Friday, August 10, 2012

Finding the Perfect Dress...

So he (or she!) has popped the question and you've said "Yes!!!".  Now it's time to start looking for a dress...the perfect dress.  Whether you are celebrating your commitment to your spouse with a backyard BBQ or a full-blown reception in a banquet hall, looking great on your big day is a big deal. 

I don't care how low maintenance you are, no one wants to look like a shlep on their wedding day.  And yes, I just said "shlep".   But I digress....

There are myriad different options for wedding gowns; selecting one that looks great, feels great, and falls within your budget can be a daunting task.  But if you add "eco-friendly" to your list of dress "must-haves", your choices are a bit more limited. 

Here's where Conscious Elegance comes to the rescue!  Conscious Elegance specializes in eco-chic wedding gowns using eco-friendly fabrics exclusively. They employ fair practices and the gowns are locally made in State College, Pennsylvania!

(c) Conscious Elegance

I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Lori Del Genis, head designer and proprietor of Conscious Elegance, about her stunning wedding gowns and her business practices.  What an amazing woman! 

Lori is a self-taught seamstress, learning how to create quality clothing by taking apart old pieces she found at thrift stores when she was in her late teens.  Lori put herself through grad school as a professional costumer for a semi-professional theatre but it wasn't until after 12 years in the medical field when Lori decided to follow her passion of designing and dress making. 

In 2006, after creating several wedding gowns for her friends, Lori left her position as a dysphagia specialist and started Conscious Elegance.  Regarding Lori's new career path, here's what she had to say:

"It feels like play, not work, to be able to design pretty, pretty dresses for people and even better that I can make them as eco-chic and sustainable as possible."

Conscious Elegance dresses are made from sustainable fabrics, fair-trade cottons, and reclaimed materials. The thread used in the dresses is 100% certified organic and fair trade.  Even the zippers used have been salvaged from other dresses!

(c) Conscious Elegance

Here are some tid-bits from Hudson Valley Green's interview with Lori...enjoy!


HVG: Where do you draw your design inspiration from?

Lori: I get most of my design inspiration from historical drama movies, vintage clothing, paintings in museums, and from the flowers in my garden. Silk ball gowns make me swoon. Seriously. Swoon. 

HVG: How do you pick your materials? Do you seek out vintage dresses to deconstruct for the raw materials for use in a new dress?

Lori: Oh YES! The use of silk had been a problem for me because I don't like the idea of animals suffering, even if they are small. Initially, I only used fabric that had "kind" silk (silk created from the cocoon after the silk worm had already exited and gone on with its life). But I've gone beyond that now...I've been able to support my silk gown habit ethically by using reclaimed fabrics harvested from dresses that would have ended up in a landfill.

I've also recently added a new page on the website which offers ready-to-wear dresses for last-minute brides. These aren't dresses that I made; they are high-end dresses that were meant for reclaimed silk fodder for my new designs. But they are so perfect and gorgeous that I can't bear to cut them up. I think it's just as sustainable and a lot more respectful to the dressmaker to offer them intact at a very reduced price.

Hopefully, they'll help out some frugal brides. There's no reason to destroy something beautiful.

(c) Conscious Elegance

HVG: Are you able to incorporate someone's heirloom dress into a new gown? 

Lori: Absolutely! I love the idea and I've done it a few times. What better way to honor a dress than to make it into something current and wonderful for a new generation?

HVG: I love that you will "upcycle" a wedding gown into a cocktail dress or a christening outfit for free.  What other items could you create? I'm thinking that some beautiful throw pillows could be sewn as truly unique home decor.

Lori: Home decor! What a great idea! I love, love, love it! You're the first person to suggest it. Maybe I should add throw pillows as a suggestion on my website.

One thing that saddens me is that I see so many brides go for the cheap, sweatshop-made dresses just because they are, well, cheap. And they are: they feel cheap, they smell like chemicals and they don't really look that pretty. The fabric is too shiny and doesn't drape gracefully. And often looks awful in the photos. For a dress that doesn't matter much to a person, I can understand not wanting to spend a lot of money or effort. 

But some people want to have their dress mean something. I want to create dresses for folks who want their choices to reflect their values, who care about their world, and who want to support artists and small business, not conglomerates and sweatshops.


We at HVG couldn't agree more! 
A wedding should reflect your love for your spouse and your love for the earth!

If you are interested in learning more about Lori and the truly beautiful gowns she creates, visit Conscious Elegance at for more information and pricing (no sticker shock, I promise! The gowns are very competitively priced!). 

2056 Chelsea Lane
State College, PA 16801
phone: 814-308-9555

Many thanks to Lori for taking the time out to interview with HVG! 

Happy Planning, 

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