By definitions both literal and figurative, that most famous of white dresses isn't exactly green. Wedding gowns usually involve yards and yards of expensive fabric, perhaps expensive accouterments such as beading, and are worn exactly once.
Still, the same fashion industry that's jumped on the eco-bandwagon with everything from vegan shoes to couture gowns made out of organic cotton is turning to unconventional materials such as hemp and turning out some surprisingly gorgeous gowns.
Take, for example, the slinky hemp wedding dresses being created by Crystal Miller, owner and designer for the New Mexico-based bridal label, Conscious Clothing.
Many of her gowns are constructed out of untainted light-catching hemp satin that resembles a raw silk, and for the most part, is easy to work with.
"The hemp and silk aren't much different," says Miller. "They look similar and it's much more beautiful. Whether it is hard to work with or not really depends on the person."
Miller started working with organic fabrics in 1995, making ready-to-wear garments out of hemp silk blends. Four years after selling her garments at festivals, she began to use her skills for custom-made wedding dresses.
Miller says she tries to make her line as "green" as possible, avoiding sweatshops and using pesticide-free hemp that uses less water and enriches the soil. Her dresses keep in tune with the current fashion trends. The "Firenze"
Eco-conscious brides-to-be can find Miller's dresses at Flair, a bridal boutique owned by Christine Colon located in San Francisco's Russian Hill neighborhood, and the only store in the Bay Area to carry the line.
Colon started selling bridesmaids dresses at the original Flair boutique in Boston. When she moved to San Francisco, she decided to expand her selection of bridal gowns — but with a twist.
"I wanted something different," says Colon. "More and more women are going for the green wedding, and having a green dress is the best place to start."
For Robin Densten, owner of Recapture Vintage Bridal Designs in Oakland, a green wedding dress doesn't have to made out of organic material.
As an artist and a designer, Densten has always worked with recycled materials; for years she collected materials and refashioned them for design. Her segue into the bridal world was a result of her love of textiles and laces.
"I recognized a huge need to preserve the old pieces," Densten says. "But I wanted to provide something new to the customer who is looking for something one-of-a-kind."
Densten, who constructed her own wedding dress out of vintage attire, re-creates looks that range from Victorian to Edwardian to the 1970s. Even though her green design practice isn't of the organic kind, she still receives love from the eco-conscious designers.
"There aren't many people who (solely) specialize in vintage, but there are a lot of people who specialize in green," says Densten. "And those are the ones who want to network with me."
With the growing awareness of the Earth, one may think that being green is a fad that is oversaturating society in general. Miller from Conscious Clothing thinks otherwise.
"There's room for everyone (to be green)," says Miller. "It's becoming less of a trend and more of an everyday lifestyle."
That said, for the time being it will take a motivated bride to find a green wedding gown.
Jaime Zile, owner of J'aime Bridal in Pleasanton, sells 100 percent silk gowns and remakes old wedding veils to make them modern, but concedes that, aside from that, her knowledge of green wedding dresses is limited.
"If someone came in and asked me about green weddings," Zile says, "I would be stumped."
But, she adds, "I would definitely like to know more and would be open to selling organic dresses."