Summer is literally just around the corner and I can't wait. Thanks to COVID, I have been cooped up in this house for over a year and it's starting to get to me! I can't wait to put on an ethical summer dress and go anywhere! And I mean anywhere. How about you?
Summer can be a time when want to buy the latest trend and that normally means buying something cheap that we will only wear a few times. The most sustainable thing you can do is to shop your closet first. But if you are in the market to buy a cute new dress, why not make it an ethical one?
This post contains affiliate links. We earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. We only share brands we truly believe in.
Shopping for Ethical and Sustainable Summer Dresses can be sneaky (greenwashing) so here's what to look out for:
Okay first, let's touch on the basics: sustainable summer dresses are so easy to wear, you can dress them up or down, and you don't need to give them much thought. This summer, most of us will be confined to our homes or backyards, so I'm going to focus on dresses that offer both style and comfort. Here's what to look for when shopping for eco-friendly summer dresses.
Choose the right fabric: linen, hemp, organic cotton, Tencel, modal, and in some cases upcycled materials work too. I always suggest looking for third-party certifications, especially if there are claims that the fabric is organic. Are they using non-toxic and biodegradable dyes?
Thoughtful design and packaging: The fashion industry has a huge carbon footprint—it uses a great deal of water and resources to make and ship items all over the world. It's important to ask brands what steps they are taking to reduce this impact. Are they shipping items to you plastic-free? Are they offsetting carbon?
You can read more about how I choose ethical fashion brands in this comprehensive blog on the subject. Keep in mind the concept of slow fashion too. All of the non-Canadian brands ship to Canada. YAY! for that!
Ethical and sustainable summer dresses we recommend
Put your best dress on and let's get to it!
Jennifer Glasgow Designs is based in Montreal Canada. All her ethical sundresses are made by hand in her Montreal studio by highly-skilled seamstresses in Montreal who are committed to creating an ethical work environment. How gorgeous is this pink linen dress? It also comes in grey.
Jennifer Glasgow's fabrics & materials
The Hyssop Dress pictured above is made from 55% hemp and 45% organic cotton, both of which are fantastic sustainable fabrics.
Hemp is great for the summer because it will keep you cool and keep the sweat at bay!
Jennifer Glasgow's ethical sourcing
They source textiles that originate in countries where high standards are in place, with a focus on textiles that are eco/sustainable or organic. They are currently sourcing GOTS and OEKO 100 standard textiles!
Jennifer Glasgow's corporate responsibility
They have a program called Waste Not, Want Not where they have found some creative ways to reduce waste. One of them is the textiles and notions sale which is:
"We spend time choosing high-quality fabric we love and sometimes we have some leftover. We are excited to be able to offer artists, designers, students, and our clients the opportunity to purchase our post-production rolls at affordable prices. It’s a win-win solution for all that brings new life to textiles we have loved!"
Eliza Faulkner is a Canadian brand that makes gorgeous sustainable dresses including the LBD you see above. It's soooo pretty! It's made from 100% OEKO-TEX certified linen and comes with a pink, adjustable bow and an elasticized waist at back. This brand is well known for its timeless classics and its summer dresses are no exception.
Eliza Faulkner's fabrics & materials
All the fabrics used are sourced and woven in Montreal by reputable mills that use deadstock fabrics wherever possible.
Eliza Faulkner's ethical sourcing
All the manufacturing is ethical with all the dresses handmade by local sewers, cutters, and pattern makers. All of their clothing is built to last and is well worth the investment.
Eliza Faulkner's corporate responsibility
Designed, cut, and sewn in Montréal, with the greatest care going into ethical and sustainable sourcing and business practices.
Sizes: XS- XXL
Londre is all about minimalism. They carry a few ethical summer dresses but their main focus is sustainable swimwear made from recycled plastic bottles from the beaches of Taiwan, so far they have removed over 200,000 plastic bottles.
Londre's fabrics & materials
The dress pictured above is made from Lyocell which is extracted from sustainably harvested wood in a closed-loop system and made ethically in Vancouver, BC. Their Textile factory is OEKO tex 100 certified.
Londre's ethical sourcing
Their products are made primarily of recycled materials, sourced from an OEKO Tex 100 certified factory in Taiwan.
Londre's corporate responsibility
Londre is all about reducing as much waste as possible. They do this by reusing and recycling all the water that's used in the manufacturing process. They also raise funds for women's health and environmental initiatives, donating over $10,000 to organizations such as Amazon Watch and the Yellow Hammer Fund. And their Textile factory is OEKO-TEX 100 certified.
Sizes: XS- XXL
Pact's fabrics & materials
All of Pact's clothing is made using what they call "Earth Favorite™" Fiber, which is 100% organic cotton to help sustain healthy soils, ecosystems, and people. There are no toxic chemicals and uses 91% less water than non-organic cotton.
All of Pact's apparel is Certified Organic by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). All of the factories where the clothes are made are Fair Trade Certified™, which means the workers are paid a fair wage and work in safer environments.
The Fair Trade Certified™ means that rigorous social, environmental, and economic standards are taken into account in all aspects of manufacturing.
Pact's ethical sourcing
Pact partners with fair trade and organic growers in India where they are able to have a direct positive impact on the glocal community by supporting factories that are sweatshop-free and child-labor-free.
Pact's corporate responsibility
Pact offers the option to offset the carbon footprint of your shipment, you can do this at checkout. And have this to say about their packaging:
"Pact uses paper envelopes made from 100% post-consumer recycled paperboard and cardboard boxes made with 98% post-consumer recycled materials, both are 100% recyclable. Plus, the plastic bag inside that keeps your clothing safe is made with biodegradable plastic."
The dress comes in 5 colors and sizes S - XXL.
Valani's Natural or organic fabrics & materials
The dress pictured is made with 100% banana viscose, a vegan alternative to silk that comes from discarded banana tree stems. In fact, all of their clothing is made with plant-based fabrics. Valani is a POC-owned brand. Hemp and Tencel are also widely used in their collections. Tencel is Made in a closed-loop process where non-toxic solvents and water are reused at a rate of more than 99%.
Hemp is a carbon-negative crop and is no longer just for hippies!
Valani's ethical sourcing
All of their items are made in Tamil Nadu India in a GOTS-certified facility where stringent environmental and ethical standards are in place.
There are no toxic chemicals used in any of the production and they repurposed or recycle all of the scraps. They are Fair Trade Compliant and use low-impact, OEKO-TEX certified dyes.
Valani's corporate responsibility
They are committed to thoughtful packaging too and use hemp, straw, and recycled materials when they ship their items.
They donate 10% of their profits to organizations that fund women’s empowerment programs,
animal charities, and environmental initiatives.
Sizes: 0 - 12
MIIK is all about sustainable comfort; they have a really lovely collection of dresses that are all about feeling good, looking good, and doing well.
Miik's fabrics & materials
Miik's dresses are made MicroModal® which is an ethical fabric made by a company called Lenzing. You can read all about Modal on The Eco Hub.
They also carry Rayon made from bamboo that is third-party STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® certified, which means their textiles have been tested to ensure they meet specific regulations for chemical content. They also use jacquard fabric which is a blend of MicroModal and GOTS-certified organic cotton.
Miik's ethical sourcing
They custom mill our fabrics locally, from sustainable sources like bamboo and beech trees. When choosing fibers, they look for high quality and low environmental impact. They are aligned with the CanopyStyle initiative, whose goal is to eliminate fiber sourcing from the trees of ancient and endangered forests.
Miik's corporate responsibility
All of their garments are made within 50km of their office and they do all the milling, dyeing, cutting, and sewing right here in Canada. This reduces their carbon footprint substantially. And by manufacturing in Canada, they can ensure a respectful, safe working environment where people are paid fairly and treated well.
I own a few items from Miik — they are very well made, soft, comfy, and really just make me feel pretty good. Along with dresses, you can also find blazers, tunics, jumpsuits are more.
To say that I am in love with Tamga would be a gross understatement. These beautiful, boho, eco-friendly sundresses are what dreams are made of! Tamga carries affordable ethical fashion to help you up to your style game.
Tamga's fabrics & materials
All the dresses are ethically made in Bali from sustainably sourced fabrics like LENZING™ and ECOVERO™.
A TAMGA garment made from TENCEL™ uses a fraction of the water, energy, and emissions of a conventional viscose or cotton item.
ECOVERO™ is viscose, and made sustainably. Created from renewable and sustainably managed wood pulp, LENZING™ ECOVERO™ uses 88% less water than mainstream viscose and is fully traceable, meaning no old-growth forests are cleared to create it. Their Lenzing-certified Modal® fabric is harvested from FSC-certified plots.
Tamga's ethical sourcing
Tamga's fabrics are spun, woven, and printed with GOTS-certified dyes in Indonesia, before being cut and sewn by workers who make a living wage in our ethical partner factory in Bali. As of June 2018, 1% of every TAMGA purchase is donated to S.O.S and O.I.C’s re-forestation work in Sumatra through 1% For the Planet. Sizes: XS-XXL.
Tamga's corporate responsibility
The dress featured is also carbon neutral. On each TAMGA product page, you'll see the exact water, energy, and emissions that are saved through a TAMGA purchase. Each garment is packaged in a bio-degradable bag made from cassava starch. They are also members of 1% For The Planet and have this really great initiative that they describe like this:
"To help re-plant what’s been lost, we’ve created a limited-edition Trees Please Tee. This tee is made from 100% Lenzing Modal®, an eco-friendly fabric sourced from sustainably managed beech wood forests in Europe. Ten dollars from every shirt sold goes directly to the Sumatran Rainforest, where our partners at S.O.S. and O.I.C. are running crucial re-forestation projects"
Reformation is probably one of the most well know eco-conscious clothing brands on the market today. When you shop for a sustainable summer dress you can actually see a breakdown of how much carbon dioxide and water are saved during the manufacturing process. It's very clever and allows you to make a good choice based on what you see.
Reformation's fabrics & materials
I love the white dress pictured above, but if it's not your style, not to worry. They have a massive selection of dresses to choose from. Most of the fabrics they use are TENCEL X REFIBRA™ (Lyocell/cotton blend), TENCEL Lyocell, and TENCEL Modal.
They do carry blends like viscose and rayon, which is not the greatest. But you'll also find organic cotton, recycled cotton, and GOTS-certified linen. For dyeing, they partner with OEKO-TEX 100 certified and Bluesign.
They have way too many fabrics to cover in one blog post, their fiber standards documents outline them all for you.
Reformation's ethical sourcing
They currently require all their direct cut, sew & finish manufacturing partners to adhere to their Code of Conduct and additional policies (basically our requirements for ethical operations), and be monitored for compliance and continuous improvement. Their Code of Conduct references the FLA Workplace Code of Conduct which is based on International Labor Organization (ILO) standards and internationally accepted good labor practices.
Reformation's corporate responsibility
They balance all of the water and waste used to make their clothing, and they are a 100% carbon neutral company. They recycle, compost organic wastes, and recycle or donate their textile scraps whenever possible. Zero waste is their goal. Right now, they recycle about 75% of all their garbage. Their goal is to reach over 85%.
When it comes to sizes, they range, they have a petite line, some extended sizes, and options for busty gals too. If you live in Toronto, you can visit them in-store at Yorkdale Shopping Mall.
tonlé makes some pretty gorgeous ethical summer dresses, it was really hard to choose a photo of just one. The one pictured above comes in 6 colors, green, navy, white, black, and grey.
tonlé Natural fabrics & materials
All of their clothing is sustainably made using reclaimed textiles and is part of Tonle's zero-waste process. The Otres Dress pictured is a perfect minimalist statement to any capsule wardrobe.
tonlé's entire business model is based on the circular economy. All the ethical clothing they make comes from reclaimed materials that other manufacturers consider waste, by doing this they are mitigating the fashion industry's harmful effects on the planet and the people.
tonlé ethical sourcing
Not only this, all of their designs are created ethically with people and the planet in mind, they are all about fashion injustice and work hard at complete transparency. tonlé partners with Weaves of Cambodia, a weaving collective in Cambodia's Preah Vihear province. tonlé is by far one of the BEST sustainable fashion brands on the market today! Fast Fashion Brands should really take note! Sizes range from XS to XXL.
tonlé corporate responsibility
tonlé has diverted thousands of pounds of textiles from being sent to landfills and incinerators and has turned them into beautiful garments and distinctive homewares.
They also have a program called Open Closet, which is another move towards a more circular business model and is explained this way on the website:
"All of our clothing and accessories at tonlé are made from reclaimed textiles that we’re diverting from landfills. Open closet is a way to extend the life of those finished garments and prevent them from ending up in a landfill, or undermining another economy when they hit the donation bin. So, join us as we create a sustainable fashion future together: buy a pre-loved piece or trade in some of your own tonlé clothing. Welcome to open closet."
10. Christy Dawn
Dreamy would be the first thing that comes to mind when I look at the eco-friendly dresses from Christy Dawn. Each one is just so detailed and feminine. The perfect summer investment. The dress pictured is called The Sebastian and is made by a super talented dressmaker named Valy. On the website, you can actually click on the person who made the item you are looking at. I just love this so much!
Christy Dawn's fabrics & materials
This brand is known for its Farm To Closet business model. Two years ago they leased land in Southern India and worked directly with farmers and artisans, to grow cotton the way it should be. Healing the soil and avoiding all the nasty stuff that comes with conventional cotton. It's all about regeneration and now, they have released their first Farm-to-Closet Collection.
You can shop for dresses made with regenerative cotton, organic cotton, or deadstock collection. The Deadstock Collection is made from the rescued and revitalized fabric that would otherwise be cast aside, finding its way eventually into a landfill.
Christy Dawn's ethical sourcing
The organic cotton collection is made in collaboration with their partner Oshadi Collective in Erode, India, it's woven with care and created with consciousness. All of the garments are dyed naturally and use:
"Indigo leaf for vibrant blues, madder root for deep reds, and turmeric, myrobalan and marigold for bright, sunshine yellows. Every color, every hue is harvested from the soil to create a work of art that honors and reflects the cycles of Mother Earth."
It goes without saying that all their clothing is made ethically. I mean they own their own cotton far.
Christy Dawn's corporate responsibility
Their entire business model is based on a circular economy. The Farm-to-Closet initiative is going to be a game-changer in the fashion world as they say, "it's a radical experiment in reciprocal relationships, and a conscious effort to deepen our intimacy with soil, farmer, and ultimately ourselves".
ABLE is all about affordable ethical fashion. This t-shirt dress is a must-have staple in any summer capsule wardrobe. You can dress it up, or down, it's super versatile and goes with EVERYTHING! They also make jewelry, denim, bags, and shoes.
Able's fabrics & materials
It's made from a Cotton, Modal, and Spandex Blend and is handmade in India. ABLE is all about empowering women and women comprise 95% of their staff. The majority of their pieces are made using all-natural fibers, and all of our sweaters 100% organic cotton. All future sweater releases will continue to be GOTS-certified 100% organic cotton.
Able's ethical sourcing
ABLE is committed to ensuring every woman receives treatment and compensation reflective of her immense worth". They even publish their wages and add:
"Our driving motivation is to make a real, measurable difference in the communities we claim to impact. So we spent three years developing our own evaluation system — called ACCOUNTABLE — which evaluates our manufacturing partners on safety, equality, and wages in order to give us better insight into the impact of our supply chain on the women making our products."
Able's corporate responsibility
Coming mid-2021, all ABLE packaging (polybags, boxes, etc.) will be majority recyclable, with the end goal of being to 100% recyclable by early 2022.
A Final word on ethical summer dresses
It's simple: we all want to enjoy the summer whilst trading a little lighter on the planet and these brands are helping us do just that! And don't forget the perfect pair of eco-friendly sandals, ethical hats or sustainable sneakers.
When sharing ethical and sustainable fashion brands, I always take all of the following into account:
- Corporate Responsibility
- Ethical sourcing
- Natural or organic fabrics & materials
- Environmentally-conscious packaging (plastic alternatives)
- Who can access and use this product?
- Equity and cost
- Animal rights
Did I leave anyone out? Drop a note in the comments! If you found this post helpful, please help someone by sharing this article – sharing is caring 🙂 ! If these dresses are not your thing, then take a look at our brand directory, there are a ton of sustainable fashion brands for you to browse.