Your Essential Fabric Guide
The material you pick for your wedding dress is just as important as the design, because it can either make you look fabulous or frumpy. Brush up on your knowledge of stretch, structure and sheen, with this list of common bridal fabrics.
It’s a delicate material that is extremely fine, soft, and opaque. It also doesn’t irritate sensitive skin.
– Made from: Cotton, wool, polyester, linen or blends.
– Wedding season: Excellent for summer as it’s thin, light and breathable.
– Good for: Smooth draping for the outer layers of dresses, gives volume under skirts, and creates vintage-style gowns.
– Bad for: Structured dresses, and it’s too thin on its own – it needs a lining.
This decadent fabric is thick, heavy and stiff, and it has an ornate, raised pattern that gives it a slightly oriental look. Add drama and elegance with gold or silver threads.
– Made from: Silk, rayon or nylon.
– Wedding season: Formal events during winter or autumn.
– Good for: Structured garments, straight skirts and striking bodices.
– Bad for: Pleats can look bulky, and fabric frays easily.
A soft, lightweight material that has a sumptuous feel, and it’s comfortable to wear, which makes it popular. It has a luxurious, shiny front and a dull crepe back.
– Made from: Traditionally silk but also polyester.
– Wedding season: Colder weather as it shows sweat easily, and formal or evening weddings as it looks elegant.
– Good for: Has a beautiful drape so it suits form-fitting gowns on a bias cut.
– Bad for: It’s unforgiving and highlights any bulges. It’s also hard to sew as it tears easily.
This thin and delicate material is light and transparent, and it has a slightly rough texture.
– Made from: Silk, cotton, polyester or rayon.
– Wedding season: It breathes well, making it ideal for hot weather and destination weddings, and its slight shimmer suits evenings.
Good for: It drapes well for empire and bias cuts, works for floaty romantic overlays and transparent sleeves.
– Bad for: It’s a slippery fabric that’s hard to work with, and it can fray.
It’s a woven and versatile fabric that’s recognisable by its grainy, crinkled surface. Crêpe is soft, light and stretchy.
– Made from: Silk, cotton, wool, rayon or blended fibres.
– Wedding season: It’s breathable and perfect all year round.
– Good for: It drapes well and is used for slinky sheath dresses that cling to your silhouette.
– Bad for: Body conscious brides as it hugs your figure.
Associated with luxury and opulence, this rich material has a soft sheen and is reversible. It’s medium weight and has a raised pattern that’s formed by weaving.
– Made from: Silk, wool, linen, cotton or synthetic fibres.
– Wedding season: Suits formal dresses, and is a good alternative to brocade during warmer weather.
– Good for: Adventurous brides, and heavier, more structured dresses.
– Bad for: Draping and loose gowns.
Lighter and stiffer than regular satin, it’s an elegant fabric with a lustrous finish.
– Made from: Silk or rayon.
– Wedding season: Better in cool weather and works for both formal and simple weddings.
– Good for: Drapes well, holds its shape and is less prone to wrinkling when you dance. It’s popular with full or A-line skirts and structured bodices.
– Bad for: Because it’s on the firm side, it’s not great for figure-hugging dresses, and it can stain easily.
It has tiny nubs on its surface that give it a unique, rough texture. It has a beautiful sheen and is often woven with different coloured threads, which makes it change colour under lights.
– Made from: Silk or polyester.
– Wedding season: This medium-weight fabric is suitable all year round.
– Good for: It’s stiff, wrinkle resistant and holds its shape, making it great for dresses with volume.
– Bad for: Frays easily, doesn’t hold a crease well and isn’t stretchy.
It’s a mid-weight material that has slight sheen, and a subtle, closely woven ribbed texture.
– Made from: Silk, cotton or rayon.
– Wedding season: It’s comfortable in most temperatures, and can be worn in the day and the night.
– Good for: The ribs give it structure and make it hold its shape. It also drapes well, doesn’t crease easily and enhances a snug-fitting bodice.
– Bad for: Although it’s durable, it needs strong hems as it unravels easily.
While chiffon is a close cousin, georgette is heavier and drapes better. It’s soft, sheer and floaty, and recognised by its dull, crepe-like texture.
– Made from: Originally silk, but also polyester and rayon.
– Wedding season: It’s strong but light, which keeps you cool outdoors and in summer.
– Good for: Because it drapes beautifully it’s used as a top layer on a skirt, without looking bulky.
– Bad for: Avoid heavy embellishments which will pull it out of shape.
This soft, bouncy fabric is a lightweight elastic knit fabric, with a matt finish.
– Made from: Wool, cotton or silk, but also synthetic fibres.
– Wedding season: As it’s an informal material, it’s more suited to a casual weddings.
– Good for: It’s very resilient, stretchy and drapes well, so choose it for form-fitting frocks.
– Bad for: Beware this material if you’re unhappy with your curves, as it’s figure-hugging. It can curl unless it’s edged with lace or elastic.
It might not be a common wedding fabric, but it’s one of the oldest woven materials in the world. Linen is light but stronger and more lustrous than cotton.
– Made from: Natural fabric made from flax fibre.
– Wedding season: It’s absorbent and breathable, and right for casual, warm-weather weddings.
– Good for: It comes in a variety of weights to create different structured outfits. It’s comfortable, versatile and cool.
– Bad for: It’s initially quite stiff but relaxes after use, it doesn’t stretch and it wrinkles quickly.
This is the epitome of bridal fabric. It’s centuries old and is created by looping and knitting threads into floral designs. Lace is transparent, recognisable and romantic.
– Made from: Often made with cotton thread, but also nylon, polyester, linen, wool, silk and rayon.
– Wedding season: Year round, during the day or the evening.
– Good for: Creating a vintage look. It can be used on sleeves, necklines, bodice, veils and as overlays for opaque skirts.
– Bad for: Can shrink and tear easily.
Lace is versatile because there are so many different types. Here are six of the most popular:
– Alençon is from France and it’s recognised by its corded floral designs.
– Beaded lace is decorated with beads, crystals and sequins, and has scalloped edges.
– Chantilly is the best-known, and it has a delicate scrolling pattern with double scalloped edges.
– Duchesse comes from Belgium and has a raised floral design.
– Spanish has large, flat roses on a tulle background, and is regularly made into mantillas.
– Guipure or Venetian always has a continuous motif and is frequently used for edging.
This material is stiff, with a dull sheen, has a fine ribbed texture, and a subtle, but unique watermark effect.
– Made from: Originally only silk taffeta, but also cotton and rayon.
– Wedding season: Best for formal events in winter or autumn.
– Good for: Layers on bridal skirts.
– Bad for: Can retain creases and lose its lustre if it gets wet.
Crisper than organza, organdie is sheer, lightweight and versatile. It’s also available in stiff, semi-stiff and soft.
– Made from: Cotton or nylon.
– Wedding season: All year, but particularly in summer.
– Good for: Dress overlays, gathered skirts and puffy sleeves.
– Bad for: Hangs better if worn away from the body, and it wrinkles quickly.
It’s known to be a tough but very light fabric, and it brings romance to your wedding outfit. It’s soft and can be sheer or translucent, depending on the weave.
– Made from: Traditionally silk, but also polyester and rayon.
– Wedding season: Throughout the year, but predominantly in summer.
– Good for: Holds its shape for a structured gown, and flows well for a loose dress. Can be a full skirt, overlay, train or veil.
– Bad for: Like organdy, it doesn’t suit tight garments.
Peau De Soie
Skin of Silk is its French translation, and it’s comparable to satin, but it’s firmer. It’s a medium to heavy-weight material, with a grainy appearance that borders on matt.
– Made from: Blend of silk with polyester, rayon or cotton.
– Wedding season: Best for cooler events as it shows sweat easily.
– Good for: It’s soft and free flowing, with a moderate, soft drape that flatters most body shapes.
– Bad for: Not much stretch and it can leave pin marks if you alter it.
There are two distinctive sides to this material: one with embossed, geometric patterns, and the other that’s flat and smooth. It’s a medium to heavy weight knit fabric, that is durable and subtly sheer.
– Made from: Cotton or cotton blends.
– Wedding season: It’s breathable, which is better during the hotter months.
– Good for: Is stiffer than ordinary cotton and provides more body.
– Bad for: Can show perspiration stains and marks on the dress from alterations.
This manmade fabric has come a long way, and is now more acceptable in the fashion industry. It’s inexpensive, versatile, and can be woven so that it resembles most other materials.
– Made from: Manmade material from synthesized polymers.
– Wedding season: Can stick to the skin, so it’s more comfortable in cooler weather.
– Good for: It’s resilient and quick drying, doesn’t wrinkle easily and can hold its shape.
– Bad for: Stay away from candles as it’s highly flammable! It can also irritate some sensitive skins.
While it looks like silk it’s less costly, more elastic and it’s easier to work with. It’s lightweight, soft and smooth and has a bright sheen.
– Made from: A semi-synthetic fibre.
– Wedding season: As it’s natural – and breathable – it’s ideal for warmer temperatures.
– Good for: There’s no static cling, it’s highly absorbent, and because it has excellent draping qualities, it’s used for flowing skirts.
– Bad for: Edges can unravel easily and it’s prone to wrinkling.
One side has a smooth, lustrous surface, while the other is dull. It’s a strong material with a unique shimmer, and it can be expensive.
– Made from: Conventionally from silk, but now also wool, nylon, rayon and polyester.
– Wedding season: It’s best suited to formal and evening events, and it may make you too warm in summer.
– Good for: Pleats and hanging necklines, dresses with soft, flowing lines and styles that shimmer.
– Bad for: Old stitching lines show if the gown is changed, it tends to fray easily, and it’s an unforgiving material as it shows every curve.
There are many varieties of satin, here are six of the most common options.
– Antique is heavy, with a dull sheen and uneven yarns.
– Charmeuse drapes softly and hugs the body.
– Crepe back is reversible – it can be used on either side.
– Duchesse is luxurious, heavy and stiff.
– Hammered is embossed to give the surface a textured appearance.
– Slipper is tightly woven and has a cotton back.
Known as the Queen of Fabrics, this is by far the most sought-after material, but it is usually hugely expensive. It’s naturally strong and smooth, but simultaneously luxurious and soft. Silk is comfortable, versatile and elegant.
– Made from: The cocoon of a silkworm.
– Wedding season: Any weather – it keeps you cool in summer and warm in winter.
– Good for: It’s elastic and retains its shape, and is excellent for draping on clingy and A-line skirts.
– Bad for: It’s a slippery fabric that needs to be pre-shrunk. You need smooth lines under your garment, as it shows everything through the material.
There are many forms of silk, here are six recognisable names:
– Charmeause is what we regard as traditional silk – it’s used for special-occasion outfits.
– Chiffon is soft, subtle and elegant – common as a delicate overlay.
– China is lightweight with a beautiful drape – popular as a lining.
– Crêpe de Chine is thin, elastic and has a pebbly texture – great for skirts that flow.
– Dupioni is sturdy, substantial and doesn’t stretch – ideal for structured dresses.
Dupioni is a similar fabric, but shantung is thinner and more durable. While it has an uneven, nubby texture, it still keeps its elegant sheen, and it photographs well.
– Made from: Raw silk, but also polyester.
– Wedding season: Warm enough for winter weddings, but ideal for spring and autumn.
– Good for: Drapes nicely which enhances structured styles, like full skirts and ruched bodices.
– Bad: It can wrinkle.
If you want something that rustles when you move, this is your fabric. It’s a shiny, crisp material, and the better the quality, the stiffer it is.
– Made from: Originally silk but also polyester.
– Wedding season: Year-round, but lightweight enough for summer and outdoor marriages.
– Good for: As a lining it keeps outfits in shape, but it’s also used in structured full skirts and ballroom-style dresses.
– Bad for: It’s a hard fabric to alter.
Also called English net, it’s an extremely fine and fragile mesh that’s machine made. It’s stiff, sheer and lightweight, and hides wrinkles perfectly.
– Made from: Rayon or nylon. There is silk but it’s delicate and expensive.
– Wedding season: All year.
– Good for: Layers for ball gowns, 50s style skirts, dramatic full dresses and veils.
– Bad for: Can be scratchy so it’s not usually used for bodices, and it may be too poufy for conservative brides. Keep it away from the iron, or your fabric may melt!
It’s not a familiar choice for a wedding dress, but it’s a regal and luxurious option. Velvet is a heavy weight material where the cut pile stands up straight, creating a raised, plush surface, which is smooth, thick and soft to touch.
– Made from: Silk and a variety of blends.
– Wedding season: It’ll keep you toasty during winter weddings.
– Good for: Pick soft velvet for bias cut gowns, or use it for trims if it’s too heavy.
– Bad for: Can damage easily and old needle holes will show if it’s altered.
Comparable to chiffon, it’s a lightweight, thin and semi-transparent fabric.
– Made from: Cotton or cotton blends.
– Wedding season: It’s a breathable material that keeps you cool at outdoor and daytime weddings.
– Good for: It has draping power, so use it in multiple layers, or laid over a full or A-line skirt.
– Bad for: Highly-tailored outfits, as it doesn’t hold its shape well.
The bridal material you choose can make or break your dress. All fabrics serve a purpose and they affect the style of dress you choose. Now that you know your taffeta from your tulle, you can pick the perfect cloth to ensure that you walk down the aisle looking radiant and feeling comfortable.