With the advent of manmade materials, today’s bride has far more choices than her predecessors did when choosing the fabric for her wedding gown. The number of choices may be a bit overwhelming. Start by considering the time of year in which you’ll be married and whether your wedding will be indoors, or outdoors. You can eliminate some fabrics because they are too heavy for the summer, or too lightweight for the winter.
Next you can narrow your choices by price. Some fabrics are more expensive than their synthetic “twins.” Narrow your search even further if you know what style gown you want and suit the fabric to the style of the gown.
Last, but not least, consider the kind of wedding you’ll be having. If it’s to be a formal, indoor affair then you can choose a delicate fabric. But, if you’re having an outdoors, or informal wedding, you’ll be better off picking a fabric that doesn’t wrinkle easily and is not too delicate. There are pros and cons to every fabric, so I’m hoping that this article will give you the basics for when you are ready to shop for your dress.
BATISTE is a lightweight, soft, and transparent fabric in a plain weave.
BROCADE too is made from silk or synthetic fibers. What distinguished this very elegant fabric is that in that raised designs (known as jacquard) are woven into the fabric when it is woven. The resulting material is somewhat stiff and has great body. It is softer and lighter than satin, and is of medium weight. It’s best for: structured, A line, or column gowns.
CHARMEUSE is machine-woven from silk or synthetic fibers. It is frequently found in lingerie, because it is both lighter and softer than satin. It drapes well on the body, following the body’s contour. Generally, charmeuse is shiny on one side and matte on the reverse. It has a soft drape and is best for unstructured, flowing styles, empire, mermaid gowns. It’s very delicate and has an especially luxurious feel and rich look. It’s less expensive than silk satin, but more expensive than synthetic fabrics. Silk charmeuse, also sometimes referred to as “crepe backed satin” is a form of silk satin, but is very thin and floaty. This fabric is best worn in warmer months, but because of its unusually rich appearance, can also be worn in the winter.
CHIFFON is machine-woven from silk or synthetic fibers like nylon. It is soft, sheer, and transparent so, because of its ethereal quality, it is often used as the overlay on the gown’s skirt and is popular for sleeves, overskirts, and wraps and is often layered. Chiffon can be made from silk (more expensive) or rayon (more affordable). It has a soft, fluid drape and is best for overskirts, layered wedding, sheer sleeves, ballgown, and empire gowns. It is much less expensive than silk chiffon, is lightweight, and is available in just about any color. It does, however, wrinkle easily (not as much as silk) and is quite delicate.
POLYESTER CHIFFON is the most common type of chiffon in the bridal gown industry. It’s sheer, floaty, less expensive than silk chiffon, lightweight, and comes in any color. Unfortunately, it’s very delicate and wrinkles easily, albeit less than silk. This fabric is perfect in warmer months.
SILK CHIFFON , also known as silk mousseline or silk crinkle chiffon is very similar to synthetic chiffon. It is sheer, soft and very lightweight, but is very delicate, expensive, and some brides dislike it’s “raw” texture. It best worn in the warm months.
CREPE is a soft silk, acetate, or lightweight rayon fabric with a gauzy texture and a crinkled surface. It’s heavier than Georgette, has a soft drape and is a best-fit for flowing, soft silhouettes, ballgown, empire, and mermaid styles.
DAMASK is similar to brocade with raised designs, but lighter in weight. The pattern is the same color as the fabric, with a dull jacquard design. Its medium weight, semi-stiff and best for bodices, tailored wedding gowns, shrugs, jackets, A Lines, and columns.
DOTTED SWISS is a sheer, very lightweight, muslin fabric embellished with raised dots, evenly spaced throughout.
EYELET features open-weave embroidery> Breezy eyelet is typically associated with spring and summer.
FAILLE is a woven fabric of silk, cotton, or rayon, faille is a heavier fabric with a structured, ribbed finish. It’s a shiny, tightly woven fabric made of silk or rayon and has a crosswise rib effect.
GABARDINE is a tightly woven, tough fabric with a durable finish and single diagonal lines on the face, gabardine is often used to make suits, overcoats, and trousers.
GEORGETTE is a sheer, lightweight fabric, georgette is made of polyester or silk with a crepe surface. It’s light and floaty, perfect for a top layer and forms a soft silhouette. It’s best for layered wedding gowns, ballgowns, empire and mermaid styles.
ILLUSION is a fine, sheer net fabric, typically used on necklines or sleeves.
JERSEY is an elastic knit fabric which has lengthwise ribs on the face and crosswise ribs on the underside.
KNITS are comfortable and stable enough to hold a tailored shape. The surface is matte and it’s made from various fibers including wool, polyester, and rayon, blends. Its medium weight and has a soft drape which makes it best for tailored suits.
LACE, which can be woven from silk or cotton, comes in several different kinds of weaves including, for example, Chantilly embroidered.
MOIRE is a heavy silk taffeta noted for a subtle, wavy design. It is usually made of a polyester or silk taffeta patterned to glisten like water when seen in defused light.
ORGANZA/ORGANDY is also woven from silk or synthetic fibers such as polyester or nylon. Its weave is what gives it its unique quality. The process is called plain-weave, a technique in which the fibers are crisscrossed. The resulting fabric is sheer and “crunchy” and comes in either a shiny, or sparkly finish. Organza is basically a stiffer chiffon, just as sheer, but not a “floaty.” Its luxurious and lightweight which makes it perfect as a sheer fabric for top layer or inserts. The drape is crisp and it’s best for layered gowns, veils, trains, fully-l layered skirts, ballgowns, or column-style gowns. It does, however, wrinkles easily. It’s also very delicate, and tends to be on the expensive side. It’s best suited for warmer months, but can be worn at anytime of the year.
POINT D’ESPRIT is a polyester net with the yarns sewn together in such a way as to create a diamond pattern.
POLYNET is the netting most often used to make yokes and sleeves. Schiffli embroidery is often found on this net and it is popular to attached beaded and sequined appliques as well.
POLYESTER is an inexpensive synthetic fiber that can be woven into almost any fabric. Albeit Polyester has a bar reputation as people recall the polyester suits of the 70’s, polyester has come along way since then and has become a versatile and probably the most common fabric used in the bridal industry. Polyester satin, for example, is very common and looks much like its expensive “sister,” silk. Its pros are that it’s’ more wrinkle resistant, less delicate and more durable than silk satin and comes in any number of colors. Its cons are that it doesn’t quite look, or feel quite like silk satin. Because it’s heavy, it can be hot to wear and is best worn in the Fall, winter or spring.
RAYON is a smooth manufactured fabric that is similar to silk, but more elastic and affordable.
SATIN is obtained from natural (silk) or synthetic fibers (nylon). What distinguishes it is that satin has a high thread count that comes from using many layers of fiber. Silk satin is the most traditional of wedding gown fabrics.
DUCHESS SATIN, PEAU DE SOIE, BRIDAL SATIN is much like satin and is obtained from woven silk. It can be woven from synthetic fibers. Its very high thread count makes it a heavier fabric that works well in the winter, albeit it is used in other seasons as well. It has a dull lustrous, rich, buttery soft finish, fine ribs, a grainy appearance and a dull back. It’s of medium weight and a semi stiff drape, making it best for tailored silhouette, simple formal wedding gowns, a base for embellishments, A Line, ballgown, column, and mermaid gowns. Although it’s considered by most to be the most luxurious of all fabrics, it is also one of the most expensive, as much for example as three times as much as silk taffeta. It’s also not as durable as poly satin and somewhat heavier than some other fabrics. Because silk can’t be bleached without ruining the integrity of the fabric, it cannot be made in pure white, which is the case for all silk fabrics. Its qualities make it best to be worn in cooler months, but it’s really perfect at anytime of the year.
ITALIAN SATIN is a heavier satin fabric, brimming with body, featuring an antique sheen.
SLIPPER SATIN is a light, soft, closely woven, satiny feeling fabric that shines in the light.
PEACH SATIN is a smooth, finely woven micro fiber fabric obtained from silk or polyester. Its smooth, soft surface gives it a medium weight and a soft drape. It’s best for empire line and column.
SHANTUNG is a plainly woven silk, polyester, or cotton fabric. It’s noted for its rubbed, rough texture. It’s like dupion with a textured surface that may be satin backed. It’s a medium weight with a stiff drape and is best for tailored, A Line, ballgown, and column gowns. The pros of this fabric are that it is fairly lightweight, it both looks and feels rich, is run in many bright colors, and it keeps its volume without necessitating lots of crinolines underneath it. Its cons are that it wrinkles easily, is on the expensive end of the spectrum and, some brides don’t like the “raw” feel.
SILK is a soft material that gives off a muted shine. Silk comes from fiber that is obtained from the cocoon of the silkworm. The fiber is spun into thread and woven into cloth. What’s amazing is that the same thread can be woven in several fabrics that include satin, taffeta, organza, chiffon, lace, and tulle. Silk is still the most popular gown material.
SILK GAZAR is a four-ply silk organza.
SILK MIKADO is a blended silk that is usually heavier than regular silk.
DUPION I silk has a similar finish to shantung, but with a thicker, nubbier, coarser finish and a slight sheen. In Dupioni silk the yarns are “slubbed,” which means the thickness of the fabric is inconsistent. Available in many colors, it’s heavier and stiffer than satin, so best for structured styles, suits, jackets, A Line, ballgown, or column gowns. The fabric will keep its volume without lots of crinolines underneath, but it winkles easily, is relatively expensive and some brides don’t like its “raw” texture. Duponi and shantung can be worn at anytime of year.
SHANTUNG is woven from short waste threads, possessing natural knots on a smooth surface.
TAFFETA is obtained from woven silk, nylon, acetate, and/or other synthetic fibers like polyester. The stiffer the taffeta, the higher its quality. The way to judge its quality is to crinkle it up in your hands. If it stays crunched it’s of a higher quality than if it “reverts” to being flat, then it’s of a lesser quality. It’s interesting to note that, unlike other synthetics, some synthetic taffetas are actually of a better quality than silk taffeta, The fabric looks ribbed (moire) with a dull, or a light sheen. It’s best suited for the lining, or the outer fabric of a gown with wide skirts, and/or structured silhouette such as A Lines, ballgowns, and column. It has many pros. It’s lightweight, looks good even if it gets a bit wrinkled, and can be produced in almost every color. Because of the weaving process, it can be produced in iridescent colors that often appear as two-tone. Finally, it’s also very durable. The synthetic varieties can sometimes, but not always, prove to be not as pricey as silk. Because of the way it’s woven it can come in iridescent, almost two-tone in color. Its cons are that it’s not as luscious as satin and it does “make noise” when the wearer walks, something that some brides don’t like.
Its pros are that it’s lightweight, looks good when wrinkled a bit, comes in any color, is quite durable and can sometimes be less expensive than silk. It’s not, however, as lustrous as satin, and the “swishing” is irritating to some brides. Its qualities make it best to be worn anytime, because it’s rich enough for the winter and lightweight enough for the summer.
TULLE refers to the net-like, shear, gauzy material that is mainly used for the gown’s lining. It is also widely used for bridal veils, petticoats and found in layers covering a full satin skirt, but is also used in the making of gowns themselves. It’s unique because it’s available in different weights and stiffness. Obtained from silk or nylon, it’s lightweight, fairly inexpensive, and hides wrinkles fairly well. It’s very delicate and some brides find it too “poofy” and not as luxurious looking as other fabrics. It may be worn at anytime of year.
TULLONET is a coarse net used to give fullness such as seen in crinoline slips.
VELVET is a soft, thick fabric made of silk, cotton, rayon, or acetate that has a felted face that’s plain on the reverse. Softer than velveteen, its heavy weight makes it an ideal winter fabric that’s best suited to a soft silhouette, full skirt, A Line, ballgown, column, or mermaid style gown.
ZIBELINE is woven from straight fibers, all laid in a single direction, which produces a shiny nap.