Understanding Wedding Gown Fabrics

Last month I went wedding gown shopping with my niece, and it was exhausting.  She made two appointments – one in the morning and one in the afternoon at two local boutiques, and it seemed to me that she tried on every dress in each location.  When she arrived at the first location, the attendant asked her questions on cut and fabric preferences.  I had no trouble understanding what she was looking for when it came to cut, but when she started talking about fabrics, I admitted I was lost.  I had no idea what tulle was.

As fabric care specialists, Shores believes knowing the fabric of your gown is incredibly important, not only from a style and feel prospective, but also for dealing with stains and spills.  For instance, gowns made of natural fibers like silk, cotton, and linen absorb liquid spills, which will leave marks whereas many liquid spills roll right off synthetic fibers.  Plus, most wrinkles easily shake out of synthetic fibers. 

When shopping for a wedding gown, it’s important to have knowledge of the terms and their appearance so you can describe what you’re looking for to your specialist.  It will make shopping easier and more enjoyable.

Batiste is a lightweight, semi-sheer almost transparent cotton fabric with a lovely shine that’s best used in veils and overlays.  Typically used in spring and summer weddings, this fabric is easy to machine or hand-sew. 

Charmeuse, a soft, lightweight satin fabric, can be made from either silk or polyester. Because of the way it is woven, the front of the fabric has a smooth, shiny look while the back is dull. 

Because of its sheerness, Chiffon is often used in overlays, in layers, or as an accent.  Woven in silk or rayon, this lightweight fabric is perfect for spring or summer, but watch out because it is fragile and is prone to snagging and fraying.

With its gauzy, wrinkled look, Crepe fabric drapes well and can be used in a variety of dress styles worn year-round.  Crepe fabric can be made from soft silk or lightweight rayon; the most common type used in wedding gowns is Georgette.

Faille has a structured, ribbed finish and is typically woven from silk, cotton, or rayon.  It tends to be worn during cooler months and because of the way it is structured, it works well with tailored profiles.

Gazar, a fabric that works year-round, is known for its smooth finish and crisp look.  Because it holds its shape so well, it is best used in ballgown designs. 

When it comes to Lace, you’ll need to choose both type, Guipure, Alencon, or Chantilly, and pattern, geometric or floral.  Guipure is the heaviest fabric, resembles embroidery, and is better for winter weddings.  Alencon is thicker than Chantilly and uses cording.  Chantilly lace typically comes in floral patterns and is known for being quite delicate and flowy.  Most lace is woven from silk or cotton and is considered the most popular wedding dress fabric.

As a sheer and lightweight fabric, Organza gives the appearance of floating as the bride walks.  While it is traditionally made from silk, it can be made of synthetic fibers, and is perfect for layering to add fullness to skirts and trains without adding additional weight.  There is a downside to this fabric, however, as it is prone to snags. 

Polyester, a synthetic fabric that can be woven into almost anything, is a great alternative to silk because it has a similar look to silk without the delicateness and cost.  While it can be worn year-round, it’s not terribly breathable so the dress could get uncomfortable during an outdoor summer wedding.

Rayon, a semi-synthetic fabric that’s a more economical option over silk, is lightweight and breathable.  On the downside, it tends to easily wrinkle.

Silk is the most common fabric used in wedding gowns and is made from silkworm cocoons.  Silk comes in many different varieties including Shantung, a lightweight fabric known to have slight flaws.  It works well in spring and summer.  Dupioni silk is known for having a simple weave, a crisp look, and holds its shape well.

Satin is a particular type of weave, many times it is made of silk, that leaves a soft, shiny finish.  There are different weaves of satin, and the thicker the weave, the less likely it is to show wrinkles.  There are, however, downsides to having a satin wedding gown including the fact that it snags easily and is difficult to work with.

Taffeta is a crisp fabric that comes in a wide variety of colors and can be made from silk or synthetic fibers.  Because of its construction, taffeta is the perfect fabric for A-line dresses and full-skirted ballgowns.

Netting is a sheer fabric with many holes and can be used plan or with embellishments like beads or sequins.  The most well-known netting is Tulle, a sheer fabric that can be used to create a very full skirt, a veil, or draped over the bodice.      

While there are even more fabric options out there, we tried to share information on the most common.  Use this post as a starting point, then dig deeper before you begin trying on dresses.  It will make the shopping process much easier.  Once you find your dress, feel free to call on us if you have questions about its care, or if you need help with alterations.