When Molly Wolfberg Swarttz got married in May 2019, she was in the midst of another leap of faith: opening a sustainable bridal boutique in Newton.
During the wedding planning process, Wolfberg Swarttz’s attempts to prioritize sustainability were stymied by the lack of options, especially when it came to buying a dress. One typical wedding dress requires over 2,300 gallons of water to make, according to online dress marketplace Stillwhite.
“Spending thousands of dollars on something you wear for 10 hours inherently is not sustainable,” said Wolfberg Swarttz, 30, an Emerson College graduate who has a background in technology marketing and works at video software company Wistia.
She did what she could — used recycled paper for the invitations, repurposed the florals from the ceremony for the reception — but she recognized a niche market for Boston brides seeking more environmentally conscious gowns they could see and try on at a store.
“I was like, ‘Is there anyone in Boston who sells smaller designers, things I can feel good about, [and] prioritize sustainability?’ And that really didn’t exist here,” said Wolfberg Swarttz. “It became really clear to me that there was this gap in the Boston bridal market.”
Glo Bridal opened its doors on June 17, after the pandemic drove down commercial real estate rental costs. Open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays by appointment only, the shop was completely booked its opening weekend, Wolfberg Swarttz said, and every shopper has purchased a dress.
“As millennials are the ones who are getting married, we are directly affected by climate change and trying to pay a lot more attention to that,” she said. “It has become a much larger priority in the industry and people who are planning their own weddings.”
The shop’s selection includes designer dresses — Wolfberg Swarttz works with designers who specialize in made-to-order dresses to avoid wasting inventory, use garment patterns that minimize waste, and repurpose fabric scraps. These made-to-order pieces cost about $1,500 to $4,000. Some dresses Glo Bridal sells are “off-the-rack,” discontinued designer pieces.
About half of the inventory is consigned dresses, which run from under $1,000 to about $4,000. For Glo to say “I do” to a dress, it has to be fewer than five years old and in ready-to-wear condition. Sellers get 50 percent of the profit if the dress is purchased.
Inclusive sizing was also a goal when Wolfberg Swarttz opened her store; she aims to offer a selection of pieces ranging from size 0 to 26. In addition to non-traditional wedding garb — power suits, jumpsuits, and two-pieces — she also stocks veils, hair accessories, and earrings.
The pandemic forced the downsizing, reimagining, and postponement of weddings, and Wolfberg Swarttz said the designers she works with run smaller, nimble operations that can adapt to different demands. Most of her designers, she says, can have a made-to-order dress ready in three months, compared with the usual six to nine, according to Brides.com.
There are ways to choose a greener dress “without having to sacrifice your personal style or your fashion sense,” she said.
Dana Gerber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @danagerber6.