Louisa Pearson: ‘Is there anywhere on the high street you can find a guilt-free party dress?’

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HOW can this have happened again? Not the flooding, the Church of England proving itself to be woefully out of touch with modern Britain or Israel and Palestine falling out. None of the above. The predicament to which I refer is the fact that I have nothing to wear.

As revealed in a previous column, I own more than 100 garments but, as every woman knows, this is irrelevant in the face of a Christmas party. There are many subtle nuances to “I have nothing to wear”. It might mean “My clothes are all too tight and make me feel fat”, or it could be “I’m in a bad mood and just don’t want to go to this stupid party”. In my case, I have lived in the countryside for so long my wardrobe consists of old jeans, woolly jumpers and thick socks. I want a little black dress, and I want it now.

Easier said than done when you have to check the label on every dress you try on not only for the size but also for a list of what it’s made of. Did I mention pulling out your smartphone while you’re in the changing rooms in order to check the manufacturer’s environmental credentials? As if finding the perfect outfit wasn’t hard enough. So is there anywhere on the high street you can find a guilt-free party dress?

My advice is to follow Kate Moss’s example and head to Topshop. I know what you’re thinking. The hemlines are too short. You’re too old to cross the threshold. Not so. For Topshop has a Made in Britain range designed and manufactured in the UK using British textiles. After a quick browse of its range I found no less than eight little black dresses, ranging in price from about £70 to £90 – pricier than the usual high-street fare, perhaps, but quality doesn’t come cheap. The only other safe bet I could find was H&M, which has a Conscious Collection that features garments made from organic cotton, hemp and recycled polyester. There was a distinct lack of dresses to be found, except for a neon yellow one in the sale section, but it is a good place to procure a pair of black recycled polyamide tights.

Disappointed by being unable to track down clearly labelled eco-friendly frocks, it was time to fling myself into the arms of green brands. I confess to being disappointed to see that there are still far too many batik-style sun dresses in ethical fashion’s closet, but if you look hard enough there are also more sophisticated options. Two websites that will give you a flavour of what’s out there are www.fashion-conscience.com and www.frankandfaith.com. At www.komodo.co.uk, I found a nice LBD made from hemp, while www.gossypium.co.uk has an organic cotton stretch dress, perfect for body-conscious types. Howies (www.howies.co.uk) has a suitably modern organic cotton tunic dress while People Tree (www.peopletree.co.uk) has a classic black wrap dress that is also made from organic, fairly traded cotton. There are many options, but unless you’re lucky enough to have an eco-boutique nearby, online shopping seems to be the only way to get your hands on them.

I applaud the trailblazers but feel let down by our high street shops. Still, last month lots of these retailers were in attendance at the Future Fabrics Expo in London, where 650 fashion textiles with ‘reduced environmental impact’ were showcased. Hopefully they were taking notes and putting in orders. So which dress did I buy? None of them. I’ve bought some dye and am going to transform a rarely worn little blue dress into a little black one. Now all I need is the perfect pair of shoes to go with it. n

Twitter: @greengoddesslou