Natural Materials

Natural materials are good for you and for the earth. Choosing natural, organic, and sustainable fabrics for your wedding gown and other bridal attire is a great choice for the eco-conscious bride. Whether you buy the fabric and have a gown made for you or buy from an eco-friendly retailer, you won't be sacrificing style, beauty, or comfort. In fact, natural fabrics such as organic cotton, hemp, and bamboo are softer and less itchy than synthetics and won't irritate your skin.

Green designers and retailers offer gowns made from several types of natural fabrics. The most popular is hemp, followed by organic cotton and hemp combo blends such as hemp/silk. Bamboo, the newest sustainable fabric, is also making an impact in the wedding industry. Other sustainable fabrics include abaca, cashmere, ingeo, linen, canvas, twill, muslin, jersey knits, and fleece. Some may show up in wedding dresses, especially in a fabric blend, but many are not suitable for wedding finery.

Hemp

Hemp is a superior fiber known for being strong and durable. Hemp products will outlast competitive products made with other fabrics. Not only is hemp strong and durable, it is very comfortable. It wears in, not out. Hemp provides warmth and softness in a breathable material that is resistant to mold and ultraviolet light. It is nontoxic and great for those with sensitive skin.

Hemp fibers can be grown with no chemicals, making it entirely eco-friendly. It is also a sustainable product because it grows so quickly. Hemp can produce 250 percent more fiber than cotton and 600 percent more fiber than flax using the same amount of land.

What makes hemp perfect for wedding gowns is that it combines the soft elasticity of cotton with the smooth texture of silk. When hemp is blended with other fabrics it incorporates the qualities of both. A hemp/silk blend is a truly luxurious fabric perfect for the bride who wants to have a green wedding and still feel like a princess.

U.S. laws prohibit the industrial farming of hemp because of its relationship to marijuana. Industrial hemp is only 0.3 percent to 1.5 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the substance that causes intoxication. A cannabis plant used for intoxication purposes contains an average of 3 percent THC.

Organic and Recycled Cotton

Cotton is the most comfortable and most popular fabric in the world. However, it is very hard on the environment. Organic cotton is growing in popularity because it is raised without toxins or synthetic fertilizers. Organic cotton is more expensive to produce, so it may be more expensive to purchase.

Regularly grown cotton is the most pesticide-dependent crop in the world. It accounts for 25 percent of all pesticide use. According to the USDA, more than 50 million pounds of pesticides are used on U.S. cotton fields in one year.

Organic cotton clothing is available in many stores and online shops, and it is becoming popular to make green wedding dresses and other bridal attire from organically grown cotton. The dresses range from beautifully simple to naturally elegant and are often something that can be comfortably worn again.

Recycled cotton is another earth-friendly choice you can incorporate into your green wedding. Recycled cotton is made from fiber that is normally cast off during the spinning, weaving, and cutting processes. No harsh chemicals are used to process recycled cotton.

Lyocell

Lyocell, also known by the brand name Tencel, is a natural fiber made from wood pulp cellulose. It is the first new fiber in more than thirty years and the first new natural fiber in much longer. While lyocell is a manufactured fiber, it is not synthetic. The cellulose is processed with a nontoxic, recyclable agent and is naturally biodegradable.

Lyocell is popular with formalwear because it drapes luxuriously and feels like silk. It absorbs dye very well and can be made into jewel-toned fabrics. Lyocell often appears as a hemp/lyocell blend in bridalwear. Like other natural fibers, it is comfortable, breathable, and resilient. Because of its sensuous texture and appearance, lyocell has become very popular with some of the top mainstream designer fashion labels such as DKNY, Calvin Klein, Ann Taylor, and even L. L. Bean.

Silk

Silk is a natural fabric that has been used for centuries in fine and casual clothing. Silk is a very eco-friendly renewable resource. It is called peace silk when the silk is harvested without killing the worms, which is what happens when the silk is processed using conventional methods. Silk is the most luxurious natural fabric around, but it does have its limitations and can often be very expensive. Silk has to be carefully laundered and can be easily damaged by sunlight, bleach, perspiration, heat, and harsh detergents. To make silk more durable while retaining its natural beauty, hemp/ silk, silk/bamboo, and other fabric blends are appearing in clothing.

Bamboo

Bamboo is an up-and-coming sustainable product that is being used for everything from flooring to sheets and now is making its appearance in the wedding dress. Bamboo fabric is spun and knit from the fibers of the bamboo plant. Bamboo can look and feel like silk — with a few key bonuses. It is machine-washable and much more durable. Bamboo and bamboo blend fabrics are appearing in bridal dresses at online retailers.

A sixty-foot tree cut for commercial use takes around sixty years to replace. A sixty-foot bamboo tree cut for consumer use takes less than sixty days to replace. Bamboo is a versatile plant that can be used for food, building materials, and decoration.

Bamboo fabric has many wonderful qualities. It is antimicrobial, anti-fungal, and antibacterial. Even after many washes, the fabric retains these amazing qualities. Bamboo is also suitable for anyone who is sensitive to allergens. The Bamboo Fabric Store (www.bamboofabricstore.com) offers a variety of fabrics to choose from if you would like to make your own wedding dress out of bamboo.

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