Thursday, December 19, 2013

Guest Post: Wedding Dress Material Guide.

I couldn't be more delighted to bring to you this afternoon this highly informative post on wedding fabrics. It comes, in fact, as a response to some feedback from one of you!

One of my readers commented recently, "I think it'd be great to see a post on types of satin or other fabric for formal wear. My mind is spinning with all the different possibilities out there and I wonder which is best! What are the pros and cons of each?"

I told her the truth--that's an area I don't have much expertise in--but that I'd try to find someone who does, who would be willing to write a guest post.

My friend Katie volunteered for the job, and I don't think she could have done a better job of it! (Although I'd already been a long-time fan of her hand-made handbag line, a girl named katie, I happened to have the chance to meet her when she and her then-fiancé attended the same Engaged Encounter weekend as my husband and I. (You can read my post on that here.) And of course she is just as sweet and pretty as the bags she designs!

Thanks so much for sharing the following guide, Katie!

Hello gorgeous! 
My name is Katie.
I am the designer and creator of a girl named katie. When I am not busy making handbags for my own line, I work at a local fabric shop that sells designer fashion fabrics from NYC. Working in the textile industry I have learned a lot about the content of materials and how they are made. The content of a dress is often over-looked when shopping because we tend to focus on the glitz and glamour of a dress. What the dress is made out of is equally important. Your wedding dress is a major purchase and deserves the attention to detail that will help you make the best decision.

I put together a guide of the materials that are frequently used in the bridal industry.
Feel free to share this with your friends and family who are getting married or those who will help you make the tough choice at the bridal salon. Print it out and take it with you if you need to!

 The popular satin dress.
Satin is a medium-heavy weight material that is made of silk or polyester.
Satin is favored for its glistening sheen. Dressmakers use satin for its malleable qualities. It is able to hold different shapes which makes it excellent for architectural looks such as the example above. You will find that a lot of strapless gowns are made out of satin because it allows a fitted corset effect, making the dress stable enough to stay in place with some additional help from boning. Boning is a thin plastic strip with a fabric casing that is added to dresses to help hold them up. 
Dresses made out of satin are more structured and will not drape, making it the perfect dress for those who are looking for a a-line skirt, fitted mermaid gown, or a full-skirted tea-length dress.

 The next fabric has very similar qualities to satin when it comes to the shape of the dress.
Dupioni/Shantung is often made of pure silk. Dupioni has a luster shine which makes it have a richer look. It is medium weight and malleable. This material will have what is called a "slub." A slub is an irregular nub of yarn. As silk is a woven, some threads are not as fine as others, allowing slubs to occur creating texture. Silk yarns are made from the silk worm that is harvested for its eggs and then spun to create threads. 
This is the perfect material for someone looking for a gown that looks luxurious and has some shape and wants to look more natural and less shiny.
If you are not a fan of the slub idea, try going with a taffeta, which has the same weight and stiffness without the irregularities. Be careful with taffeta as it can sometimes can be made with nylon which will make a "swishy" noise as you walk down the aisle!

 Another popular material is Chiffon.
Chiffon can be made of silk or polyester. Polyester chiffon will often have a slippery feel while silk chiffon will feel slightly gritty. Chiffon is used for detailing. Sometimes made into ruffles or flowers that are attached to the dress. Often dresses have an over-lay of chiffon that makes the dress look more angelic and takes away from the shine of the fabric underneath. Chiffon is lightweight and hangs well on the body. Perfect for the girl who is looking for a slimmer cut or a more feminine look.

 If you are looking for a big fluffy princess skirt you will come across the next two options. 
The first being organza. Organza is similar to tulle as it is stiff and creates dramatic volume, however it has a much tighter weave which creates a flat material that is smooth to the touch and has a luxurious angelic look. Organza can be made of silk, polyester, and sometimes nylon or a blend.

Your second option is tulle which is made of nylon and is woven with an open weave allowing holes. Bridal tulle has smaller holes and is softer than the mesh-like netting used to make pot scrubbies. Tulle is delicate and creates a very soft look. It is lightweight and holds little shape. It is the perfect material to use for a poofy skirt and adds a vintage feel.

The last material is Charmeuse.
Charmeuse is made of silk or polyester. It has a luxurious sheen and is lightweight. It is the perfect material for a slim, body-loving gown as it drapes beautifully. This fabric glistens in the light and creates gorgeous shadows, which are wonderful qualities for a dramatic gown. Silk has a richer appearance than the polyester version, which can sometimes be too shiny. Charmeuse is the perfect fabric for petite women who don't want to be overwhelmed by a over-the-top princess gown.

Silk or Polyester?
Silk is a natural fiber and is woven while polyester is a manmade fiber from plastics. Silk has a more expensive look, but polyester is much more affordable and easier to take care of. 
Polyester is continuously improving, however it will be warmer to wear than silk. So if you are going to have a wedding in the middle of summer, consider that polyester might make you uncomfortable and sweaty while silk will be more breathable. 
Silk can also be dyed to your choice color. Polyester is harder to dye and you might have to settle for a color already made. 

Summer or Winter?
While shopping for your dress it is important to think about what are you going to be most comfortable in with the weather you are given. If you are having a summer wedding outdoors, consider what is going to be cooler to wear. You don't want to be hot and itchy while saying your vows! Look for lightweight fabrics. A charmeuse and chiffon dress would be most comfortable when standing in the sun. But if you want to have a ball-gown style dress, look for one that is mostly organza or tulle. Think about the weight of the dress. Is it heavy? Does it have a lot of layers that might get itchy? Maybe opt for a tea-length dress with a full skirt instead. Or give yourself a second option when it comes time to party.
If you are planning a fall or winter wedding, look for the heavier fabrics such as a satin, taffeta, or dupioni. A medium weight fabric will be much warmer for outdoor pictures! But if you love the look of a charmeuse/chiffon gown, add warmth with your accessories. Who doesn't love a gorgeous fur stole or a cashmere sweater?

How to care for the fabric:
 So maybe you are borrowing someone else's dress for your walk down the aisle or a vintage one you scored at a thrift shop (like I did, $25! Oh yeah!) How do you bring the dress back to life for your big day? First look for the labels and see what the materials are. If you need to wash the dress to make it white again or maybe get a stain out, make sure you do some research on what stain removers and detergents are safe. You can wash a wedding gown by filling up your bath tub with cold water and adding a mild detergent, like Woolite. Let it soak for about an hour and then carefully ring the water out. Lay towels out next to the tub to put the dress on and pat the dress dry with a towel and then let air dry. On a sunny day, you can hang your dress on a clothes line over a towel to dry. The sun will help a yellowed dress to become even whiter.
After the wedding, purchase a long cloth bag that fits your dress, preferably white. Then you can hang your dress in your closet and keep it safe for years to come. Preserving it in a box can actually cause your dress to yellow!

It's overwhelming, I know.
But hopefully this little guide will help you when you start your search for the perfect gown and help navigate the different fabrics.
If you have any additional questions, do not be afraid to ask!

For more images from my wedding and additional tips, visit my blog:

Congratulations and best of luck!


  1. Great bridal fabric guide, and perfect timing! After three babies, I no longer fit my wedding dress, and since hubby didn't really like it anyway, I plan to take it apart and redesign a few elements. Now my only question is, where is the store you work at?? :-)

    1. That sounds like fun! I work at Fabric Mart.

  2. This is a great post. I like this topic.This site has lots of advantage.I found many interesting things from this site. It helps me in many ways.Thanks for posting this again.
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