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Something borrowed: should you rent your wedding dress?

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 06/12/2019 Chloe Street
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It’s no secret now that overconsumption and waste in the fashion industry is destroying the planet.

Around £140 million worth of clothing is sent to landfill each year, while the value of unused clothing in wardrobes has been estimated at around £30 billion.

Responding to the crisis, a crop of second-hand clothing sites and dress rental platforms have launched with the intent of reducing consumption and prolonging the lifespan of clothing.

And yet the one item that most women still buy new (typically at significant expense), wear once and hold onto forever? Their wedding dress.

The reasons for this are largely sentimental (who wants to wear someone else’s wedding dress, right?) and also down to the fact that brides on a budget can now find myriad affordable options on the high street.

Yet given we are facing a climate emergency, might it be time to change the narrative around wedding dress ownership? Could there in fact be some magic in foregoing fast fashion options and instead wearing something fabulous and pre-loved on your big day?

Hamish Shephard, founder of leading wedding planning app Bridebook.co.uk, certainly thinks so. He predicts 2020 will be the year of the eco-wedding and expects a surge in brides choosing to rent their wedding dresses.

Getty © Getty Getty

“We are definitely starting to see more of the 100,000 brides currently using our app around the world searching for wedding dress rental companies. There is a clear appetite, but with so many affordable wedding dresses out there for them too it’s a slow transition,” says Shephard.

“After Princess Eugenie's plastic-free wedding late last year, we are seeing a lot of couples finding ways to make their wedding more green and renting wedding dresses is just one of the many ways we see traditional habits changing.”

For Anna Bance, founder of dress rental platform Girl Meets Dress, which has had a wedding dress category on the site since it launched back in 2009, weddings are “big business,” with brides, bridesmaids, wedding guests and mothers of both the bride and groom using the service

“Our millennial customers especially prove an anti-materialism shift, and don’t want to carry the load of owning more things, including their wedding dress,” says Bance. “They want the quality of luxury, but their relatively lower incomes compared to older generations have put luxury goods largely out-of-bounds. So they’ve turned toward rental as well as pre-owned luxury goods to satisfy their need. They also tend to live in urban areas, where space and storage is at a premium.”

Bance says some brides rent on Girl Meets Dress “because it means they can wear a high end brand that otherwise would be over their budget. Other brides renting for their wedding are already high spenders at Net a Porter or Harvey Nichols, with wardrobes full of expensive clothing. But they use Girl Meets Dress for convenience, for variety and for the sustainability angle.”

For eco brides that prefer to own not rent their dress, a pre-loved purchase is an excellent option.

Getty © Getty Getty

Brides do Good is a sustainable wedding dress shop (London’s first) that opened in Fulham last month. It sells new, sample, and pre-loved designer wedding gowns from 61 leading international wedding gown designers, including Vera Wang, Charlie Brear, Caroline Castigliano, Temperley, and Pronovias. The stock is a combination of donations of out of season styles from bridal retailers and designers, and also wedding dresses donated by past brides.

Not only are the gowns, which range from sizes 4-30, significantly more affordable than if you were to buy them new, but Brides do Good also donate 100 per cent of their £30 appointment fees and up to two thirds of sale profits to charity projects which empower young girls, educate communities and strive to end child marriage, so there’s even more to feel good about when buying your dress of dreams.

“Brides do Good is so much more than a wedding boutique. We are a movement that connects women from all over the world, harnessing the power of the bridal industry to create long-term change,” says founder Chantal Khoueiry. “Every dress that is donated, bought or sold takes us one step closer to ending child marriage, by empowering vulnerable young girls and educating communities around the world.”

For some, nothing will compare to saying “I do” in something new, but for those open to something borrowed, there’s an increasingly attractive array of sustainable alternatives.

“Of course there are women who would rather own their wedding dress and keep it forever to pass onto daughters etc. But it is about having greater options,” says Bance. “We want women to rethink how they build a wardrobe around smarter choices.”

Gallery: The 10 Biggest Wedding Trends For 2020 [ELLE UK]

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