Who else watched the Royal Wedding this weekend? Normally, I’d assume I’m the only weirdo who did, but given that MILLIONS of people around the world tuned in, I’m calling you out. Someone reading this got up early on Saturday like I did, and watched Meghan and Harry tie the knot, eager for a real-world version of the Disney movies we grew up watching.

Just in case you missed it, it was everything we wanted it to be. The couple absolutely nailed the delicate balance of tradition and modernity, and managed to both charm the masses, and present the world with a remarkable curation of international celebrities.  Nicely done, and fondest wishes for a wonderful life together, Harry & Meghan!

Since we live in the world we live in, one of the MOST talked about elements of the day was Meghan’s gown (or gowns, rather). Her first dress was stunningly-well cut, modest, and minimal. Designed by Clare Waight Keller, Givenchy’s first female artistic director, the dress was in line with both the bride’s personal style and her feminist beliefs. Her second dress, by Stella McCarthy, doubled down on this values-driven, pro-woman approach to purchasing. Stella McCartney is well known for cruelty-free and sustainable fashion, and embracing a sense of fun and personal expression for the women who wear her clothing. Both dresses were beautiful, and I can’t help but admire Meghan for making choices about fashion that raise important questions about women’s leadership and environmental sustainability.

While literally NO ONE pays attention to my purchasing decisions, I do believe we all vote with our dollars, and I try to buy responsibly when I can. Since a wedding is essentially an exercise in sizable purchasing decisions, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

I’ve written before about my attempts to embrace sustainable and ethical fashion. For the most part, I’ve focused on purchasing clothing second hand, investing in pieces that last for decades, and recycling textiles once I’ve worn them to the bone. Yes, there are a number of brands that make beautiful, fair-trade, sustainable clothing, but there are very few that do so at a price point that is realistic to the average American woman. I try to practice responsible consumerism in an affordable way.

With all this in mind, when I was thinking about where I would acquire a wedding dress, I truly didn’t think I would end up buying a dress at all.

For a number of reasons – environmental, economic, pragmatic – buying a dress that I would wear just once seemed rather frivolous. I figured I would rent one. Rent the Runway has an impressive setup for brides. Wouldn’t it make sense to do that? Otherwise, I might purchase a secondhand dress from one of the many sites that tailor to brides: Tradesy, or StillWhite for example. When my mom suggested we head to a bridal boutique while she was up for a visit a few Saturdays ago, I figured we’d just be going through the motions.

I set up a couple of impromptu appointments with the following requests: I need a dress that will not stand up on its own when I step out of it; I must be able to climb a tree on the day of my wedding (I never know when the spirit will move me).

The first was Schone Bride, which is the flagship boutique for Rebecca Schoneveld Bridal. There are a flurry of things I LOVE about Rebecca Schoneveld’s collections. They have a completely inclusive philosophy, their dresses are easy to wear, and they are designed and crafted right here in Brooklyn (aka minimal carbon footprint and a transparent production process). The experience was lovely, I tried on some beautiful gowns, and came away feeling like there was a strong possibility I’d be back.

 Our beloved Flagship shop, Schone Bride, located at the front of our design studio in Brooklyn, NY (photo by Diane Hu)
photo by Diane Hu from the Schone Bride website

After a pit stop at Four and Twenty Blackbirds (a must when you visit Brooklyn), we scurried (a little late) to VeKa Bridal. Now, I would be a big fat faker if I didn’t admit that I have walked past this boutique at least a thousand times, and always imagined myself shopping there one day. It’s just so damn lovely. It’s rather minimal, but they always have two dresses in the window, and they are always completely unique and completely gorgeous. Truth be told, I’ve had a longstanding crush on this store.

Photo from VeKa Bridal’s website, credit unknown

Once inside, Jana (one of the owners), got me into practically every dress in the shop by a small Belgian design studio with a Portuguese atelier: Rembo Styling. I fell more than a little bit in love with the first or second dress I put on, and the rest, as they say, was history.

I went home and did a little bit of research on the company and found that they utilize production practices that minimize waste, have an extremely transparent production process, and make dresses at a reasonable price point (for bridal). Yes, my dress will have more of a carbon footprint than I’d like as it’s shipped across the Atlantic, but otherwise, I couldn’t be more on board with the brand’s philosophy.

After a couple of days, I could not get that dress off my mind, so I set up a follow up appointment and ordered it. While I was being measured, I found out that Jana (again, co-owner) used to live in my hometown, and that we are neighbors today. I know it’s silly, but what could be more serendipitous?

I’m curious, if you’ve been married, what did you consider when purchasing or borrowing a wedding dress? If not, what kinds of things you keep in mind when making big purchases? Ever harbor a crush on store you’ve never been into?

About the Author Aubrie Fennecken

Aubrie Fennecken is the Chief Alchemist at Opportunity Kitchen | work + wellness strategist | nonprofit fundraising expert | providing productivity and self-care support for mission-driven humans

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