TLDR: At Made Trade, sustainable fashion is an absolute staple of our editor’s wardrobe. In this guide, we break down what to look for in ethical clothing, common fabrics and materials, and our favorite sustainable clothing styles for every occasion.
The Rise of the Sustainable Fashion
The fashion industry is one of the leading causes of pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and cultivating a throwaway culture field by unsustainable low prices of garments that only last a season or, if you’re lucky, a year before it begins to degrade and fall apart – often in the wash. In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of this problem and a demand by consumers for more sustainable clothing options. We especially love earth-friendly, natural fibers dresses, tops, and bottoms. Natural fiber clothing, like organic cotton, linen, TENCEL, and Lyocell fabrics, is breathable and better for our planet. We know a high-quality, sustainable piece of clothing is worth its weight in gold. That’s why at Made Trade, our stylists hand-pick and expertly curate our entire collection of sustainable clothing for women, men, and kids. We also ensure that each one is made with verified fair labor and eco-friendly materials so you can shop our beautifully crafted products with confidence that each piece is made with fair labor and sustainable material and that your new piece of clothing is one you’ll love for years to come.
What is Sustainable Fashion?
Sustainable fashion comprises that are made with sustainable materials and that are produced in a sustainable way that minimizes their environmental impact. Sustainable garments are often made from natural fibers, such as organic cotton, hemp, or linen. Sustainable clothes are also often made in factories that have good environmental practices, such as using renewable energy and recycling water.
What is Ethical Fashion?
It’s important to make sure that the sustainable clothing you’re purchasing is also made with fair labor. Fair labor means the workers who are making your top, pants, or dress are paid fair, living wages and are making products and garments in healthy, safe working conditions. All of the sustainable fashion on Made Trade is made with 100% verified fair labor, and many pieces are also made with fair trade certified labor. Fair trade-certified labor means that the manufacturing facility meets or exceeds the safety and fair labor standards set forth by fair trade governing bodies like Fair Trade Federation or Fair Trade International.
Why is Sustainable Fashion Important?
There are several reasons why sustainable fashion is important. First, sustainable and ethical sourcing helps to reduce the environmental impact of the fashion industry. The fashion industry is a major polluter, and it is responsible for a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable fashion helps to reduce this impact by using less energy and water, and by producing less waste.
Second, sustainable fashion is better for your health. Many conventional fabrics are made with harmful chemicals that can be toxic to your body. Sustainable fabrics are typically made with natural fibers that are free of harmful chemicals.
Third, sustainable fashion is more ethical. The fashion industry is often associated with unethical labor practices. Sustainable fashion is typically made by workers who are paid a fair wage and who work in safe conditions, but always make sure to check on transparency in labor practices to be sure.
Types of Sustainable Fabrics
Many different types of sustainable fabrics can be used to make sustainable fashion pieces. Some of the most popular sustainable fabrics include:
Organic cotton is grown without the use of harmful chemicals, which makes it better for the environment in several ways. It reduces water pollution, conserves water, reduces soil erosion, and promotes biodiversity. Organic cotton is also better for your health, as it is free of harmful chemicals and is more breathable and absorbent than conventional cotton.
Hemp fabric is an eco-friendly choice for sustainable dresses that offers several benefits for both you and the planet. Hemp fabric is made from the hemp plant, which is a very sustainably produced crop that requires less water and fewer pesticides than many other crops used for fabrics. Hemp fabric is also strong, breathable, hypoallergenic, and can often be composted at the end of its life.
Linen is a natural fiber that is made from the fibers of the flax plant. It is a sustainable and eco-friendly fabric choice that is both breathable and very strong and durable. It’s a great fabric for sustainable clothing and a great fabric for bedding.
Tencel is a type of lyocell fabric that is made by the Austrian company Lenzing. TENCEL is a very soft and comfortable fabric that is also very sustainable. TENCEL is made in a closed-loop process water-saving process. TENCEL is made from renewable wood pulp that is sustainably harvested. TENCEL is also a biodegradable materials
Banana Fabric is a plant-based textile that's been used since the 13th century in Japan. Banana fabric's use declined as silk and cotton became more popular in China and India, but has made a strong resurgence in recent years. Banana fiber has a soft, natural shine that's comparable to silk, and is a more sustainable alternative to cotton. The fiber is made from a banana tree's stems and stalks — parts of the tree that are often discarded after harvest — which significantly helps to reduce waste.
Lyocell is a cellulose fiber made from Eucalyptus. Sourced from organic and renewable sources, Lyocell is a great sustainable option due to its low impact manufacturing process. Lyocell is made through a low energy, low water, closed-loop system that recycles nearly all of the chemicals and solvents used.
Recycled fabrics are made from discarded materials, like plastic bottles, which are processed into new fibers and woven into new sustainable fabrics. These fibers make for a great sustainable choice because they reduce waste and help to conserve resources. In addition to being eco-friendly, recycled fabrics are often soft and comfortable, and can emulate the look and feel of traditional fabrics. Recycled fabrics can also be more durable than some traditional fabrics, and can last for years. It is important to note, however, that recycled polyester fabrics can often be less breathable compared to natural fibers.
The Best Sustainable Dresses We Love and Recommend
There are many different sustainable dresses available on Made Trade. Some of our most popular sustainable dress styles include:
Our Tips for Buying Sustainable Dresses
Here are some tips for buying sustainable dresses:
Look for dresses that are made with sustainable fabrics like organic cotton, hemp, and linen
Look for dresses that are made with ethical and fair labor
Ask the retailer about the sustainability of the dress you’re interested in. When you shop on Made Trade, you can ask us any question you have about any of our sustainable and ethically made products. Just look for the “Ask us anything” section on the product page.
How to Care for Sustainable Dresses
Sustainable dresses can be cared for in the same way as conventional dresses. However, there are a few things you can do to help extend the life of your sustainable dress:
Wash your sustainable dress on the gentle cycle
Use a mild detergent
Air dry your dress whenever possible (natural fibers will last longer if they are not dried at high temperatures)
Avoid using bleach or fabric softener