Nicole Brewer, Celebrity & Plus Size Fashion Expert Unless you’re a fashion design student or a contestant on Project Runway, you may not know very much about dress fabrics. In fact, the limitless options of opulent fabrics and elaborate embellishments may actually be overwhelming! But have no fear; we’re here to help you learn everything you need to know about fabrics when shopping for your big day.
From trying on bridal gowns to choosing the right dress for your bridesmaids, flower girls and your mother, choosing the right fabric will suddenly become very important. While in these modern fashion times, a bride can really wear whatever she wants, wherever she wants, there are a few things to keep in mind:
• The Season. The weather will influence whether you choose a heavier fabric like damask or dutchess satin, or a lighter weight fabric like chiffon or soft organza.
• The Time of Day. Both the fabric and silhouette are influenced by the time of day. Oftentimes brides choose lighter weight fabrics if they get married while the sun is up, especially if they decide to take bridal party photos outside. Similarly, they may opt for a simple silhouette for a day wedding or go for more dramatic shapes for an evening wedding, especially if they choose a formal dress code like black tie or black tie optional.
• The Location. The venue and whether the ceremony will be held indoors or outdoors are important factors in choosing wedding gown fabrics. The bride who gets married on the beach in late summer might choose a fabric completely different from a bride getting married in a castle during the winter.
Quite simply, the bride’s comfort takes priority as she prepares to take center stage on her wedding day. That means the many fabric characteristics are key in deciding on the right gown. Obviously, there is a wide array of fabrics options and probably even more possible venues to choose from, but one thing’s for sure – some fabrics just work better for certain locations than others.
Here are a few venue ideas and fabric guidelines that may be helpful as you search for your perfect gown:
• Traditional Venues, like Churches. Because these spaces are often large, cool and ornately decorated, these venues call for elegant silks, structured satin (dutchess satins), crisp taffetas, and heavier brocades or damask fabrics.
• Outdoor Weddings. For some brides, nothing says romance like tying the knot in the great outdoors. For beach weddings complete with ocean breezes (and yes sand), light airy fabrics like flowy chiffons, light layered silks and soft organzas are perfect for the occasion.
Parks or backyard ceremonies may not be as breezy, but will likely be greeted by beautiful sunlight. So, more lightweight options such as soft organzas, natural linens, silk charmeuse, jersey, crepe and crinkle chiffon fabrics will work nicely.
• Modern, Non-Religious Venues. Depending on the size of the modern space – whether it’s a loft or museum – many fabrics that maintain their shape are suitable. Delicate silks and satins, chic charmeuse, all over lace with beading, and tulle and taffeta create picture-perfect shapes and silhouettes.
• Grand Ballrooms or Castle Venues. Elaborate venues are perfect for more traditional styles and other detail oriented princess or medieval themed weddings. Space and design allow for heavier fabrics that conjure up images of story book fashion. Strong, durable fabrics deliver the drama like taffeta, dutchess satin, brocades or even burnout velvets.
• Vegas. Anything goes! From fancy silks and satins to more casual linen or jersey, go all out or keep it off-the-strip simple in America’s wedding capital. So, pack your little black dress and maybe a little white one, just in case!
A Few Fabric Facts:
• Silk is one of the most popular natural fabrics used for wedding gowns. Its many variations are light and luxurious with unmistakable shine, so it’s perfect for spring, summer and fall.
• Satin can be made from a natural silk or synthetic blended material. Known for its soft and clean look, it always has smooth and glossy finish that works well for all seasons.
• Dutchess Satin is a beautiful smooth, glossy satin with a very noticeable, lustrous finish. It’s slightly heavier weight is good for cooler weather and works for more traditional and conservative silhouettes, including ball gown shapes and corset bodices.
• Brocade/Damask is a richly patterned fabric associated with opulence and luxury. Its rich satin weave material produces a heavier fabric that is interwoven and embossed with designs and is ideal for fall and winter weddings.
• Crepe is a soft, flowy fabric with a very subtle, crinkled texture that works well for all seasons.
• Taffeta is a very crisp, smooth silk or silk blended light weight fabric. It can be soft or stiff, lending itself to many ball gown styles that can be worn during all seasons.
• Chiffon is a simple weave of silk and rayon that produces the ultimate in romantic textures. It can be very soft or have a slight, stiff finish perfect for layers and tiers during the spring, summer or fall.
• Linen has a natural luster and was once very popular for wedding gowns. Today, it’s often blended with other materials to reduce wrinkling effects, especially during spring and summer.
• Jersey is made of wool, cotton and synthetic fibers. Stretchy and light weight, jersey is perfect for draping and throughout the year.