Published on May 19th, 2013 | by Siobhan Benitez9
The Ethics of Your Wedding Dress
You’re probably expecting me to say something about strapless dresses and not showing too much skin, but I’m not. Okay, I can’t resist so here’s my opinion on the subject: Don’t be trashy, The Dress is about your wedding day, not your wedding night.
With wedding season upon us, what I really want to talk to you about is a lot less fun than lace or tulle and the right neckline. I want to talk to you about slavery. The UN estimates that 2.5 million people are enslaved around the world today, and the FBI estimates 15,000-18,000 men, women, and children are trafficked into the US every year—that doesn’t include the slaves already here or those US citizens tricked, threatened, abused, or simply kidnapped into slavery each year. An awful lot of those people are funneled into sex trafficking, a $31.6 billion industry. I’m going to assume neither you nor your fiancé are complicit in the sex-trafficking business. If you are, go to Confession and then call the national anti-human trafficking hotline (888-3737-888) to report yourself. You sinner.
The kind of slavery most of us good Christian folk participate in is the kind you can’t see. It’s eating the food plucked and packed by slaves. It’s wearing the clothes made by slaves. It’s enjoying a nice bargain massage-and-manicure package, pampered by slaves. Two of the biggest offenders in modern day slavery? Restaurants and the fashion industry.
Now, my guess is that even if you don’t usually spend hours primping each day, you want to look gorgeous on your wedding day. My question is, do you really want to look down at your beautiful beaded bodice when you arrive at the altar and think, “Those sequined flowers are lovely, I wonder if they were put there by a terrified slave child?” Not the most romantic thought.
But aside from romance, why should you care? It’s not like you personally keep a child locked in the closet and fed on bread and water once a week to tailor your clothes (if you do, Confession and call the hotline above). You haven’t enslaved anybody. You aren’t guilty. Whoever stands over the slaves with a gun, or locks them in their barracks at night, that’s who is guilty. You know what that person, the one with the gun or the key, tells herself every night? She whispers to herself, “It’s not me who’s guilty, this is just my job. It’s my boss who demands this stuff be made super inexpensively. It’s those creeps who buy this stuff.” And the boss says, “I don’t care how this beauteous lace-and-silk gown is made, but it has to be cheap, otherwise I can’t sell it.” The slave herself says, “I must keep working or they’ll hurt my family, they’ll hurt me,” or she simply says, “Why?”
Let’s be clear: Everyone except the slave is guilty in this situation, the guard for enforcing slave labor (by wielding gun and key), the boss for requiring it (by demanding low-cost products), the consumer for supporting it (by desiring/purchasing low cost products). Remind you of another story? God says to Adam, “Why did you sin?” Adam says, “Eve did it!” Eve says, “The snake did it!” The snake is the guard, Eve is the boss, Adam is the consumer. Another term for “Original Sin” is Adam’s Sin. The consumer, the one at the end of the line, bears responsibility for modern day slavery. That’s not to say the consumer is the only guilty party, or even the most guilty party, but she is assuredly guilty.
So how do you ensure The Dress isn’t hand embroidered by slave labor? It’s actually not that difficult. Major wedding dress retailors in the US often have ethical sourcing policies like this one at David’s Bridal. You really have to watch out for slavery-sourced labor in online shops and little boutiques where the dresses you’re viewing are priced way lower than what you’ve seen elsewhere. Ask the manager where they source their dresses—if they’re not able to tell you exactly, don’t trust the store. Legit fashion designers are very proud of where and how their gowns are produced. If you’re budget-strapped, go green and shop resale boutiques like Goodwill or this little gem in Wilmington, DE; you’ll help out the local economy by generating cash flow amongst your neighbors, reuse clothes that already exist, and best of all glide down the aisle in vintage glam.
If you’re not quite ready for your own wedding dress, or if you’ve already worn one, you might check out this fantastic site dedicated to stopping human trafficking one fashionista at a time: Stop Traffick Fashion.
Under God’s Wing,