If you’ve even been anywhere near a bridal dress store yet, you’ll have heard the shop assistant nonchalantly throwing around fabric names: “Oh, this has an amazing silk organza overlay…” Instead of just smiling and nodding, read up on our fabric glossary to learn what you’re looking at, and discover exactly what you want. We also suggest the best fabrics to suit your body shape, and offer ways to play up your assets and disguise your less-than-favourite spots.
Batiste – Sheer soft and lightweight.
Brocade – A heavy jacquard-woven fabric incorporating a raised pattern. Often used for ornate detail and vintage styles. Avoid in hot climates.
Charmeuse – Satin-feel with a semi shine.
Chiffon – Transparent soft fabric of silk or rayon, often used as an overlay. Great in warm weather but not in structured ball gown styles.
Crepe – Thin and light with a crinkled surface. Used in slinky tight fitting styles.
Damask – Very similar to brocade but lighter.
Duchesse Satin – Usually a combination of silk and rayon or polyester, with a shiny finish. Used in dresses with structure.
Dupioni – Thick, rough textured fabric with a sheen.
Faille – Structured and substantial with a ribbed finish
Georgette – Lightweight and similar to crepe, made from silk or polyester Illusion – Fine net fabric, usually used as a trim.
Jersey – A more casual, stretchy, clingy knit fabric.
Lace – Delicate fabric in a web-like pattern created from yarn or thread. Ideal for most dresses except those with lots of seams.
Moire – Heavy with a wave design.
Organdy – Rigid sheer fabric.
Organza – Crisp but flowing and transparent, often used in skirts and overlays.
Polyester – Affordable man-made fabric, often used mixed with other fabrics.
Rayon – Like silk but cheaper and with better elasticity.
Satin – Heavy and smooth with a high shine finish on one side. Its shiny nature will draw attention so avoid using on heavy hips or thighs.
Silk – The most expensive fabric used in wedding dresses, with many different forms. Most are light and wear beautifully.
Silk Gazar – Four ply silk organza.
Silk Mikado – Blended silk that is heavier than pure silk.
Silk-faced Satin – Shiny fronted with a matte reverse.
Shantung – Much like raw silk but with a rubbed texture.
Taffeta – Slightly ribbed, crisp and smooth. Good for full skirts but tends to wrinkle easily.
Tulle – Crisp netted fabric made from silk, nylon or rayon Velvet – Heavy, felted and soft on the outside and plain on the reverse.
Playing up Your Assets
Tall brides are lucky enough to get away with most designs. Satin, linen and lace are great fabrics for these brides.
Tall slim brides can get away with close fitting, unstructured sheath dresses in georgette or crepe.
Luscious legs deserve to be flaunted, so why not go for a short skirt (with a longer train if you still want to be traditional) or a thigh high split?
Small waists will benefit from a natural waistline, instead of camouflaging them in an empire line or similar.
Smooth and blemish free backs will be best displayed in a dress with a low cut back.
Ideas for Illusions
Petite or short brides should opt for gowns featuring vertical seams or decorations to give the impression of height. They should stay away from heavy and knit fabrics, as this will weigh you down. These brides, and also those with small busts will suit an empire line. Consider chiffon or lace.
Large busts will look matronly in a Queen Anne neckline, and you might feel awkward and unsafe in a strapless dress. Choose an off the shoulder or open neckline instead.
Broad hips and large thighs will look great in an A-line or Princess shape, which will accentuate a small waist. For more formal settings, a ball gown shape is flattering on big hips too. Heavier brides will look great in chiffon, which camouflages weight beautifully.
Thin brides can wear a Mermaid style dress to give the impression of curves, and decorations like fabric tiers and ruffles will also give shape.
Fair-skinned beauties should avoid pure white so as not to look washed out. Those blessed with darker skin should avoid ivory or yellow tones.
Keep an open mind, as a dress will probably look completely different off the hanger than on.
Natural fibres are far more expensive and will crease much more than synthetic or blended fabrics, so keep this mind if you know you’ll be doing a lot of sitting or travelling in your dress.