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I’m not going to lie: One of my favorite things about sundresses and house dresses is the lack of decision-making involved. You don’t have to find two pieces that match—you can just throw on a dress with some sandals or heels and look cute without really trying.
This year, with the possibility of us all being confined to our homes and backyards, we’re putting a special emphasis on comfortable and easy-wear dresses. Yes, the house dress is coming back! And we’re looking for dresses that strike just the right note of comforting optimism.
So, if you’re looking for eco-friendly, ethically made sundresses you can wear to the park or just your patio, we’ve rounded up the best brands and boutiques for you. But first, here’s an overview of why the brands below are so great, and what you should look for while you’re shopping for casual dresses:
Earth-friendly fabrics: Most of these brands use fabrics like Tencel, organic cotton, hemp, and linen. Most of these natural fibers are pretty breathable, which is good if there’s a chance you might break a sweat in your dress. Go for certified organic whenever you can, especially with cotton.
Artisan made: Sundresses give us so much opportunity to play around with prints and patterns. Many of the dresses below are handcrafted by artisans around the globe using traditional techniques that have been passed down through generations, such as block printing.
Nontoxic dyes: Since there’s often a lot of rich colors involved, you want to go for nontoxic, biodegradable dyes whenever possible. Otherwise, all of those toxic chemicals can end up in our waterways, our soil, and our bodies.
Eco-conscious processes: There’s a lot that goes into making just one sundress: growing, shipping, and processing the fabric; dyeing, cutting, sewing the piece; and of course finishing it and sending it to you. There’s a lot of water, CO2, and other non-renewable resources used to do all of that. The brands below seek to decrease their footprint wherever possible, whether it’s making their pieces to order which cuts down on waste, using recycled fibers, or carbon offset shipping.
The Best Brands and Boutiques for Sustainable Sundresses & House Dresses:
Outerknown was started by 11 time World Surf League Champion, Kelly Slater and acclaimed designer, John Moore. As a brand, they are committed to transparency. They work with manufacturers who abide by the Fair Labor Association’s standards and keep a list of those suppliers right on their website. They use eco-conscious materials like ECONYL (recycled nylon), organic cotton, and hemp and they also give back a portion to the Ocean Conservancy.
Christy Dawn’s dresses are made out of only deadstock fabric that’s leftover from major fashion houses and would otherwise end up in a landfill. Everything is ethically made in Los Angeles by a team of talented seamstresses who are paid a living wage and health benefits. And Christy Dawn’s styles are perfect for playing little house for the prairie while you bake bread.
Valani is designed to be fun and flirty all while being made with the smallest environmental footprint possible. Its fabrics and dyes are plant-based, non-toxic, and compostable. Patterns are cleverly laid out to minimize fabric waste, and whatever is left over gets turned into scrunchies or teddy-bear filling. Its packaging, labels, and hangtags are all paper-based.
ABLE is a brand that invests in women. Their dresses are handmade in India out of mostly cotton by women transitioning out of sex work. Their wages are transparently published on their website in order to protect the women makers and empower consumers.
wool& is on a mission to design the most practical, wearable piece in your wardrobe—and I’d say they’re succeeding! Their dresses are incredibly comfortable and can be dressed up or down. Made of natural merino wool, they are great to throw on when you’re not in the mood to make a decision or when you’re in a hurry. Wool comes with a variety of natural benefits, including wrinkle resistance, odor resistance, breathability, and temperature regulation.
Madewell has been making slow and steady progress toward increasing their ethical and sustainable practices over the past several years, and now you can shop from their curated “Do Well Shop,” which is a collection of clothing and accessories that are made more responsibly, both ethically and sustainably.
The Cat Turner London brand values high-quality, natural fabrics like cotton, linen, and TENCEL, which are carefully selected from European family firms with decades of fabric experience. Inspired by a French background (the founder is half French, half English), the summer dresses benefit from timeless, versatile silhouettes, elegant tailoring, and chic colors and prints. Designed to be effortless and flattering, they also have shapes and cuts that adapt to fluctuations in size and body shape. The icing on the cake is that the collection is beautifully and ethically made in London by highly skilled teams – and there is even a customization service offered. By signing up for the Cat Turner London newsletter here, you can enjoy 10% off your first purchase.
SIKA was founded in 2005 by creative director Phyllis Taylor with the vision that fashion has the power and potential to make a positive contribution to society. The ethos behind SIKA is not only to produce quality ‘made in Africa’ garments for the international market, but also to ultimately prove that garment production can successfully have social and environmental responsibilities at its core. For SIKA that means paying fair wages, creating employment and making a meaningful difference within the Ghanaian community. All SIKA garments are designed in London and handmade in Ghana (West Africa) by Sika’s skilled garment production team.
Toad&Co makes apparel out of eco-conscious fabrics like organic cotton, TENCEL, hemp, recycled fibers, and more. Their products carry a host of different third party certifications such as bluesign and OEKO-TEX. Not only that, but you can actually send back your clothing when you’re done with it and they will either clean and resell it as a part of their Renewed Collection, or upcycle it. Even their packaging is reusable—they’ve partnered with limeloop to use a reusable shipper that can be returned to them after you’ve received your goods. Plus, all of their orders are processed, packaged, and shipped by the Planet Access Company warehouse, which is an organization they co-founded to give employment and training opportunities to adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. And they’re not stopping there: Toad&Co has some great goals for the next decade, like transitioning to 100% recycled synthetics by 2025 and 100% certified Responsible Wool Standard by 2024.
TAMGA is committed to transparency throughout their entire supply chain, from the farms where their cotton is grown to the mills where it’s woven into fabric to the factories where everything is sewn together. The TAMGA team takes great care to operate with ethical and sustainable processes and operates under a strict code of conduct. Plus, each purchase gives back to efforts to replant the rainforests. Their fun and flowy dresses are made out of materials like TENCEL.
If you’re looking for a playful dress with bright prints and ruffles, AMUR is your go-to. They use all kinds of environmentally friendly fibers like silk, hemp, linen, and GOTS certified organic cotton, along with cellulose fibers like Cupro and Modal and Global Recycle Standard (GRS) certified recycled fabrics.
Accompany curates dresses from brands that are explicitly fair trade and artisan-made, which means many of the pieces are one-of-a-kind and come with a rich cultural crafting heritage. The sewers, printers, dyers and weavers have mostly learned their skills after being passed down over generations through their families or villages.
If you’re looking for something more casual and comfy, go for PACT. The brand uses only natural, certified organic, long-staple (aka super soft) cotton without any toxic dyes. Plus, everything is made in Fair Trade certified facilities.
A sustainable fashion pioneer, People Tree has been partnering with Fair Trade producers, garment workers, artisans and farmers in the developing world to produce ethical and eco-fashion collections for over 25 years. Their dresses are made mostly from certified organic cotton and sustainable Tencel—and you have a lot of them to choose from!
Amour Vert (which means ‘green love’ in French) creates clothing that’s made from low-impact fabrics like organic cotton, TENCEL, OEKO-TEX silk, ethical wool, and more. Most of their products are made transparently in California, in limited quantities to reduce waste.
Thought’s pieces are made from breathable bamboo, hemp, Tencel, and organic cotton. They are careful to source their fabrics consciously, use only slow shipping for the lowest carbon footprint, and adhere to a strict ethical code of conduct for employment.
Soluna Collective creates beautiful staples for the capsule wardrobe — all produced in small batches by hand with ethical and fair trade standards. All products are made with natural fibers and eco-friendly or low impact dyes. Using linen, certified organic cotton, Tencel, and deadstock fabrics, Soluna Collective keeps sustainability at their core. Each piece is handwoven and sewn in India by women earning living wages. Soluna Collective will also recycle or repair used Soluna Collective garments when they’ve come to the end of their lifecycle. Soluna Collective is a women-owned company based in Portland, Oregon.
Synergy creates its comfortable and elegant dresses to the highest social and environmental standards. It uses exclusively GOTS-certified organic cotton and low impact dyes. All its factories are Fair Trade Certified, and it has also established a textile recycling program to prevent its garments from ending up in landfills.
Altar Houseline is designed, patterned, cut, and sewn one piece at a time in Portland, Oregon, and Los Angeles, CA. Altar works to create a sustainable, USA-made alternative to the vast majority of sweatshop-made clothing. Altar sources organic and naturally dyed textiles and works with deadstock fabrics and American milled textiles as often as possible. They believe in job creation for women and pays living wages to all its employees.
Hackwith Design House creates unique, timeless, and long-lasting clothing by hand right in their Minnesota studio. They use eco-friendly fabrics like Lyocell and cotton, any of the pieces are made to order to reduce waste. You can also buy from their Sustain Shop, which is their own secondhand boutique, and they have plus sizes.
Saint & Sofia creates easy, chic ready-to-wear mostly out of GOTS-Certified Organic Cotton, ECONYL, Ecovero, and wool. Its supply chain is built using machine learning and lean manufacturing principles, meaning it’s capable of predicting demand and limiting overproduction. In order to lower its carbon footprint, the brand sources raw materials from countries relatively close to its London HQ: Italy, Portugal, Turkey, and Bulgaria. Its packaging is biodegradable and it partners with Trees for Cities and the WWF.
Symbology partners with marginalized artisans in developing countries to create handcrafted pieces using traditional fabric techniques like block printing, tie-dye and embroidery. Most of their dresses are made from sustainable viscose, Modal, and cotton.
All the Wild Roses makes vintage-inspired dresses with a bohemian vibe out of natural materials like upcycled cotton. Their artisan workshop in Vietnam is a women-led small business that provides a fair living wage and a flexible family-friendly working environment.
Started by a stylist and a graphic designer, Apiece Apart was originally created around the idea of creating versatile block pieces that can be mixed and matched to create an entire wardrobe. They use mostly eco-friendly materials like cotton and linen.
By partnering with artisan studios that use traditional African motifs and techniques to create beautiful, modern designs, this BIPOC-owned and made brand carries sundresses, beach dresses, caftans, and tunics that are made mostly from natural cotton.
Mayamiko carries a lot of fun designs as well as bright solids, and everything is ethically made in Malawi by their team of BIPOC tailors, pattern cutters, and seamstresses in a solar-powered facility. They use locally sourced materials like certified organic cotton and strive for zero waste production.
Iconic fashion designer Tracy Reese founded Hope For Flowers in 2019 to create sustainable, feminine, and minimal designs. Her clothes are made of sustainable textiles, such as organic cotton, linen, Tencel, and cupro. Tracy Reese’s conventional designs have been worn by Sarah Jessica Parker, Meghan Markle, Oprah, and even the former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Faith-driven Gracemade creates timeless and modest designs in Los Angeles from deadstock and natural materials.
thredUP is the largest online secondhand shop out there, which means if you do a little digging, you will probably be able to find a sundress or two that you adore for super cheap. Plus, shopping secondhand is the most sustainable option out there!
TheRealReal is an authenticated online consignment shop that carries the biggest luxury brands out there. Their 100+ in-house expert team includes gemologists, horologists, and luxury brand authenticators who inspect thousands of items every day, ensuring everything they sell is 100% authenticity guaranteed. They also teamed up with the Ellen McArthur Foundation, Stella McCartney, and the World Resources Institute to create a circularity calculator to keep track of how much water and CO2 have been saved through their job, just by consumers shopping secondhand. (Just take its accuracy with a hefty grain of salt.)
Another great online consignment shop, you will find more vintage luxury pieces on Vestaire Collection, which is more heavily curated based on brand.
MIRTH creates flowy, ethically made modern caftans and resortwear-style dresses. Most of the dresses are made from cotton and silk.
Kara Thoms’ garments are ethically produced out of linen and cotton by a small family run business handpicked by the brand’s founder while on a trip to visit her brother in Bali.
Sotela is an inclusive, body-positive clothing brand and community that celebrates bodies in all of their forms. They use eco-friendly fabrics that have minimal environmental impacts such as TENCEL, modal, and linen. The versatility of their pieces allow for prolonged use and all of their packaging, stationery, and marketing materials are printed on recycled paper. Their team hand-makes every piece from start to finish in their California studio.
VETTA creates minimal capsule wardrobe collections out of eco-friendly fabrics like TENCEL, organic cotton, and deadstock fabrics. Everything is sewn ethically in the U.S. and India.
Mata Traders works with cooperatives in India and Nepal to make sure all their artisans earn living wages. They have a wide selection of affordable dresses in solid colors and fun patterns, made out of mostly cotton (some conventional and some organic).