Your Gown: Fabric Glossary
Style, cut, texture, drape and season are all-important factors in determining the best fabric for a wedding gown. The same style dress can look and feel quite different in a variety of fabrics, since each material is designed to produce a distinct effect. Some fabrics cling to the body while others stand away. Some are cherished for their crispness, others for being light-as-air. Silk — a natural fibre that exudes an innate quality of refinement — is undoubtedly the most sought-after and cherished wedding dress material, noted for its resiliency, elasticity and strength.
Silk threads are woven to create various fabrics, including satin, a densely-woven silk notable for its super-lustrous gloss; duchesse satin, a blend of silk and rayon that is lighter and more affordable than pure silk satin; charmeuse, a lightweight silk satin with a more subdued lustre; and shantung, a low-sheen textured silk characterised by a rough, nubby quality. Then there are the gauzier, textured silks like chiffon, tulle and organza — all used in multiple layers for gown skirts since they are transparent but lightweight.
If all of the above is news to your ears, we’ve broken it down for you with this simple and easy to use glossary for when you are wedding dress shopping.
Batiste: A lightweight, soft, transparent fabric.
Brocade: A Jacquard-woven fabric with raised designs; traditionally popular for autumn and winter, now also worn in warmer weather.
Charmeuse: A lightweight, semi-lustrous soft fabric that is satin-like to the touch.
Chiffon: Delicate, sheer, and transparent — made from silk or rayon with a soft finish; often layered because of its transparency, making it popular for over-skirts, sheer sleeves and capes.
Crepe: A light, soft and thin fabric with a crinkled surface.
Damask: Similar to brocade with raised designs but woven in a much lighter weight.
Duchesse Satin: A lightweight hybrid of silk and rayon (or polyester) woven into a satin finish.
Dupioni: A finish similar to shantung but with thicker, coarser fibers and a slight sheen.
Faille: A structured, ribbed finish like grosgrain ribbon; usually quite substantial.
Gabardine: A tightly-woven, firm and durable finish, with single diagonal lines on the face.
Georgette: A sheer, lightweight fabric often made of polyester or silk with a crepe surface.
Illusion: A fine, sheer net fabric, generally used on sleeves or necklines.
Jersey: A very elastic knit fabric; the face has lengthwise ribs and the underside has crosswise ribs.
Moire: A heavy silk taffeta with a subtle, wavy design.
Organdy: A stiff transparent fabric.
Organza: Crisp and sheer like chiffon, with a stiffer texture similar in effect to tulle but more flowing; popular for skirts, sleeves, backs and overlays.
Peau de Soie: A soft satin-faced, high-quality cloth with a dull lustre, fine ribs and a grainy appearance.
Pique: A knit fabric with a waffle-weave appearance, pique has distinct sides. The outside resembles a honeycomb or waffle and the underside is flat and smooth.
Polyester: An inexpensive man-made fibre that can be woven into just about anything, including duchesse satin.
Rayon: Similar to silk but more elastic and affordable.
Satin: A heavy, smooth fabric with a high sheen on one side; very common in bridal gowns.
Silk: The most sought-after, cherished fibre for wedding dresses (and also the most expensive); there are several types with different textures: raw silk and silk mikado are just two examples.
Silk Gazar: A four-ply silk organza.
Silk Mikado: A brand of blended silk, usually heavier than 100 per cent silk.
Silk-faced Satin: A smooth silk satin, with a glossy front and matte back.
Shantung: Similar to a raw silk, shantung is characterised by its rubbed texture.
Taffeta: Crisp and smooth, with a slight rib.
Tulle: Netting made of silk, nylon or rayon; used primarily for skirts and veils (think ballerina tutus).
Velvet: A soft, thick fabric with a felted face and plain underside.