If you weren’t already aware, the fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters on the planet. Between textile waste, water pollution, factory smog, and human rights abuses (a different story, but an equally important one), there’s a reason that environmentalists have fast fashion in their crosshairs. Luckily, as people start to learn more about the myriad ills of the fashion world, there are plenty of companies that are here to fill the demand for ethical, sustainable fashion. Now that you’re feeling guilty, let’s get to the fun part: seven gorgeous dresses to wear all summer long that won’t contribute to the degradation of our earth. Time to go shopping!
Zazi Khadija Dress #107, $362
Zazi is a luxury brand committed to helping the environment and the world in general — between their use of deadstock fabrics and their collaboration with the Ethical Fashion Initiative and their work with female artisans across the globe, you can feel good about spending your dollars here. This ikat dress is made from 50 percent cotton and 50 percent silk and the coral and white colors are perfect for summer. The combination of classic structuring with playful bow details on the back make for a dress that will never get old.
Christy Dawn Layla Dress, $238
Christy Dawn is another designer committed to using only deadstock from fashion houses — cloth that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. Additionally, all of the clothing is sewn in Los Angeles by seamstresses who make a competitive wage and receive health benefits. This sleeveless minidress comes in a gorgeous rust-colored print that is just the right amount of vintage, sexy, and sweet. Dress it up with heels for an evening date or down with a jean jacket and sandals.
You can’t write an article about ethical fashion without mentioning Everlane. Their business model of “radical transparency” extends from the textiles they use to the people who create the clothing. Consumers know exactly where each piece of clothing is made (in this case, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam) and can see the factory. Everlane also makes clothing built to last so that you won’t wear it for a single season. This 100 percent cotton tee dress is no exception — we love it in absolutely ever color, but especially tomato and white. It’s the perfect thing to slip over a bathing suit on your way to the lake or to throw on before a street festival downtown.
Every summer needs a chambray dress, and this perfectly relaxed number fits the bill. Handcrafted in Mexico from 100 percent cotton, this dress — like everything else Able sells — was made by women who are paid a fair wage in safe working conditions. Able makes a point to publish their wages and audit their own working practices (by their own admission, the company needs to “increase safety for jewelry manufacturers by improving facilities and dress codes.”) You can feel good wearing this dress, knowing that you’re supporting a company that is working to do right by its workers every day.
This playful polka-dotted number is the perfect dress for going from sport to street. There’s a built in shorts liner (with a pocket!) and the stretchable, breathable fabric was built to do basically anything you want. Not only is this great sportswear, but Outdoor Voices is also committed to greener athletic wear, using sustainably sourced wool and recycled polyester made from water bottles.
Outerknown Canyon Dress, $248
This gorgeous, romantic number from California-based Outerknown features a fitted upper and a flowy skirt to create a flattering silhouette. Made from 100 percent organic cotton, the textiles in the dress are sourced from Piece & Co., a company that empowers artisans in developing areas of the globe. The specific fabric in the Canyon Dress is made by a woman-led group of artisans in the Tamil Nadu region of southern India. Outerknown strives for transparency in all of its business practices, from using organic materials to sourcing fair, safe labor and recycling textiles.
This classic little number with a removable strap and a ruffled neckline will be on heavy rotation in your summer closet. Made from light, packable seersucker material, this fun dress can go from playful to posh with the addition of the right heel. In fact, Cuyana wants you to wear this dress as much as possible for as long as possible — the company believes in “fewer, better things” so as to place less strain on the environment. Additionally, the company will give you a chance to diminish your own wardrobe in order to help others; if you select Lean Closet at checkout, Cuyana will send a bag to fill up with clothes to donate to victims of abuse. For every donation, you’ll get a $10 credit toward your next purchase. I think it’s time to clean the closet, don’t you?
Jessica Suss is a native Chicagoan residing in Washington, D.C. She is currently getting her master’s degree in secondary English education at the University of Maryland. She enjoys petting other people’s dogs and is faithful to Lou Malnati’s alone. Jessica is also a supporter of MAZON and No Kid Hungry.