A Glossary of Wedding Dress Fabrics and How They're Used
Personal style preferences, budget and your wedding season are all important factors when determining the best wedding dress fabric for your gown. The same dress silhouette can look and feel quite different depending on the type of fabric the gown is made from, since each material is used to create a distinct effect. Some fabrics cling to the body and hug your curves in all the right places, while others are known for their lightweight feel or their ability to add structure to a design. While you don't need to be a total expert on wedding dress materials before you head to the wedding salon (that's what the professional stylists are there for), knowing the basics will certainly help you describe your dream dress—and feel confident to make the right decision after you've tried a few of them on. If you're getting ready for your first wedding dress appointment, take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with these types of fabrics you might encounter in your search.
What Are the Most Popular Wedding Dress Fabrics?
Every wedding dress fabric on this list has its own benefits and uses, but there are some that are much more commonly used than others. Case in point: You won't walk into a bridal salon without seeing dozens of gowns made from them. So what are the most popular bridal fabrics? For starters, lace, tulle, chiffon and silk blends (like crepe de chine or dupioni) are staples when it comes to the majority of designer's wedding dress collections. These fabrics can either be used on their own, or combined together into one design—for example, a tulle ball gown with lace appliqués and beading.
And just like wedding dress trends that come and go, some bridal fabrics also have the tendency to fall in and out of popularity over time. Crepe, which is a fabric blend that can be made from a few different types of fibers, is a perfect example. This smooth, structured fabric skyrocketed to popularity after the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018. Even now, it continues to be a go-to fabric for many designers' collections season after season.
What Should You Consider When Choosing Your Wedding Dress Fabric?
While it's definitely important to pick a gown based on how it looks and feels, the wedding dress fabric also influences the design from a technical aspect. Consider the time of year you're getting married and the overall aesthetic of your wedding—not all types of bridal fabrics work for every season or dress code. If your wedding is more formal, satin fabrics, silk gowns and designs with iridescent embellishments (like sequins) will fit right in. For casual weddings, sheer fabrics and lightweight materials, such as chiffon and certain types of lace, are popular options. Trust your bridal stylist to pull gowns that match your wedding style while also complementing the season and venue type.
Finally, some wedding dress materials are more expensive than others. This is especially true for 'pure' or 'raw' fabrics like 100% silk, which is one of the rarest materials and therefore comes at a higher cost to bridal designers (and ultimately you, the consumer). Certain types of lace also come with a high price tag, because they're often made in only one part of the world or take dozens of hours to create by hand using very specific (and centuries-old) techniques.
Wedding Dress Fabric Glossary
A lightweight, soft, transparent fabric often made from cotton, linen, silk or a synthetic blend. This delicate fabric is luxurious and airy for a summer wedding if you're looking for a floaty, lightweight style.
A Jacquard-woven fabric with raised designs, typically using metallic or contrasting threads against a solid backdrop. While it's traditionally popular for fall and winter wedding dresses, some lighter versions can be worn in warmer weather.
A lightweight, semi-lustrous soft fabric that is satin-like to the touch. Charmeuse is often woven with silk strands for added iridescence and movement.
Delicate, sheer and transparent, chiffon can be made from silk, polyester or rayon. It's often styled in multiple layers because of its transparency, which makes silk chiffon a popular choice for overskirts, sheer sleeves and wraps. Chiffon is one of the most popular types of fabric for bridesmaid dresses.
A crisp, thin fabric with a slightly crinkled surface. This wedding dress fabric is treasured for its ability to provide structure and stretch at the same time, making it very popular for tighter-fitting silhouettes while also allowing movement.
Similar to brocade with raised designs, often in a paisley or floral pattern, but woven in a much lighter weight. Damask fabric is often used for cocktail dresses and mother of the bride or mother of the groom gowns.
A lightweight hybrid of silk and rayon (or polyester) woven into a satin finish.
A type of silk with a finish similar to shantung, but with thicker, coarser fibers and a slight sheen. Dupioni is intentionally woven with uneven or 'rough' silk fibers to create a textured, stiff look.
A wedding dress fabric with a structured, ribbed finish like grosgrain ribbon. It's a chic choice if you're going for a very classic, structured wedding dress.
A tightly-woven type of fabric with a firm and durable finish. If you look closely, you'll notice single diagonal lines throughout the material. It's stiff and heavy, making it an ideal fabric for structured gowns and winter weddings.
Similar to chiffon, it's a sheer, airy fabric often made from polyester or silk strands. Georgette is perfect if you're looking for a bridal dress with movement, like a laid-back boho style or a skirt that twirls on the dance floor.
A very thin, sheer netted fabric that's generally used on wedding dress sleeves, cutouts or necklines. It is often finished with embroidery, beading or lace appliqués.
A very elastic knit fabric that's often used for informal dresses and everyday clothing (you probably already own something made from jersey!). The front side of the material has lengthwise ribs and the underside has crosswise ribs.
A heavy silk taffeta with a subtle, wavy design. Popular for upholstery and interior design, it creates a high-fashion look when used for wedding dresses.
A stiff but transparent fabric, often woven with silk or synthetic fibers.
This wedding dress fabric is crisp and sheer like chiffon, with a stiffer texture similar in effect to tulle. It's popular as for A-line skirts, sheer sleeves and overlays.
A knit fabric with a waffle-weave appearance. Since it's a type of breathable cotton weave, it's common for summer weddings and warm weather. Piqué has two distinct sides: the outside resembles a honeycomb, while the underside is flat and smooth.
An inexpensive, man-made fiber that can be woven into just about anything, including satin, chiffon, velvet and georgette. It's also very easy to find in a wide variety of colors.
This type of fabric looks and feels similar to silk, but it's more elastic and affordable. Rayon is lightweight and allows for easy movement, but it also wrinkles quite easily.
A heavy, smooth fabric with a high sheen on one side. It's one of the most popular wedding dress fabrics, even though it's actually a type of finish (referring to the shiny effect) rather than a material. Satin can be woven from a range of natural and man-made fibers, including polyester, rayon, crepe, silk or cotton.
While it's easy to confuse silk as a type of fabric, it's actually a natural fiber that is then used to create other fabrics (tricky, we know). Silk threads can be woven with other materials like rayon, satin and cotton—all resulting in lightweight fabrics that vary in transparency and texture. When the silk threads are not blended with another type of fiber to create the fabric, the final product is categorized as 100% silk.
Pure silk and silk blends are some of the most sought-after and high-end wedding dress materials, prized for their soft feel, elasticity and iridescent sheen. Some of the most popular types of silk fabrics include:
- Charmeuse: A very lightweight silk and satin blend.
- Shantung: Similar to raw silk threads, shantung is characterized by its bumpy texture.
- Mikado: A blended silk that is heavier and bulkier than 100% silk.
- Gazar: A cross between silk and organza.
- Taffeta: A crisp, smooth silk blend with a slight ribbed texture.
Sheer netting that can made of silk, nylon or rayon (think ballerina tutus). Tulle is used primarily for ball gown skirts, wedding veils and flower girl dresses.
A soft, thick fabric with a felted face and plain underside. Velvet bridesmaid dresses have become especially popular, thanks to the resurgence of '90s and 2000s trends.