These materials need more energy and produce huge volumes of greenhouse gasses.
Our Top 6 Summer Eco-friendly Dress Picks
Rare & Fair Chermarn Mini Dress
The first dress on our favourite sustainable summer dresses list is the Chermarn mini dress from our own collection. Our beautiful silk Chermarn dress has been handmade using ethical practices, and it's made from Ikat silk.
Ikat weaving, also known as Mudmee, is a tie-dyeing method, and it's Thailand's oldest method of pattern weaving.
Our Chermarn dress in mellow yellow is the perfect dress for both special occasions or just a picnic in the park! Handcrafted by artisans using a traditional loom, the Chermarn dress is made from 100% pure mulberry silk using ethical production methods.
The hand-reeled ethical silk creates a rustic and natural feel, whilst also giving the garment a beautiful texture.
If blue is more your colour, you're sure to adore our Chermarn dress in gorgeous sky blue! The puffed sleeves create a statement and are sure to turn heads. The self-tie detailing also offers a contemporary twist on the traditional Ikat piece.
With a mini-length and a front and back low cut neckline, this dress oozes style and will make you look and feel fabulous. Finish the look with your favourite accessories, a cute pair of heels, and a belt for the ultimate chic look!
Les Izmoor Garment 01
We love the Garment 01 from Les Izmoor. This slow fashion brand believes in manufacturing less but in a more considerate way. This is why they spent 12 months developing their first launch; Garment 01.
We love this piece because it's incredibly versatile and can be worn and adapted to different body shapes. Made from reclaimed fabric from a crêpe, everything is produced in their local area of Italy, ensuring the highest quality with the lowest carbon emission.
People Tree Lea Striped Yellow Dress
With its summery yellow stripes, this gorgeous piece from People Tree is perfect for any summer holiday. This longline, sleeveless dress is beautifully made from super soft organic cotton and fastens with a hidden side zip.
Crafted by Fair Trade certified producer Swallows, this is the perfect piece to add to your capsule holiday wardrobe. Style with some barely-there wedges for an effortlessly chic look.
ourCommonplace Clarence Maxi Dress
The Clarence maxi dress from ourCommonplace is simply stunning. This ultra-feminine maxi dress is crafted from 100% deadstock materials and features a beautiful ruffled neckline with hooks so you can wear it low cut if you wish.
It's beautifully fitted at the waist to give you shape, and the full skirt adds style and movement so you can turn heads!
Mother of Pearl Effie Ivory Floral Dress
Mother of Pearl believes that sustainable living starts with using something that currently exists. They never throw away leftover fabrics; instead, they wait until they can repurpose them into something brand new.
The Effie dress features long puff sleeves finished with a gold kidney popper, cut from beautiful nude floral fabric and printed onto hammered viscose.
Tonlé Ashanti Dress
Last but by no means least is the Ashanti dress by Tonlé. All their garments are colourfast, preshrunk and crafted with low impact dyes using GOTS certified organic cotton.
The Ashanti dress is fun, flirty and perfect for the party season. Beautiful and functional, the dress features a hidden back zip and concealed side pockets for ultimate utility.
As our list proves, ethical fashion can be ultra-trendy. Choosing brands that have an ethical supply chain means you can look fabulous and simultaneously help the people that produce them and the planet.
Hopefully, you've found some inspiration from this guide and have found the perfect dress for your special occasion!
Where can I find the best sustainable fashion brands?
If you're looking for some amazing sustainable fashion brands, be sure to check out our blog post on our favourite sustainable luxury fashion brands. We also have new styles frequently arriving on our website, so you're sure to find something you love!
All garments are handmade by artisans using natural, sustainable materials for clothes that look great and last.
Will sustainable dresses last?
Thanks to the higher quality materials and manufacturing processes used, sustainable clothing is built to last.
Natural materials used to create sustainable clothes, such as organic cotton and linen, have a much longer lifetime than cheaper synthetic fabrics.
Are ethical and sustainable dresses worth it?
Yes! Dresses made from sustainable, recycled, or even regenerative fabrics are definitely worth it. Unlike fast fashion, sustainable brands help ensure that workers receive a fair wage.
The garments are also carefully made for longevity, so you'll have a dress that will last you for many years to come!