Of all the sustainable fabrics, organic cotton is likely the one you’re most familiar with and the sustainable fabric that’s going to be easiest to locate in retail shops.
The first thing you need to know, is that organic fabrics, such as cotton, wool and other raw organic fibers are not as well regulated as organic food. The USDA does have organic fabric criteria in place and although organic fabric regulation is improving, it’s still somewhat sketchy.
Plus, after organic fibers leave the farm, said fibers may be subject to all kinds of icky practices, from harmful dyes to energy sucking manufacturing to chemical finishes. Additionally, a lot of organic clothing is an end result of mixed fabrics – some more organic than others.
Right now, if you’re looking at the entire finished organic textile product Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is pretty much the gold standard in certification and regulation, but they don’t cover how the product is grown. GOTS address raw materials, chemical finishes, labor standards and many other issues not addressed by the USDA. Buying a GOTS certified piece of clothing means you’re getting a piece that consists of raw materials certified organic by National Organic Program standards.
GOTS also helps to ensure that your dress doesn’t contain a plethora of toxic fabric finishes or dyes, chlorine bleaches or formaldehyde-based finishing treatments. Lastly, GOTS prohibits child labor and helps ensure that workers creating the clothes are paid a living wage.
Organic Cotton Types
You’re not likely to find a wedding gown labeled as plain old “organic cotton.” Plain cotton is more the stuff of simple summer frocks and tee-shirts. Below are some types of organic cotton fabrics you may run across when wedding dress shopping.
- Organic cotton sateen – Cotton sateen is made from cotton fibers that have gone through a mercerisation process, then the fibers are turned into fabric using a sateen weave method. Sateen weaving is what gives this fabric a sleeker more silky look than plain cotton.
- Organic cotton voile – Voile is soft, lightweight and semi-transparent fabric. For dresses, multiple layers of voile are used or it’s laid over a core material.
- Organic chambray – Chambray is a lightweight fabric made with a mixture of colored and white yarn. You won’t usually see full on chambray wedding gowns, but I have seen some bridesmaids dresses in this fabric. I’ve also run into a few cute vintage chambray dresses that could work for a casual wedding.
- Organic muslin – Muslin deserves it’s own longer post (which it’ll get soon) but as a quick guide, real, honest-to-goodness muslin is made of cotton that’s been loosely woven, though it can be more tightly woven as well. Muslin is light and has a nice antique look.
- Organic organdy – Organdy is made of cotton; not to be confused with organza which is made out of silk. This is perhaps the sheerest, lightest cotton weave. Organdy is a nice crisp fabric with a stiff drape that holds it fullness and loft even when made into a creation – say a gown. Organdy can be gathered nicely and holds the gathered look well, thus it’s often used for those full, party-perfect dresses you see for children. The downside – this fabric wrinkles easily.
- Organic tulle (soft) – Tulle is a net fabric; the type of fabric a tutu or gauzy gown might be made of. Most of the tulle you run into is nylon but there is also softer organic cotton tulle net (not so puffy as synthetic) and some old fashioned looking organic tulle lace or embroidered cotton tulle.
- Organic cotton chiffon – Cotton chiffon is rare. Most chiffon fabrics are made of silk or synthetic materials. That said, we’ll discuss this later in silk. Just wanted to mention it, in case you see it.
- Organic cotton blends – you’ll run into a wide array of cotton blends such as cotton-hemp, cotton-soy, cotton-silk and so on. It’s important to look at where the dressmaker sources their fabric so you can get an idea about how overall ethically made a mixed fabric dress is.
Dresses featured in this post:
- A-Line Wedding Dress at Pure Magnolia
- Rebecca wedding gown at BTC Elements
- Grace Gown at Threadhead Creations