8 Sustainable Dresses & Eco-friendly Dresses (2022 Fashion Guide)

If you’re looking to build a planet-friendly closet, one of the smartest staple pieces to invest in are sustainable dresses. Shopping ethically is the key to dismantling the fast fashion industry, which is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the shipping and aviation industries combined.1

Eco-conscious consumers are turning to the “slow fashion” movement, which prioritizes ethically sourced and sustainable materials and working conditions. Sustainable dresses are a crucial piece to include in your capsule wardrobe for their versatility and style, and we’re here to spur your shopping spree with this 2022 guide to the top picks.

Two ladies wearing sustainable dresses with forest in the background.

Finding Sustainable Fashion: Dresses

The average American buys a new piece of clothing every five days, and 90% of that wardrobe ends up in the trash.2 In order to break this cycle of purchasing and disposing, it’s essential to purchase durable, versatile pieces that can be worn over and over again rather than focusing on quantity and following trends. Dresses are a staple piece in any closet and can fill a variety of gaps in your outfit repertoire. Luckily, there are a plethora of ethical, sustainable brands that offer stylish, timeless dresses at a variety of price points. If you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint in the fashion department, it’s important to choose brands that are transparent about their manufacturing processes and the materials they use.

Finding beautiful, stylish and sustainable dresses isn’t impossible. These fashion favorites look stunning, and help the planet by reducing the ecological costs of the clothing industry. These favorites can ease your transition from fashion hare to fashion tortoise!

Our Favorite Sustainable Dresses Brands Reviewed

1

Best Overall Sustainable Dresses: TAMGA Designs

TAMGA carries a wide range of dress styles at a decent price point, and was founded on the commitment to ethical responsibility and protecting Indonesia’s rainforests.

2

Best Sustainable Formal Dresses: Simple Retro

Simple Retro offers affordable dresses with a fun vintage flair, all made with certified eco-friendly materials.

3

Best Sustainable Maxi Dresses: Everlane

Everlane offers effortless, versatile pieces (including various midi and maxi options), backed by a commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement.

4

Best Sustainable Party Dresses: Nu-In

Nu-In offers chic vegan dresses designed to be recycled.

5

Best Organic Cotton Sundress: Christy Dawn

Committed to honoring Mother Earth, Christy Dawn sources from deadstock fabrics to breathe new life into gorgeous bohemian looks.

6

Best Sustainable Summer Dresses: The Social Outfit

With the mission of supporting refugee women at its core, The Social Outfit offers unique, eccentric, summery styles.

7

Best Sustainable Party Dresses: Alohas

With a vegan collection and on-demand production system, Alohas dresses are not just eco-friendly but sleek and versatile in style too.

8

Best Sustainable Wrap Dress: Siizu

Manufactured locally with 100% organic, sustainably grown fabrics, Siizu’s dresses are bright and breezy.

What’s So Important About Eco-Friendly Dresses?

Over 60% of fabric fibers are derived from fossil fuels, meaning they will not decay when 85% of them end up in landfills.5 The fast fashion industry is the Earth’s third largest polluter after food and construction, which is not hard to believe considering the sheer volume of the modern wardrobe multiplied by seven billion people. The only way to fight fast fashion is by slowing down.

Purchasing multifaceted pieces like dresses from ethical companies is a great place to start, and waiting longer to replace them by avoiding the trend vortex is even more powerful. You’ll find peace in the transparency of knowing where your dress came from, and will develop an evergreen, luxuriously simple sense of style while contributing to saving the planet.

1
Best Overall Sustainable Dresses: TAMGA Designs

Tamga Pink dress
Sustainable Dresses Ethics: TAMGA ensures ethical and environmental responsibility across the board, from low-impact fabrics and dyes to fair compensation for factory workers.
Materials Used: TENCEL™, LENZING™ ECOVERO™, Lenzing Modal®
Size Range: XS-XXL
Price Range: $$ - $$$
Company Located In: Dhaka, Bangladesh
Rating: 5 out of 5

Why We Love These Sustainable Dresses

TAMGA Designs was founded by fiancé-fiancée team Yana Barankin and Eric Dales, who moved to Bangladesh in 2014 in the hopes of starting a responsible fashion company.

The couple built a production process that’s sustainable at every stage, from growing fabrics from renewable wood pulp to transparency regarding worker compensation to investing profits in reforestation efforts. The pieces even come in eco friendly packaging, including an organic cotton tote bag. TAMGA’s dresses come in a variety of styles, from maxi and mini to boho and business casual.

2
Best Sustainable Formal Dresses: Simple Retro

Sustainable Dresses Ethics: Simple Retro is an 87% female-run company that actively prioritizes minimizing water usage and providing job opportunities for female workers at every stage of the process.
Materials Used: Organic cotton, polyester, wool, denim, vegan leather (all authorized by SGS Global Certification Center, guaranteed respect for animal welfare and biodiversity during production, free of chrome/metal/harmful chemicals)
Size Range: XS-XXL
Price Range: $$
Company Located In: New York, NY, USA
Rating: 4 out of 5

Why We Love These Sustainable Dresses

Founded in New York in 2015 by a group of women from diverse backgrounds with an affinity for retro style, Simple Retro offers affordable formal dresses made from ethically sourced materials. These elegant pieces are perfect for anyone with a timeless sense of style–a perfect alternative to the mainstream trend cycle.

3
Best Sustainable Maxi Dresses: Everlane

Sustainable Dresses Ethics: Everlane follows specific, science-based targets in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5℃ pathway, notably a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The company values “Radical Transparency” in production practices and believes businesses have a responsibility to take action against climate change.
Materials Used: Cotton (GOTS Certified Organic cotton by 2023), Elastane, polyester/nylon from 97% recycled fibers, pesticide-free denim
Size Rang: 00-14
Price Range: $$
Company Located In: San Francisco, CA, USA
Rating: 5 out of 5

Why We Love These Sustainable Dresses

When Michael Preysman founded Everlane in 2011 at age 25, the company only sold cotton T-shirts, later expanding to a wider range of “modern basics.”3

Everlane’s styles are simple, effortlessly chic, and moderately priced. The company, with transparency as its singular core belief, holds itself accountable to a strict set of environmental guidelines. Its distribution center is 100% landfill-free. Everlane holds several materials certifications including bluesign certification, meaning their products are free from over 900 harmful chemicals.

4
Best Sustainable Party Dresses: Nu-In

Sustainable Dresses Ethics: Nu-In is a 100% vegan, PETA-approved company that supports “circular fashion,” the practice of designing garments to be repaired, reused, and recycled.
Materials Used: Organic cotton, recycled cotton, recycled polyester, seaqual, ecotec cotton, lyocell (tencel), recycled polyamide
Size Range: US2-US12
Price Range: $$
Company Located In: Gothenburg, Sweden
Rating: 5 out of 5

Why We Love These Sustainable Dresses

Based in Sweden, Nu-In was founded in 2019 by a group of friends working in the fashion industry.

The label strives to create sustainable pieces that are both stylish and affordable, and recently ran a campaign that raised 30,000 for Seaspiracy in support of protecting our oceans. Nu-In’s dresses balance youth and freshness with elegance, making them the perfect party number.

5
Best Organic Cotton Sundress: Christy Dawn

Sustainable Dresses Ethics: Using deadstock fabric, organic cotton, and natural dyes, Christy Dawn seeks to build a reciprocal relationship with both the suppliers and employees it works with and Mother Earth herself.
Materials Used: Organic cotton, regenerative cotton, deadstock (leftover/unsold fabric remnants)
Size Range: XS-XXXL
Price Range: $$$$
Company Located In: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Rating: 4 out of 5

Why We Love These Sustainable Dresses

Founded by Christy Dawn Peterson and her husband Aras Baskauskas, Christy Dawn is committed to honoring Mother Earth with a farm-to-closet approach that promotes healthy soil.4

The company seeks to push beyond sustainability into regenerativity. The rustic, flowy dresses of their Organic Cotton Collection are made in partnership with the Oshadi Collective in India using natural and organic dyes.

6
Best Sustainable Summer Dresses: The Social Outfit

Sustainable Dresses Ethics: Committed to employing refugee women at all stages of the production process, The Social Outfit values sustainability alongside ethics and has so far saved 8.5 tons of fabric from landfills.
Materials Used: Remnant fabrics from fashion industry partners
Size Range: 2XS-3XL
Price Range: $$$
Company Located In: Sydney, Australia
Rating: 4 out of 5

Why We Love These Sustainable Dresses

Australian charity The Social Outfit was founded in 2014 with the goal of employing refugee women, and has donated 100% of its profits back into doing so.

At least 44 Australian fashion brands contribute their deadstock fabrics to creating durable garments meant to last across seasons. But,The Social Outfit’s more summery dresses stand out with their beautifully loud patterns and unique pops of color. These dresses that support multiple important causes are sure to catch some eyes!

7
Best Sustainable Party Dresses: Alohas

Sustainable Dresses Ethics: Breaking with the traditional fashion calendar, Alohas offers pre-ordered on-demand production, giving consumers the opportunity to own next season’s must-haves early.
Materials Used: Leather Working Group certified leather, viscose, cotton
Size Range: S-L
Price Range: $$$
Company Located In: Alicante, Spain
Rating: 4 out of 5

Why We Love These Sustainable Dresses

Founded by Alejandro Porras Martorell in 2015, Alohas’s model of on-demand, local manufacturing is revolutionary in terms of sustainability.

The company encourages its customers to donate to causes like native forest regeneration and international renewable energy projects at online checkout, and encourages mindful, non-impulsive shopping. Alohas dresses are sleek with an understated playfulness, making them the ultimate eco-friendly party outfit.

If you want to erase your entire eco footprint, use an online calculator to figure it up, then partner with one of the best carbon offset programs to purchase a tree planting offset to go completely carbon neutral.

8
Best Sustainable Wrap Dresses: Siizu

Sustainable Dresses Ethics: Siizu uses a wide variety of ethical materials and has its pieces locally handcrafted where possible.
Materials Used: SeaWool (recycled oyster shell), Chinese silk, sustainable leather, Japanese cotton, Italian merino wool, Inner Mongolia cashmere, Japanese TENCEL®, Japanese linen
Size Range: S-L
Price Range: $$
Company Located In: New York, NY, USA
Rating: 4 out of 5

Why We Love These Sustainable Dresses

Founded in 2015, Siizu creates timeless pieces with a variety of unique sustainable materials (including recycled oyster shell) packaged in recycled paper bags. The label has partnered with American Forest to commit to planting 2.7 million trees.

Its manufacturers are qualified under the ISO 14001 standard, which includes energy efficiency and limitations on waste output. Siizu’s dresses come in unique cuts and colors, including the puff-sleeve wrap dress, which is versatile across seasons.

What Are Ethical Dresses and Ethical Summer Dresses?

Truly ethical dresses come from companies that are completely transparent about their production processes and use only ethically sourced or recyclable materials. Companies that commit to clear goals and standards, like Everlane’s commitment to aligning with the Paris Agreement or Nu-In’s commitment to veganism, are trustworthy to produce pieces with minimal carbon footprint.

Buying ethical clothing is a holistic approach to fashion, because not only does it impact the lives of the people who work to fabricate textiles, it also reduces the cost to the environment. And, every little bit helps.

Finding Deals on Organic Cotton Summer Dresses and Organic Sundresses

Ethically-made, eco-friendly dresses are sometimes more expensive than their fast-fashion counterparts because factory workers are paid fair wages and higher-quality materials are used in production. However, sustainable dresses are worth the investment, especially considering they are designed to be purchased in lower quantities, durable enough to last for years, and timeless in style so they outlast trends. In order to achieve this quality in your wardrobe without breaking the bank, keep an eye out for sales, particularly at the end of the season.

Most sustainable dresses are designed to be relatively trans-seasonal anyway, so you’ll still be able to wear them right away. If you’re still struggling to find affordable eco-friendly dresses, consider buying secondhand or from local sellers in your city. Search for sellers on Etsy or similar online marketplaces who upcycle secondhand clothing. If you’re looking to save and indulge in the occasional trend, consider renting pieces from companies like Rent the Runway or labels with their own garment rental progam (like ba&sh, listed below).

We’ve included a list of some honorably mentioned sustainable brands below.

9SummerSalt

Summersalt print dress website screenshot.
Sustainable Dresses Ethics: SummerSalt’s garments are made from recycled or eco-friendly materials, and ships in poly bags made from recycled materials as well.
Materials Used: TENCEL™, TENCEL Modal, Cupro, post-consumer materials and nylon waste (including old fishing nets)
Size Range: XS-XL
Price Range: $$-$$$
Company Located In: Clayton, MO, USA
Rating: 4 out of 5

10OhSevenDays

Oh Seven days green sustainable dress.
Sustainable Dresses Ethics: OhSevenDays custom-fits garments that are made from deadstock fabrics. Through its Zero Waste Misfit program, the company sells imperfect pieces at a discounted price.
Materials Used: Deadstock
Size Range: S-L (custom-fit)
Price Range: $$-$$$
Company Located In: Istanbul, Turkey
Rating: 4 out of 5

11Hope for Flowers by Tracy Reese

Hope for Flowers striped dress.
Sustainable Dresses Ethics: Valuing diversity and inclusion, Hope for Flowers ensures that its production process is responsible, uses sustainable materials, and is committed to working towards further offsetting its carbon footprint.
Materials Used: TENCEL™, Cupro, organic cotton, organic linen
Size Range: XS-XL
Price Range: $$$$
Company Located In: Detroit, MI, USA & New York, NY, USA
Rating: 5 out of 5

12Valani

Valani white sustainble dress.
Sustainable Dresses Ethics: Valani’s dresses are 100% vegan, use low-impact dyes, and are handmade in Chicago and at a GOTS-certified factory in India.
Materials Used: TENCEL™, hemp, banana
Size Range: 0-12
Price Range: $$$-$$$$
Company Located In: Chicago, IL, USA
Rating: 5 out of 5

13Gentle Herd

Gentla Herd brown sack dress.
Sustainable Dresses Ethics: Gentle Herd prioritizes animal welfare in the production of its cashmere, as well as ethical factory conditions and sustainably sourced materials.
Materials Used: Sustainable cashmere
Size Range: S-L
Price Range: $$-$$$
Company Located In: Inner Mongolia
Rating: 4 out of 5

14UpWest

Upwest crew neck sweater dress white.
Sustainable Dresses Ethics: UpWest uses sustainable materials to produce their sleek, relatively affordable garments, uses paperless receipts in-store, and ships in recycled poly bags. The company also partners with Recircled to sell upcycled sweaters.
Materials Used: Recycled polyester, organic cotton, recycled nylon
Size Range: XS-XL
Price Range: $$-$$$
Company Located In: Columbus, OH, USA
Rating: 4 out of 5

15ba&sh

Ba&sh print dress.
Sustainable Dresses Ethics: ba&sh is committed to using sustainable and recycled materials and has pledged to be 95% sustainable by 2023. The company launched a clothing rental program to support a circular economy. ba&sh has also pledged to reduce its carbon footprint by 30% and its virgin plastic use by 100% in accordance with the Paris Agreement.
Materials Used: Lyocell, Organic/Responsible Wool Standard wool, Leather Working Group certified leather, recycled polyester, organic cotton
Size Range: XS-L
Price Range: $$$$
Company Located In: Paris, France
Rating: 5 out of 5

Fast Fashion Facts: Why Buying Sustainable Dresses Can Help The Planet

Some quick facts about fast fashion:

  • 80% of all clothing ends up in a landfill or incinerator6
  • One garbage truck of textiles is landfilled every second1
  • The ratio of tons of water used to tons of fabric produced is 200:16
  • Synthetic fast fashion pieces will become part of our fossil record, meaning archaeologists will discover them even after landfills are consumed by nature5
  • The fashion industry is responsible for 1.2 billion tons of CO2 emissions annually1
  • 0.6% of the price of a garment goes to the factory worker who made it6
  • Producing one cotton shirt creates the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as driving a car 35 miles6
  • Even landfilling non-synthetic items (which will decay) matters, as it contributes to the emission of methane5
  • The fashion year has subdivided into 52 micro-seasons, meaning new lines are released every week1

The quickest antidote to the monster of fast fashion is simply its opposite: slow fashion. By slowing down our consumption of clothing, we can not only reduce our individual carbon footprint, but also contribute to crucial related causes, such as factory worker rights and animal welfare.

The emergence of ethically transparent, sustainably sourced brands has become something of a revolution, making eco-friendly clothing readily available online and locally at a variety of price points. When stocking your closet for any new season, consider reaching for any of these sustainable dresses… you’ll look great, and be helping the planet.

Check Out These Other Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Fashions and Products that Reduce Waste


References

1Climate Council. 25 May 2021. Fast Fashion Needs to Slow Down for Climate Change. Climate Council. 5 November 2021. <https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/resources/fast-fashion-climate-change/>

2Marquis, Christopher. 14 May 2021. What Does Slow Fashion ‘Actually’ Mean? Forbes. 5 November 2021. <https://www.forbes.com/sites/christophermarquis/2021/05/14/what-does-slow-fashion-actually-mean/?sh=3c0c1e3273b4>

3Widdicombe, Lizzie. 25 September 2017. How Everlane Hacked Your Wardrobe. The New Yorker. 7 November 2021. <https://www.newyorker.com/culture/on-and-off-the-avenue/how-everlane-hacked-your-wardrobe>

4T., Lissa. 29 September 2021. Christy Dawn Review. Wardrobe Oxygen. 7 November 2021. <https://www.wardrobeoxygen.com/christy-dawn-review/>

5Schlossberg, Tatiana. 3 September 2019. How Fast Fashion Is Destroying the Planet. The New York Times. 8 November 2021. <https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/03/books/review/how-fast-fashion-is-destroying-the-planet.html>

6September 2020. Fashion’s Impact in Numbers. CNN Style. 8 November 2021. <https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2020/09/style/fashion-in-numbers-sept/>