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Fast Fashion Tested: Which Dress Is the Most Sustainable?


Collage of Moincoins employees testing fast fashion dresses for sustainability

We looked for the answer to this question by testing eco collections from H&M, Guess, Pull&Bear and Zara. Check our findings to find the most eco-friendly dress.

The sample products are tested and evaluated to the best of our knowledge and belief. None of the brands sponsored this article. Nevertheless, we think that the products listed in this article can be useful for our readers.

Finding a nice dress that suits your style, is affordable and also gentle to the environment can be a real challenge. There seem to be endless options to choose from, but you still don’t know if an item will hold up to its sustainability promise and be perfect for you. This is why we decided to test the eco collections of four fast fashion brands. Read on to find out which dress performed best in terms of sustainability, quality, durability, product transparency and durability.

Jump to the test results for: Zara | Pull&Bear | H&M | Guess

Watch the video to have an even better overview of the dresses we tested and how they performed.

Top Eco-Friendly Dresses Comparison

We summarized the most important information and test results for our sample dresses in this review table.

 
TOP
Zara Short Dress

ZARA

Pull&Bear V-neck Crepe Mini Dress

PULL&BEAR

H&M Draped Dress

H&M

Guess Eco Eden Wrap Dress

GUESS

Product Name

Short Dress

V-neck Crepe Mini Dress

Draped Dress

Eco Eden Wrap Dress

Overall score

3.8/5

3.6/5

3.4/5

2.0/5

Price

$45.90

$45.90

$24.99

$98.00

Collection

Join Life

Join Life

Conscious Choice

Guess Eco

Fabric

86% lyocell
14% polyester

100% EcoVero viscose

92% recycled polyester
8% spandex

90% polyester
10% spandex

Textile Certificates

The EU Ecolabel certified lyocell

The EU Ecolabel

-

-

Materials

Certifications

Product info

Durability

Quality

 

4/5

 

3/5

 

4/5

 

4/5

 

4/5

 

5/5

 

5/5

 

4/5

 

2/5

 

2/5

 

4/5

 

0/5

 

4/5

 

5/5

 

4/5

 

0/5

 

0/5

 

0/5

 

5/5

 

5/5

Pros

  • plus

    soft and comfy material

  • plus

    airy and lightweight

  • plus

    doesn’t get wrinkles easily

  • plus

    kept its shape and color

  • plus

    lightweight

  • plus

    airy

  • plus

    elegant

  • plus

    kept its shape and fit

  • plus

    careful sewing and straight cuts

  • plus

    kept its initial shape, fit and measurements

Cons

  • plus

    questionable how long such a thin fabric will last

  • plus

    gets many wrinkles - not easy to iron them

  • plus

    see-through

  • plus

    looks cheap

  • plus

    very thin and see-through

  • plus

    leaves lower body part exposed

  • plus

    zipper's ending created a little tail when the dress slipped up

  • plus

    generic and misleading product information

  • plus

    pure polyester composition

Visit site

ZARA icon P&B icon H&M icon GUESS icon

#1 Zara Short Dress

TOP
Zara Short Dress
priceLabel
$45.90
ZARA icon

Overall score 3.8/5

Materials

4/5

 

Certifications

3/5

 

Product information

4/5

 

Durability

4/5

 

Quality

4/5

 

This product was purchased in October 2021 and is not available anymore. Explore the Zara Join Life collection to find similar products.

Collection | Join Life

Fabric | 86% lyocell, 14% polyester

Textile Certifications | The EU Ecolabel certified lyocell

Origin | Turkey

Packaging | paper bag, no additional plastic wrapping

Color | black

Size | S-small

  • plus

    soft and comfy material

  • plus

    airy and lightweight, ideal when it's hot outside

  • plus

    doesn’t get wrinkles easily

  • plus

    kept its shape and color

  • minus

    questionable how long such a thin fabric will last

This black mini dress, made of lyocell and polyester, is that classic and casual piece of clothing that each girl should have in her wardrobe. Its shirt-dress style makes it a great option for going out for brunch on a hot summer day, while opting for more sustainable fabrics, like lyocell. However, we couldn’t give it full points for the materials criterion since polyester is present in the fabric blend. We were generally very satisfied with the garment’s performance during testing. It’s a nice quality, airy and lightweight material that kept its initial measurements and fit after multiple laundries.

"This is a great summer dress to wear to a casual lunch or brunch. It feels light and has a fit that suits most body shapes. I love that it doesn't necessarily need to be ironed. It comes at a decent price. But I don't like that it's a mix of materials. Why not make it 100% lyocell?" - Melina, Moincoins Content & Social Media Manager

#2 Pull&Bear V-neck Crepe Mini Dress

Pull&Bear V-neck Crepe Mini Dress
priceLabel
$45.90
PULL& BEAR icon

Overall score 3.6/5

Materials

5/5

 

Certifications

5/5

 

Product information

4/5

 

Durability

2/5

 

Quality

2/5

 

This product was purchased in October 2021 and is not available anymore. Explore the Pull&Bear Join Life collection to find similar products.

Collection | Join Life

Fabric | 100% EcoVero viscose

Textile Certifications | The EU Ecolabel

Origin | Turkey

Packaging | paper bag, no additional plastic wrapping

Color | white

Size | S-small

  • plus

    lightweight

  • plus

    airy

  • minus

    gets many wrinkles - not easy to iron them

  • minus

    see-through

  • minus

    looks cheap

We got initially very confused when unpacked this dress: we realized it would be hard to test it as a casual everyday item. It’s very short and lightweight,  so our tester decided to give it a “beach drive”. We were very happy about the fact that this dress is made of 100% certified and sustainable viscose, yet the garment didn’t perform well in terms of overall quality and durability. It looks cheap and low-quality. Generally, it’s questionable how many summer seasons it would last.

"My first thought? Where am I going to wear this tiny dress?! But then I went on a trip near the sea and I started wearing it as a beach dress. I loved how breezy it is, but unfortunately it soon got a brown stain that is impossible to remove or whiten. I will most probably not be able to use it or donate it because it looks really damaged. That’s such a pity because the material is great in terms of sustainability." - Natalia, Moincoins Social Media Manager

#3 H&M Draped Dress

H&M Draped Dress
priceLabel
$24.99
H&M icon

Overall score 3.4/5

Materials

4/5

 

Certifications

0/5

 

Product information

4/5

 

Durability

5/5

 

Quality

4/5

 

This product was purchased in October 2021 and is not available anymore. Explore the H&M Conscious Choice collection to find similar products.

Collection | Conscious Choice

Fabric | 92% recycled polyester, 8% spandex

Textile Certifications | no certifications

Origin | Cambodia

Packaging | paper bag, recyclable plastic wrapping

Color | black

Size | S-small

  • plus

    elegant

  • plus

    kept its shape and fit

  • plus

    careful sewing and straight cuts of the material

  • minus

    very thin and see-through

  • minus

    leaves lower body part exposed

  • minus

    the zipper's ending created a little tail when the dress slipped up

The H&M dress made of 92% recycled polyester is a good choice for a date dress. It’s elegant, classy and sexy at the same time. We tested it with multiple outfits and liked how it performed. It felt like a high-quality and durable piece. No differences were reported after a couple of laundries even though the material is very thin. What would be certainly great to see is a textile certification for recycled polyester.

"It's such an elegant piece that I had trouble finding occasions to wear it when working from home and rarely going out. It's a perfect option for a date night when you don't want to reveal too much skin, yet look sexy. The material is so thin that it reveals your underwear so I usually had to wear it with shaping tights to smooth out the look of my bottom. The description of the dress on the H&M website is very detailed, but also confusing. If 92% of shell material is recycled polyester, but 100% of lining is from regular polyester, how much of the end product is actually from recycled materials? It seems to me like H&M split those layers to brag that 92% is recycled when it's actually not the case." - Alicja, Moincoins CEO

#4 Guess Eco Eden Wrap Dress

Guess Eco Eden Wrap Dress
priceLabel
$98.00
GUESS icon

Overall score 2.0/5

Materials

0/5

 

Certifications

0/5

 

Product information

0/5

 

Durability

5/5

 

Quality

5/5

 

This product was purchased in October 2021 and is not available anymore. Explore the Guess Eco collection to find similar products.

Collection | Guess Eco

Fabric | 90% polyester, 10% spandex

Textile Certifications | no certifications

Origin | Indonesia

Packaging | paper box and additional plastic wrapping

Color | black

Size | S-small

  • plus

    kept its initial shape, fit and measurements

  • minus

    generic and misleading product information

  • minus

    pure polyester composition

We truly believe that this item shouldn’t be a part of the Guess Eco collection. The brand claims on the website that the item contains recycled components, yet we couldn’t find any concrete information to justify this statement. What’s more, according to the dress' inner label, the fabric is made of 90% polyester and 10% spandex. Therefore we couldn’t do anything else than give it zero points for materials, certifications and product information. Even though the dress performed well during testing, we strongly doubt its sustainability.

"Definitely not my style of dress. However, I find the quality and durability pretty good since the dress kept its initial shape, fit and color after testing. The biggest problem is that I don’t really see the reason why this dress is part of the Eco collection since it doesn’t precisely describe the sustainability of the materials." - Natalia, Moincoins Social Media Manager

Methodology

How Did We Pick the Brands and Items?

It all started with a major fast fashion market research. We were able to pick four brands that in our opinion represent the industry very well. Pull&Bear, H&M, Guess and Zara are among the best selling U.S. retailers and all have eco collections. Another important fact is that two out of four brands (Zara and Pull&Bear) are part of the Inditex Group, which is the biggest fast fashion company in the world.

Then to select sample dresses we used online shops' navigation and filters for sustainable collections. We analyzed the overall visibility of these items as well as their prices and were able to make our choice that stands for the values and ideas each brand wanted to implement in its eco collection. 

How Did We Test?

Each product was tested extensively so that the results can provide you with a valuable and authentic review. All sample items were ordered in October 2021 and got delivered to us after a couple of days. The testing period started at the beginning of November 2021 from assigning the items to the testers. The entire testing process lasted over three months, including the evaluation and scoring period. During this time we measured and took photos of each garment. Our testers wore the dresses as many times as possible, washed and ironed them a minimum of five times and treated them the same way as their own. 

Additionally, we exposed every item to different conditions, including sunnier and colder places, to give you a wider spectrum of their long-term durability and quality and ensure safer results. The goal was to understand how each garment responds over the course of time in terms of shrinking, wearing or washing out, losing shape, stretching out, fading color and more. We followed all suggested handling instructions and washed sample dresses in a low-temperature program without a tumble dryer due to the delicacy of the fabrics. They were ironed in low heat settings, according to the handling instructions of the inner label. 

Product information was another factor we paid attention to. We looked at how precisely the sustainability aspect was described and how extensive the information about the production process was. We cross-checked the online information with labels on the garments to see if any of the brands attempted greenwashing. 

Last but not least, we checked whether each item carried any textile certificates. Those are valid proof of sustainability and certainly an added value since they guarantee some higher standards were kept during the manufacturing process.

All products were tested within our international company. We are five eco-conscious women, living in Europe and the U.S., sharing similar ideas about a more sustainable future. To learn more about our testers you can check out our about us page

How Did We Rate?

Materials

Material sustainability is a crucial aspect for any fashion item to be considered somehow eco-friendly. The dresses we ordered are considered to be more sustainable alternatives to regular items the brands have on offer. Our winner product in this category is Zara’s Short Dress, which is made of 86% lyocell. Its certified biobased fibers  help maintain the environmental balance by being fully compostable and biodegradable. It’s one of the best options in terms of the sustainability of the fabric, yet we hesitated to give full points because the composition wasn’t fully sustainable. Same case with the H&M dress - we appreciated the effort of using 92% recycled polyester but the remaining 8% left us no choice but to deduct one point. We scored the full five points for Pull&Bear summer dress. This garment is made of 100% EcoVero certified viscose, which is a more sustainable version than traditional viscose. It’s made from wood pulp and can be fully decomposed within a few months after a proper disposal. Unfortunately, the dress from Guess was a true disappointment for us. Despite the website description stating that the item contains recycled fibers, we couldn’t find any further information about the exact percentage of recycled fibers in the fabric. Therefore, we scored Guess with zero points for materials sustainability.

Textile Certifications

During our research, we looked into textile certifications and scored the garments that carried any of those accordingly. The brand that achieved the ultimate score on this criterion is Pull&Bear. The EcoVero viscose is certified by the EU Ecolabel for meeting strict environmental standards in its production process. EcoVero is also a trademark fabric made of sustainable wood from controlled sources. 

Zara comes in second place scoring three points for using lyocell in its fabric blend. Yet, the percentage of more eco-friendly materials affected our rating. Even though lyocell is certified, the percentage of it wasn’t enough to score more than three points for this criterion. Both H&M and Guess didn’t score any points for textile certifications.

Product Information

As part of our testing process, we also looked into the product information provided on the website. We scored three out of four dresses equally due to their detailed and informative product descriptions. H&M, Zara and Pull&Bear were given four points each since they provided all relevant information about the production process, origin and sustainability standards of every item. However, this was not the case for the Guess dress. We scored it with zero points because we realized that the information written on the website didn’t really match with the inner label on the item itself. It was very generic and had no insights into the material composition. We also lacked additional information about the product, such as manufacturing details, place of origin, working conditions or any other details that could justify why this dress belongs to the Guess Eco collection.

Durability 

We checked the overall durability of the dresses and were quite satisfied with the results. Two out of four dresses (H&M and Guess) received the ultimate five points, due to the fact that no major differences were noticed after five washes. Both garments kept their initial condition and measurements. 

The Zara Shirt Dress scored four points, because it was questionable to our tester how long this item will last because the material is very thin. Our last comment is about the Pull&Bear dress. The item scored only two points since the material looks very thin and cheap. Our tester is sure it wouldn’t make it to the next summer season.

Quality

Another very important aspect of this research was checking and evaluating the overall quality of every garment. For this criterion Guess was the only dress that scored five points and received great feedback. It still looks perfect after multiple times of washing, ironing and wearing it. 

Dresses from Zara and H&M also got good reviews. Zara’s dress remained soft, breathable and lightweight after testing, making it a great choice for the warmest days. It is also a very practical item that doesn’t wrinkle much and therefore needs no extra ironing. In the case of the H&M dress, the material is quite delicate, very thin and a bit see-through. The double-layer doesn’t cover the lower part of your body, which means that you feel a bit more exposed while wearing it. However the sewing is very good, there were no loose endings, and the cuts of the material were made with quality. 

Last comes the Pull&Bear dress, where the overall quality didn’t convince us. The material shrunk, it looked cheap after laundry and there were some stains that wouldn’t come off no matter how hard we tried.

Our Key Test Findings

In general, we noticed that the differences between the first, the second and the third dress were insignificant. This is also reflected in our scores of 3.8 for Zara, 3.6 for Pull&Bear and 3.4 for H&M. This means that all sample dresses got medium performance results. 

What’s important to highlight though is that the worst dress (Guess) is also the most expensive product in the overall testing costing us $98.00 for a piece. Even though the product got great reviews in terms of quality and durability, it also scored three zeros on sustainability, certifications, product information and overall transparency. 

We know that there’s still a lot to improve in the fashion industry. There’s no perfect fabric or manufacturing process that checks all the boxes in terms of sustainability but there are many things a brand can do to lessen its ecological footprint. We hope to see bigger improvements in the near future.

Wait! Here is more

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Dresses Does the Average Woman Own?

According to Lifestylefifty, 41.4% of women answered that they own 10-20 dresses in total. The study didn’t conduct what kind of dresses women own, but let’s assume that it’s a variety of different ones. Cocktail dresses, summer dresses, knitted dresses, little black ones, ball gowns and so on. There is no shame in having many beautiful dresses, just keep in mind that every item you buy has an ecological footprint. So choose carefully, look out for quality, buy only what you need and keep it for a longer time.

How to Find Dresses That Won’t Stick To My Skin?

We all want lightweight, airy and breathable dresses during summer time. But there are many airtight, synthetic materials that either have too-tight silhouettes or irritate the skin on scorching humid days. Lenzing EcoVero is one of the fabrics we’d recommend looking out for. It’s by default EU Ecolabel, it has a lower impact on natural resources than conventional viscose. EcoVero material is very gentle, soft, flowy and on top of everything, it supports the body's thermoregulation and is biodegradable.

Are Linen Dresses Sustainable?

A linen dress is definitely a more sustainable alternative to a synthetic-based one. Linen is derived from the flax plant, which is also known as linseed. Compared to other plants, linen production (organic or regular) requires considerably fewer natural resources, including 60% less water in comparison to conventional cotton, energy, pesticides or fertilizers. Linen is an increasingly trendy material, dresses made of it are gentle to the environment and the skin. If you want to learn more about other sustainable fabrics make sure to check out our guide.

Sources 

  1. H&M
  2. Guess 
  3. Pull&Bear 
  4. Zara