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When you’ve got a big occasion coming up, you want to find the perfect outfit. Something that is going to make you feel confident and fun, particularly if there’s going to be lots of photos taken on the day. But when you want to forgot fast fashion and buy something responsible and high-quality, you’ll want the material to be flattering and long-lasting.
Good news is, there are so many beautiful and sustainable fabrics out there being transformed into equally beautiful occasion wear. So whether you’re looking for the perfect outfit, or you’re hoping to create some occasion wear of your own, check out my guide below on the best sustainable fabrics and where you can source them.
Emulating the texture and look of real silk, vegan silk is a soft, versatile material. There are a number of vendors out there finding different ways to create this beautiful material including peace, spider, art and ramie silks. Peace silk, which is gaining in popularity, allows the silkworms to emerge naturally from their cocoons before they are spun into silk, where spider takes the principles of a spiders web using yeast, water, and sugar to spin a silk with the same molecular structure as a spider web.
Then there’s something called Ramie, a flowering plant in the nettle family, which is used to create a silk-like material and this is primarily used by Italian Label Balossa. Finally, Ray Stitch have created a vegan-friendly bamboo silk that is made from 100% Oeko-Tex certified bamboo. Perfect for elegant occasion wear, this is the only retailer you can buy this particular material from.
Rayon and viscose
Rayon/viscose fibres are plant-based, the strength and flexibility of the fabric comes from the cellulose in plants. This gives them many of the properties you are looking for, a natural feel on the skin, breathability, and the ability to pull moisture (in the form of sweat) off your skin effectively. As well as having these natural benefits Rayon/Viscose, embrace a more environmentally friendly approach to production.The fabric also has great draping capability so makes it perfect for occasionwear, that why these fabrics are often compared to silk in terms of their texture.
When we think about sustainable fashion, generally the first things that come to mind is finding sustainable materials that don’t damage the planet. But have you ever considered the little embellishments that complete an outfit? Occasion wear is dominated by sequins, especially around the Christmas and festive season and it’s easy to forget that these small items are usually made of plastic and will still have a damaging impact on the earth, no matter how tiny they may be.
Well, the future of sequins is changing, with organisations like The Sustainable Sequin Company leading the way in sparkly fashion moments. Featuring recycled PET plastic sequins and experimenting with bioplastic, they’re trying to find a solution to sustainable occasion wear.
Cupro and modal
Made from a different part of the cotton plant than traditional cotton, cupro feels soft to the touch and can often be used instead of silk. The lightweight, breathable material drapes beautifully around the body, making it a dressmakers dream. It is eco-friendly as it uses parts of the cotton plant which are often discarded. And this is not dissimilar to Modal, another type of rayon, which is made from reconstituted trees. This material is also soft and supple like cupro, so is great for creating beautiful occasion wear like dresses, shirts and blouses. If you want to source this type of material, as well as rayon and viscose, look for independent retailers like Sew Me Sunshine.
You’d never guess by its soft texture and comfortable fit that Tencel fabric was once wood! Tencel is made from the natural cellulose found in wood pulp, which is harvested from tree-farmed trees. Not only is this beautiful material sustainably sourced and better for the environment, but it is also known for its ‘drape. It flatters the human form. The look is luxurious and refined. Better still, Tencel garments are easy to pack, resist wrinkling, dry quickly and most are machine washable, so perfect for that surprise weekend away!
Though there has been a bit of a debate around the sustainability of recycled polyester, ultimately, it stops plastic ending up in landfills, takes less resources to make and creates stunning garments. Because nearly half the world’s clothing is made from polyester, not to mention the sheer amount of plastic waste out there, recycled polyester has been a big player in the sustainable fashion industry for a while now. Strong and incredibly soft, a number of big brands have pledged to make more of their clothing from this more sustainable fabric – so it’s clearly leaving its mark on the fashion industry. Because of this, you can source recycled polyester from plenty of different retailers.