White vs. Ivory: What's the Difference?

We break down how to choose the best wedding dress color for you.
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Associate Editor
  • Sarah is an Associate Digital Editor for The Knot, with special focuses on features, pop culture and wedding trends.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Aug 26, 2020

Shopping for your wedding dress is one of the most exciting aspects of planning your wedding. But before you start browsing various designers and dress silhouettes, it's important to know the difference between white vs. ivory. These two shades are the most popular wedding dress colors, but they are slightly different. While you might focus on more prominent dress details like the neckline, skirt shape and length at first, the color of the gown is just as crucial.

Making the distinction between ivory and white can be tricky given their subtle differences. If you plan on wearing a white shade on your wedding day, it's important to know the key qualities of both colors to help you make the best decision. To help, we break down everything to know about ivory vs. white wedding dresses, as well as our top tips to help you pick the best color for your vision.

White vs. Ivory: What's the Difference?

So, what's the difference between ivory and white? It's simple: White is a brighter, purer shade, while ivory is a softer shade with yellow undertones. Pure white is the brightest hue because it isn't mixed with any other colors. You might come across variations like "stark white," "natural white" or "diamond white." In general, these shades will be so crisp that they can appear blue under certain lighting. Natural white is the purest form of the color that fabrics can be—if you're looking at a stark white dress, it was likely bleached to get the pure hue. In neutral lighting, though, almost all forms of white photograph the same.

You might wonder: Is ivory white? Technically, yes. Sometimes referred to as "eggshell," ivory is a creamier shade of white that has warmer undertones. Some shades of ivory even give off soft hints of yellow. That's not to say your ivory wedding dress will look yellow while you're wearing it, though. It can actually be challenging to differentiate ivory and white with the naked eye. The difference between the colors is so minimal, you don't have to worry about one looking drastically different from the other.

How to Choose Your Wedding Dress Color

Now that you know the difference between both shades, you'll have to decide between a white or ivory wedding dress. Generally, brighter shades of white complement darker skin tones. A stark white dress against lighter skin can have a tendency to make the wearer look washed out. On the other hand, warm ivory undertones pair nicely with fair or pink skin tones.

In the past, traditional wedding etiquette also indicated that pure white wedding dresses were most appropriate—but that's hardly the case anymore. In fact, ivory is a great dress color option for those who don't want a pure white gown. You can even search for an ivory dress that has champagne or blush undertones for a modern, fashion-forward look. Or, forgo a white gown altogether in favor of a colorful wedding dress, like black, red, gold or any other shade you love. When it comes to modern wedding dress colors, the options are limitless.

Certain materials also work better with different colors. White pops best on matte fabrics, like crepe, while silkier materials like chiffon, satin and taffeta reflect the deeper undertones of ivory shades. The lining of a dress will also enhance the overall appearance. Lining that matches the overlay will make the color appear richer, while a slightly darker lining will add dimension.

To find your ideal shade of white, it's best to shop at your local bridal salon. Being able to try on different colors in natural lighting is the best way to find the shade you prefer. Plus, having a bridal consultant on hand to offer expert tips and suggestions is an invaluable resource during your shopping process. What matters most, though, is that you love the color of your wedding dress. Factors like skin tone and traditional etiquette should simply be considerations—not steadfast rules. If you have your heart set on a certain shade, feel empowered to wear it because it's what you want. After all, your wedding dress should be exactly what you envision for your big day.

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