Image credit: Christy Dawn
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Wearing a sweater dress out into the cold is equivalent to wearing a warm hug. Deep into the chilliest months, it can be tricky to stay warm and stylish at the same time, but we’re here to help you go beyond comfort and style to find sustainable and non-toxic options for your cold-weather wardrobe.
Most sweater dresses on the market are made from materials like acrylic, which takes hundreds of years to biodegrade and can be dyed with certain azo and disperse dyes that can be harmful to your health. Acrylic, alongside other materials like polyester and polyurethane, are derived from sources like coal and petroleum, both of which are major environmental pollutants and present in over two-thirds of clothing on the market today thanks to fast fashion.
Aside from carrying around toxic chemicals from its manufacturing processes, fossil-fuel-derived materials are also largely responsible for fast-fashion overproduction and staggering amount of fashion waste annually. The best way to avoid contributing to this waste and toxicity is to search for natural and recycled materials and quality far above the typical fast-fashion mindset.
Natural and ethical fibers, such as RWS-certified wool, Oeko-Tex-certified fabrics, and Fair-Trade certified cashmere are common components of sustainable and non-toxic sweater dresses. Another benefit of wearing real animal fibers like wool is that you simply need to air it out after wearing, and it will release any odors. So you can go many wears before washing it!
We rounded up our favorite brands to shop for sweater dresses that are healthy, safe, and ethically made to help you find the perfect winter wardrobe staple that will last you for years and years.
[RELATED: Check out The Best Brands for Sustainable, Ethical, and Cozy Sweaters]
What we love: Reformation brings comfort to its sweater dresses with 90% recycled and 10% virgin cashmere blend. Its 100% traceable wool is certified regenerative by Nativa, which regulates the welfare of sheep. Reformation is very transparent with its manufacturing processes, offering sustainability reports, Okeo-Tex-certified fabrics, and information about its climate-neutral initiatives. The brand also adheres to European REACH standards, a government program that is far ahead of the US in terms of ensuring chemical safety in consumer products. There’s something for everyone in the huge variety of styles, fabrics, and colors in Reformation’s lineup of winter dresses.
Price range: $89 to $348
What we love: The coziest sweater dresses are made from alpaca, and that’s exactly why we like the sweater dress lineup from this brand. The brand incorporates alpaca wool with regenerative organic Pima cotton and deadstock fabrics that would otherwise be manufacturing waste. You can find a variety of styles and materials on its website, as well as more information about Christy Dawn’s commitment to regenerative textiles and natural dyes.
Price range: $198 to $398
What we love: The Made Trade shop supports brands that are Fair-Trade certified, women-owned, and climate-neutral certified, with a wide selection of sustainable and non-toxic knitwear. And we found the perfect dress by WVN in their shop. This sweater dress is both sustainable and comfortable, featuring a GOTS-certified cotton and wool blend that’s free from synthetic dyes. It’s available in a natural cream tone and an icy blue hue, both of which pair well with other cold-weather colors in your wardrobe.
Price range: $88
What we love: TenTree makes sweater dresses from a variety of eco-friendly fabrics, such as traceable organic cotton. The dresses come in a variety of styles and soft, earthy hues. TenTree follows sustainable practices by offering its Climate+ program, which focuses on carbon offsets by planting trees. The brand also uses Textile Genesis to trace its fibers from the source to your doorstep.
Watch out for: While there are options that contain no polyester, some of TenTree’s sweater dresses contain some post-consumer recycled polyester, which can harbor sensitizing dyes used for synthetic fabrics.
Price range: $78 to $118
What we love: Living up to the Responsible Wool Standard, Everlane offers a sweater dress made from materials like wool, recycled nylon, yak hair, and a small percentage of elastane. The brand’s transparency goes beyond the materials in its sweater dresses with full reports including factory standards, Fair Trade factory standards, and manufacturing costs. Everlane also partners with Bluesign to eliminate the use of toxic dyes in production. Its sweater dress is a timeless turtleneck piece in a variety of soft and cozy colors.
Watch out for: Although the brand is still working toward its sustainability goals, some of its products may not be Okeo-Tex-, GOTS-, or RWS-certified just yet.
Price range: $148
What we love: Toad & Co offers sweater dresses that are perfect for everyone when it’s chilly outside. The dresses are made from Oeko-Tex certified wool and nylon blend fabric, inspired by the cold Irish isles. This brand also partners with Bluesign to reduce and regulate toxic dyes, chemical waste, and other manufacturing pollutants that don’t belong in your favorite sweater dress. You can find a variety of cute, muted patterns in natural colors that work for every occasion.
Watch out for: Some of Toad & Co’s sweater dresses contain nylon, which can be harmful to the environment due to the pollution that’s produced during manufacturing. Though it isn’t the most sustainable material to use in clothing, nylon is recyclable.
Price range: $119 to $170
What we love: Sweater dresses from Naadam are made from 100% Mongolian cashmere, come in timeless styles, and are machine washable. Aside from style and comfort, Naadam also offers transparency on its website with an inclusive Social and Environmental Impact report. The brand’s Fair Trade cashmere is produced in the Mongolian Gobi Desert by Nomadic herding communities who prioritize the best interests of their goats. Naadam also refrains from using any non-recycled or non-recyclable packaging, crafting these components without any toxic chemicals. Its shop features a wide selection of sweater dresses made to keep you warm without the toxic dyes and manufacturing chemicals.
Watch out for: While the cashmere itself is produced in Mongolia, it’s processed through China, which has questionable supply chain ethics and transparency. There are no returns, but the brand does offer exchanges if your sweater dress isn’t quite right for you. So if you can, try it on in person at one of Naadam’s stores before purchasing.
Price range: $107 to $250