I’m in love with the world of bridal fabrics. The sound of the names of the materials, how they look, how they feel. It’s actually kind of a magical experience to wander through a bridal shop, brushing past an amazing amount of gorgeous textures. A close second, for me, is reading descriptions of wedding dresses. For instance, here’s the Annabella gown by Samuelle Couture:

“Corseted bodice in parchment-tinted satin, with soft draped skirt in hand pleated silk tulle over silk charmeuse and chiffon. Hand cut French lace appliqué over bodice and upper skirt.”

The luxuriousness of the language of bridal fabric never fails to woo me. Sometimes though I’m a little unclear on one or two terms. Ok- I know what chiffon, silk and satin are, but what exactly is charmeuse? Well, for the rest of you who might be a little like me, today we’re going to break down a few terms you’ll come across in your wedding dress search.

Fabulous Bridal Fabrics

Samuelle Couture

Bridal Fabric Types

Batiste: A lightweight, plain weave fabric which is soft, semi-sheer and finished to feel like muslin. The material is used for handkerchiefs, light summer clothing and linings. It is named after a French linen weaver, Jean Baptiste. 

Brocade: The name of this material derives from the French word to ‘ornament’ and it will have a raised pattern. A Jacquard-woven fabric (see below) it is heavy, often used for drapery and sometimes for more elaborate wedding gowns. 

Charmeuse: A lighter and softer form of satin, this material has one lustrous side with the reverse a matte finish (like normal satin). The silk version is more expensive than the polyester one but better quality. Because it lacks structure but drapes well, it is often used on bias-cut wedding gowns (cut at a diagonal angle to the thread weave). 

Chiffon: A lovely choice for an outdoor wedding, chiffon is a light, breathable and translucent crepe fabric. First made from silk, chiffon is now manufactured from less costly materials such as wool or rayon. It is often layered in gown skirts or used as an overlay. 

Crepe: This material can be recognised by its crinkled or pebbled appearance. A light, soft and thin fabric, the textured surface is created by a combination of using twisted yarn which kinks in the weave and a chemical treatment which sets the kinks. Crepe de Chine is an even thinner, more sheer version of regular crepe. 

Bridal Fabric Types

Silk Mikado: Rex Fabrics

Damask: A lighter alternative to Brocade, this is another Jacquard woven fabric. It often features a reversible pattern and is used in heavier, more structured gowns. 

Double-Faced Satin: Like the name implies, this is satin with a sheen on both instead of just one side which normal satin has. It is heavier because of this and tends to be used on more expensive dresses.

Douppioni Silk: A textured silk material, this can be dyed easily and is often used for bridesmaid dresses.

Duchesse Satin: This is a heavier form of satin favoured by many high-end designers as the fabric is extremely rich and lustrous. 

Faille: A finely ribbed material, the ribs add some structure to this fabric. It’s often used in couture but also for bridesmaid dresses. 

Georgette: Similar to chiffon, georgette is a light, sheer material. It has a crepe, matte surface and a fluidity that lets it drape nicely but not hold shape very well. 

Illusion: A transparent, fine-mesh fabric, this generally has some stretch as well. You will have seen it used for ‘illusion backs’, on bodices and on sleeves. It is so thin sometimes you can hardly see it, hence the name. 

Jacquard: A “jacquard woven fabric” is one in which the design is woven into the material instead of being printed on afterwards. This makes it generally a bit heavier than other materials, and it will usually have either varying surfaces or colours incorporated into the design.

Bridal Fabric Types

 Lace: Paperlily Photography via Style Me Pretty | Crepe de Chine: Lyst

Organza: Most often used in overlays and skirts due to the material’s stiffness and ability to hold shape, organza is semi-sheer like chiffon, but with a stiffer texture. It’s a little rough like tulle, but more workable. You might come across it used as ribbon material and chair cover bows as well. 

Peau de Soie: A heavyweight satin, this material has a duller luster than regular satin but more weight. It is used quite often on bridal shoes and bags but is also used to make more high-end gowns.

Silk Gazar: This fabric is lighter than raw silk. It is like organza with an even better ability to hold its shape but is not sheer. It has a smooth surface and a subdued lustrous glow. 

Silk Mikado: Almost akin to raw silk but without as textured a surface, this elegant fabric has great structure and a lustrous sheen. It is much heavier than what we would normally call silk. 

Taffeta: A slightly stiff fabric, taffeta has an almost ribbed surface and a recognisable rustle when moved. It wrinkles easily but also has a lovely lustrous sheen. 

Tulle: Think of a ballerina’s tutu- tulle is a rough, net-like material and hence often used for veils and skirts rather than for bodices next to the skin. It creates volume wonderfully well in skirts but does not mix well with hosiery! 

Bridal Fabric Types

Chiffon: Jose Villa via Once Wed

Embellishments

To embellish a gown it’s not always necessary to apply something to the material. Gowns can be embellished by working with the material itself- for example ruching (making gathers in the cloth) can add texture and movement. If you do go for non-cloth embellishments such as beading with sequins, crystals, pearls or any other different surface type, make sure they are sewn or glued on individually to minimise nasty snagging accidents. A jeweled look can be created by adding sparkling embellishments to a dress with a sheer illusion back. Appliqués (fabric cutouts) are also sometimes sewn on for detail, or embroidery used directly to decorate the gown itself. Especially common on veils, border trims are created by using ribbon, braid, lace or scalloping the edges of material. Embellishments that hang off the gown create movement such as fringes or paillettes (larger hanging sequins).

Bridal Fabric Types

Raised Appliqué and Crystal Embellishment: Feather and Stone via Burnett’s Boards

Hope you enjoyed our crash course on bridal fabric types and embellishments. We’re back tomorrow with the most beautiful wedding from Switzerland!

7 Responses

  1. Sukey

    Great information and definitions – I’m sure this will help many navigate the choices. Love the beautiful examples you found, too!

    Reply
  2. Lauren

    I’m at a loss here. I’m in love with Bellagio Crepe dress with silk double crepe sleeves and train. I really want a colored dress. Can this fabric be dyed with nice results?

    Reply

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