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Choosing the Right Fabrics for Your Dress

Published on May 1, 2012 . Blog, Issue 51
Illustration by Kristen Henton

Illustration by Kristen Henton

The choices of wedding dresses are vast – A-line or mermaid? Princess or empire silhouette? Circular or gathered skirt? What’s more, when shopping for the very important wedding piece, you’ll also need to take into account the fabric that will make up your frou- frou frock.

Yes, even the fabric can be a big decision. No doubt about it: the same dress made up of different materials is two different gowns. The fabric a bride selects helps to convey her mood, her style, and even her comfort level. From the warmth of velvet to the coolness of satin, the fabric, as well as the gown, has to reflect the individuality of the bride.


Silk Duchess Satin: This fabric always sets the bar high for satin. It has a high sheen and richness that in satins, is unparalleled. Also referred to as silk-faced satin, this finish weighs less than traditional silk finishes and is usually less expensive. Most Duchess satins are a blend of silk and rayon woven into a satin finish.

Polyester Satins: A variety of today’s gowns are manufactured using one form of this polyester or another. Much of its popularity comes from its inexpensiveness when compared to the costs of other fabrics. If possible avoid a gown that is made with a polyester satin that is too thin or too shiny. It will simply not do your gown justice.

Acetate Satins: Unlike their polyester counterparts, acetate satins have a tendency to wrinkle. They also have a substantial shine to them. Acetate satins work nicely underneath laces or as accents when not a lot of it is showing.


One of the more expensive materials, this is called the “pearl of fabrics.” Silk has a shiny, very smooth surface. It’s appreciated not only for beauty but also durability. This airy material is the best option for a summer bridal gown. A downside is that silk creases fairly easily, but a quick once over with a hand-held clothes steamer can make it smooth as silk again.

Silk Shantungs and Dupionis: Silk shantungs and dupionis are the silks most often used in wedding gowns. These are great fabrics for the bride who wants a natural look. The primary difference between shantung and dupioni is that silk shantung uses a slightly heavier yarn. It also costs a little more.

Sheer Fabrics

Sheer fabrics help to portray a romantic, dreamy look. Some include:

Organza: Available in silk and polyester versions, organzas offer a distinct sheerness and stiffness. They’re great for full skirts when a bride is looking not only for a sheer look but additional body. Organza is also good for sleeves, backs and overlays.

Chiffon: This is a sheer fabric that drapes beautifully. A transparent, lightweight fabric finish, chiffon can be made from just about any fabric. It is often layered and has an unusual luster. It has soft, wonderful, romantic qualities that are hard to match in other fabrics.

Tulle: Veils and tutus are made from tulle and, in recent years, wedding gowns with tulle skirts have grown in popularity. The best of these gowns have six to twelve layers of tulle, which creates a very full, cloud-like skirt.

Batist: This is a delicate, sheer, plain-woven fabric. It is slightly thicker than cotton. A bride who wants a Victorian or vintage look may want to consider batiste fabric because of its “home-made” look and translucent texture.

Crepe: This is a light, thin fabric that is a traditional material for a mother-of-the-bride ensemble or a polished destination wedding dress. It has a heavier weight than most silks and a very fluid, beautiful drape.

Charmeuse: This is one of the most comfortable fabrics to wear, though not quite as lustrous as satin. It is expensive and must be handled with care: The material is prone to being scuffed or marked in addition to “looping” when it catches on things.

Taffeta: This is a very tightly woven, stiff, crisp fabric. Because of these properties, taffeta looks great on structured ball gown style wedding dresses. Taffeta makes “swooshing” noises as it rubs against itself, so most brides use taffeta sparingly in their wedding gowns.

The best test of any fabric is how it looks on you, the bride. Make sure it works with who you are, how you feel and the look you’re going for. Let the fabric, like the rest of the gown, be as individual as you are.