The Wedding Dress - Materials

The fabric you choose for your dress will be a determining factor in the style and silhouette of the dress and will be crucial to the final effect.

From classic chiffon to sheer organza, dupion silk, duchesse satin, crepe de Chine, there is a vast range of sumptuous fabrics linked with the bridal dress. Fabrics will never cease to be a source of creativity and originality for all designers and dressmakers who aim at producing the perfect dress that feels as wonderful as it looks.

The essential decision to make before anything else is what kind of material will it be Synthetic or natural? As beautiful as it can be, synthetic material encourages perspiration. Nothing is better, for a special outfit, than natural fibres such as silk, linen, cotton that 'breathes' - all the better since appropriate treatments will prevent them from creasing. Be aware that if you opt for silk, which is very often the case, a big, floaty, gossamer dress should be cut in heavy natural silk whereas a sheath should be in muslin or Organza. Be aware, too ?as if we needed to tell you - that the price depends greatly on the quality and preciousness of the fabric.

Fashion has less impact on wedding dresses, as you will follow your own feelings when choosing the dress that matches your personality but as styles, materials and colours might vary according to the seasons, themes of the wedding, material such as Dupion silk or duchess satin will never cease to be fashionable.

But not all women were born fashion designers and consequently the names of various materials might end up sounding like gibberish to any bride to be, so to facilitate your search, here follows a list of the most popular fabrics.

Do not get overwhelmed by the wide range of choices. Take the time to read the list through and you will soon become familiar with all different names and textures. Some are more popular than others but you might like to have more options available so you can be more assured in your choice.

It is after all quite straight forward. Of all, silk has stayed the most popular choice through the decades. Silk can be spun into thread of various thicknesses and woven into fabric of different weights and appearance. From silk are produced many variations: some staying with the essence of elegant simplicity in a sober plain style, others adding embroidery or intricate lace; some lighter, some heavier, according to the style of the dress; for instance a heavier weight fabric such as duchess satin will hang better and will be less prone to creasing whence a light weight fabric such as crepe de Chine will drape well in its fluidity.

Silk is a soft fabric with a shining gloss and as well as being one of the finest textiles, it can also be very hard wearing. Luxurious, it drapes and tailors very well.

Various processes and weaving methods have produced diverse types of silk, each one being unique. Those different types can also be combined in one style for a better effect. You will no doubt recognise the following kinds of silk in the make of wedding dresses.


Brocade is a rich heavier exquisite fabric whose intricate weaving forms a raised design, usually created with gold or silver threads on a satin weave background. For example the ideal choice of fabric for a typical eighteenth-century gown will be a brocade or damask for the skirt and bodice with a brocade pattern bodice.

Charmeuse is a well-liked lightweight soft fabric, which drapes beautifully. It is very smooth and has a semi-lustrous satin finish on one side and a dull finish on the other side. Body and drape are excellent for dresses.

Chiffon is a fine extremely sheer plain woven silk with a dull finish and a soft drape. It is a very lightweight airy feminine fabric but very strong and which is often layered as very transparent as shown by the photo of this elegant flowing medieval style gown with a chiffon overlay and long poet sleeves in the same chiffon. Veils will very often be made of chiffon.

China Silk is a typical silk type in the sense that it is extremely soft and lightweight but very hard wearing at the same time.


Crepe is surprisingly lightweight and very fluid fabric whose highly twisted fibres give a smooth shapable fabric that produce an excellent drape. This versatile silk makes up nicely in dresses, blouses.

Crepe Back Satin, top of the line silk, is very lustrous in a similar way to charmeuse but heavier and more sumptuous. It is a soft reversible satin fabric; satin weave shiny on the face and crepe effect on the back that shows a fine rib and a slightly grainy surface. Often this material is being dyed and both sides of the fabric can be used with very attractive results. If the crepe side is seen on the face and the satin on the back, the fabric is called satin back crepe. Both sides work very well for textural effects. The manner in which this fabric hangs freely and its marvellous smooth touch work very well with the simple yet very stylish empire-style gowns and makes it a fabulous choice for bridal wear.

Crepe de Chine is as you might guess by its name a silk material from China. Light and considerably lustrous, it has a soft feel, ideal for a romantic occasion and blouse/tunique style dresses which need to flow and hang well to produce the best effect.

Damask similar to brocade, this material with a woven raised design is of a lighter weight.


Duchess satin, this heavy and rigid fabric, woven with very fine yarns is very popular for wedding dresses. Dazzling and adaptable, it appeals immediately to designers. It has a marvellous gloss and a smooth touch and is easily recognisable by its ridged appearance on back. It is often used for traditional wedding dresses, such as the princess-line style, which requires a certain quantity of firmness for the flared shape to bear well. It may be combined with other materials, such as very fine tulle or silk muslin. On its own it can also be used for sheath or empire dress.

Dupion silk. Here follows a brief history of the origin behind the dupion silk, if you did not know it already. Different from silk which is obtained from single cocoons produced by silkworms, dupion silk is made form the thread of double cocoons and takes its name form the Italian word 'doppione' which as you might guess now means double. It is a plain-woven lightweight textured fabric from yarns, which is very irregular, and consequently shows on its surface many slubs but in a subtle linen-look way. It is a treat for the dressmaker to work with and has seen the creation of stunning designer dresses. It has a very special rustle and a marvellous brilliance. It also responds beautifully to dye.

Faille is crosswise, finely ribbed woven fabric. It belongs to the family of gros grain pattern but faille is the most delicate in this range. It has a beautiful lustrous finish. It is smooth and drapes well as being a heavier material and consequently it is well suited for full ball gowns.

Georgette crepe silk. You might wonder why such a name. Well, the simple explanation lies behind the influence of Madame Georgette who was a fashionable French dressmaker during the last century. It is a sheer lightweight fabric, with some body and firmness. It is slightly heavier than chiffon but softer and less transparent. It has a fine hardly noticeable crepe surface with a matt finish and the twisted crepe fibres from which georgette is made of give the fabric a stretchy property that makes it seen to move on its own. This material wears very well and can produce a very elegant look.


Mousseline de Soie, silk muslin is a plain-weave lightweight sheer fabric not unlike chiffon although the process of sizing used on this material gives silk muslin a beautiful crisp texture.

Organza is also a plain thin weave sheer lightweight crisp fabric but its stiffness in this case unlike muslin comes from natural substances held in the fibres. Unusually it can also be used for veils.

Silk Satin Organza - is a marvellous light version of organza with a satin finish and a fullness and suppleness unmet in other similar silk satins. Although it is more costly, its qualities make it well worth the higher price. Zibeline or organzine satiné is another name used in the fashion design world for this material.

Peau de Soie from the French literally means 'skin of silk'. This is a soft heavy twill ribbed drapeable satin-weave fabric of very good quality. It shows a grainy appearance a dull lustre finish that has proven to be more enhancing on most body shapes and sizes than high lustre satins. This finely corded silk can be used on both sides and drapes splendidly.


Satin. We often hear talking the expression a ?satin finish?, this is because satin is a very closely woven fabric which shows a soft highly glossy appearance on one side. Satin has been one of the favourite fabric for centuries due to its qualities and its characteristics, its touch and its varieties, from the sheer charmeuse, noted at the beginning of this glossary, to the stiffer duchess satin.

Shantung taking his name from a province of China where it was imported to Britain in the 19th century, this type of raw silk presents an uneven surface, rough and heavier with irregular knots thorough the fabric. Its quality is variable. It has a tendency to crease but its glimmering texture will not fail to draw everyone's attention.

Taffeta is a plain-weave light fabric from a Persian origin, with a shining surface and is characterised by its very fine grain and its rustling sound. This lustrous stylish fabric has a crisp and rigid texture, which is often used for full flared skirts. This was demonstrated by Lady Diana Spencer who opted for a full-blown romantic style ivory silk taffeta wedding dress when she married Prince Charles, dress that influenced hugely brides to be and designers for the years to come.

Thai Silk a smooth even fabric that works well with dresses that need a firm hold to give and maintain a solid structure as it has a rigid papery touch. It is nonetheless a fabric that hangs very well.


Tulle is a very fine delicate open-weave net fabric that takes its name from the French town of Tulle where it was originally created. Much used and popular for ballerina costumes and wedding veils or trains, this elegant very light, stiff and sheer fabric is also used for underskirts or skirts made of at least 4 layers with a ribbon trim. As tulle is not worn close to the body, in this circumstance it might be more appropriate to opt for the synthetic one. Two reasons: firstly silk tulle although softer is very expensive and also very fragile and needs fair amount of starch for it to hold well. As a very fine material it also needs quite a large amount of it as several layers will be necessary to create an impression of fullness. For all those reasons, nylon tulle might be a wiser choice as stronger and more rigid and less costly.

Velvet. 'A velvety feel' is often used to describe the softness of a fabric. Velvet is a soft thick close piled fabric. Medium to lightweight, it comes in various kinds, and qualities. It is very supple and has the appearance of soft plush and wears well. This luxurious and lustrous fabric drapes well and is a very good choice for a very special outfit. It also has the advantage of being of reasonable cost but might add weight to the silhouette.

Zibeline, named from a small furry animal found in Siberia, is satin weave soft piled wool from crossbred yarns with a long nap in a one direction

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