Wedding Dress Fabric Glossary

Want a wedding dress that drapes beautifully? Poufs out beneath you? Glides down your curves? It's all in the fabric.
Wedding dress fabric options
Photo by Sergio Kurhajec

Style, cut, texture, drape, and season are all-important factors in determining the best fabric for a wedding gown. The same style dress can look and feel quite different in a variety of fabrics, since each material is designed to produce a distinct effect. Some fabrics cling to the body, while others stand away. Some are cherished for their crispness, others for being light-as-air. Silk -- a natural fiber that exudes an innate quality of refinement -- is undoubtedly the most sought-after and cherished wedding dress material, noted for its resiliency, elasticity, and strength.

Silk threads are woven to create various fabrics, including satin, a densely-woven silk notable for its super-lustrous gloss; duchesse satin, a blend of silk and rayon that is lighter and more affordable than pure silk satin; charmeuse, a lightweight silk satin with a more subdued luster; and shantung, a low-sheen textured silk characterized by a rough, nubby quality. Then there are the gauzier, textured silks like chiffon, tulle, and organza -- all used in multiple layers for gown skirts since they are transparent, but lightweight.

Batiste

A lightweight, soft, transparent fabric.

Brocade

A Jacquard-woven fabric with raised designs; traditionally popular for fall and winter, now also worn in warmer weather.

Charmeuse

A lightweight, semi-lustrous soft fabric, that is satin-like to the touch.

Chiffon

Delicate, sheer, and transparent -- made from silk or rayon, with a soft finish; often layered because of its transparency, making it popular for overskirts, sheer sleeves, and wraps.

Crepe

A light, soft, and thin fabric with a crinkled surface.

Damask

Similar to brocade with raised designs, but woven in a much lighter weight.

Duchesse Satin

A lightweight hybrid of silk and rayon (or polyester) woven into a satin finish.

Dupioni

A finish similar to shantung, but with thicker, coarser fibers, and a slight sheen.

Faille

A structured, ribbed finish like grosgrain ribbon; usually quite substantial.

Gabardine

A tightly-woven, firm and durable finish, with single diagonal lines on the face.

Georgette

A sheer, lightweight fabric often made of polyester or silk with a crepe surface.

Illusion

A fine, sheer net fabric, generally used on sleeves or necklines.

Jersey

A very elastic knit fabric; the face has lengthwise ribs and the underside has crosswise ribs.

Moire

A heavy silk taffeta with a subtle, wavy design.

Organdy

A stiff transparent fabric.

Organza

Crisp and sheer like chiffon, with a stiffer texture similar in effect to tulle, but more flowing; popular for skirts, sleeves, backs, and overlays.

Peau de Soie

A soft satin-faced, high-quality cloth with a dull luster, fine ribs, and a grainy appearance.

Pique

A knit fabric with a waffle-weave appearance, pique has distinct sides. The outside resembles a honeycomb or waffle and the underside is flat and smooth.

Polyester

An inexpensive man-made fiber that can be woven into just about anything, including duchesse satin

Rayon

Similar to silk, but more elastic and affordable.

Satin

A heavy, smooth fabric with a high sheen on one side; very common in bridal gowns.

Silk

The most sought-after, cherished fiber for wedding dresses (and also the most expensive); there are several types with different textures: raw silk and silk mikado are just two examples.

Silk Gazar

A four-ply silk organza.

Silk Mikado

A brand of blended silk, usually heavier than 100-percent silk.

Silk-faced Satin

A smooth silk satin, with a glossy front and matte back.

Shantung

Similar to a raw silk, shantung is characterized by its rubbed texture.

Taffeta

Crisp and smooth, with a slight rib.

Tulle

Netting made of silk, nylon, or rayon; used primarily for skirts and veils (think ballerina tutus).

Velvet

A soft, thick fabric with a felted face and plain underside.

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