My wedding dress was one of the things I still feel really torn about. I had spent so long trying to find the right dress. I think I went to about 25 different bridal shops and didn’t like anything I tried on despite loving looking at wedding dresses and being obsessed with 'Say Yes to the Dress' (I think I have seen every US and UK show!). But every time I put one on I felt like I was starring in a pantomime, I felt ridiculous. Wedding dress shopping was probably my least favourite part of the whole wedding planning experience!
I ended up choosing one of the wedding dresses I had been swooning over that I had seen on Pinterest. I even got the top half entirely customised so it felt more like me, I thought it was seriously beautiful and I still can’t stop looking at the designer’s other creations online fantasising about getting my wedding vows renewed just so I can wear another of her designs. Yet, I feel a huge pang of guilt as it was created using silk. At the time, I knew something wasn’t very vegan about using silk but I was in denial and I prevented myself from thinking too much about it. I know we can all relate to that experience.
So, what makes silk non-vegan? Silk is made from the cocoon of the silkworm, the caterpillar of a silk moth, which is harvested on silk farms. The silkworm starts out as an egg which is incubated for 8-10 days before little larva emerge. They then weave around themselves a cocoon made from their saliva to protect themselves as they transition into a moth. To prevent damage to the thread, the silkworm is either gassed or boiled alive to soften the cocoon and unravel it into a silk thread which is then treated and woven into the fabric.
Ahimsa silk or 'peace silk' is an alternative to traditional silk. Ahimsa means respect and nonviolence towards all living things. The difference with Ahimsa silk is that the silkworms aren’t boiled alive, they wait until they have hatched to harvest the silk. When I first heard about this type of silk I thought this would be a great alternative and was excited to share my new found knowledge with you all, yet having read in to this a little further it would seem it’s not such a peaceful process after all. When the moths hatch, they each produce on average 500 offspring. The numbers can turn in to millions which become impossible to feed, so most end up starving to death and the male moths are discarded after they have mated. There is also the problem of traditional silk being falsely labelled as Ahimsa/peace silk, leaving you completely unaware.
Cruelty free means choosing alternative fabrics such as non-silk organza and chiffon which are made from synthetic materials such as nylon and polyester, or choosing more natural options such as cotton and hemp. Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any bridal salons that exclusively sell vegan gowns but most will be happy to help you discuss fabric options. I also recommend The Conscious Bride that stock gowns using sustainable fabrics and run their boutique with ethics in mind. They also put some of their profits back into charities that empower women and girls around the world, win win! Alternatively, a more environmentally friendly option might be to wear a dress previously worn within your family or finding a vintage dress, and then getting it customised to fit your proportions and style. Oxfam have an online site selling hundreds of wedding dresses. The added bonus of this option is it's often much cheaper too! And don’t forget to consider other accessories that might use silk such as veils, hair pieces, suits, ties and even table linen. Thankfully there’s a whole host of other fabrics for these too. Check out Mrs Bow Tie, in the UK and Jaan J, a PETA award winning company who make beautiful vegan ties in the US (shipping from $18.25).
I will be making some suggestions for wedding dress salons/designers and accessories in the suppliers list soon, so keep an eye out.
Just love, Emily x