Describing your Dream Dress
Bridal Fashion Terminology – Part 1
Like gowns themselves, fabrics have levels of formality. Wedding dresses are typically made of the more formal fabrics, although some aren’t (a cotton sateen sure would make for a comfy dress!). There are two parts to naming a fabric, the fiber and the weave. The fiber is the actual material the fabric is made of, in bridal usually Silk, Rayon, or Polyester. Other common fibers (but less common in bridal) are Cotton, Linen, Wool, Viscose, and Spandex. The other part of naming a fabric is the weave (or knit, although the following materials are not knits.) The weave describes how the fiber is put together to make a fabric, and has a greater impact on how the fabric looks than the fiber content. For instance, a Polyester Satin and a Silk Satin will look very similar, but a Polyester Satin and a Polyester Chiffon couldn’t look more different. Below are the most common materials used in bridal, along with brief descriptions of each.
Tulle : Picture a ballerina. She’s wearing a skirt made of netting, the same netting usually used for veils. This fabric is tulle, and is usually described as soft and ethereal. Sometimes tulle is stiffer, especially when used as crinoline (layers of poof) under a large dress, but it is always sheer and almost always layered. Not all tulles are created equal, and pay attention to how the tulle on a dress you’re considering feels before you purchase. If you have sensitive skin, you will want to make sure the tulle is soft and won’t cause redness after several hours of wear.
Chiffon : If you’re picturing a soft grecian look, then Chiffon is the fabric for you. Chiffon is also sheer, though not as sheer as tulle. It pleats and ruches beautifully, also making it a popular choice for bridesmaid dresses and beach weddings. It “drapes” much softer than Tulle or Organza, meaning it falls straighter to the ground. If comfort and ease of movement are your top priorities, consider a chiffon gown.
Organza : Also a sheer fabric, organza has more body than it’s oft-confused counterpart, chiffon. It is stiffer, has an ethereal or “floating” quality to it, and generally has a touch of shimmer to it that organza lacks. Organza is often used as one of the layers underneath a tulle ballgown to add more depth to the dress. It also creates beautiful texture much better than chiffon or tulle. If you want your dress to have a lot of movement or texture, Organza will be the fabric to look out for.
Lace : One of the most popular bridal fabrics today thanks in part to the Duchess of Cambridge, Lace has been synonymous with bridal since the 1840’s. Lace has so much variety, and the names of the types of lace are based on the locations where that style originated. The most common are Alençon, Guipure, Chantilly, and Point D’esprit. (for a more thorough education on lace, check out this Wikipedia entry ). Lace is very delicate, and can be torn easily, therefore it often requires a heavier fabric like a satin or a crêpe as a backing. Lately lace has been used to create the illusion of lace floating on skin, usually done by stitching a lace appliqué to a very fine tulle.
Satin: The first of our solid fabrics, Satin is hugely popular in bridal. It has a lovely lustre to it, and is often accidentally referred to as “silk.” Silk satin is the best kind of satin, but is quite expensive and delicate. Polyester satin is much more common, and still feels delightfully soft to the touch. Polyester Satin also has a strength to it that makes it an excellent backing material for something softer like lace or lots of beading. If you’re looking for that va-va-voom glamorous dress that is ruched in all the right places, look no further than a satin fit-to-flare.
Charmeuse : Similar to satin, charmeuse is shiny and soft. Charmeuse, however, has a much more slippery quality to it than satin, and doesn’t have the weight to it that a good solid satin does. When you picture a gatsby-style slip gown or a sexy underdress, it is probably Charmeuse. What this means is that Charmeuse is your second most comfortable choice next to Chiffon, but it also means that there will be no hiding the “sins.” Charmeuse is clingy and unforgiving. If you are confident in your body and want to show it off, then by all means choose that daring, dreamy gastby-esque Charmeuse sheath.
Taffeta : Taffeta is the most conservative of our solid materials. Taffeta has a sheen to it, but lacks the soft lustre of Satin. It has body like organza does, and makes noise when it rubs against itself. It is perfect for well-tailored gowns and ruching, as it holds onto a crease like nobody’s business. If you’re looking for a structured, architectural gown, go for Taffeta.
Dupioni : Usually made of silk, but like satin, Polyester Dupioni is just as lovely and a bit more sturdy than its silk counterpart. It has a similar sound and sheen to taffeta, but it has natural “slubs” in the fabric, giving it a rustic character that taffeta lacks. Dupioni is also a popular choice for more structured bridesmaids dresses or for those looking for a more off-beat style of dress.