Not only do wedding dresses come in countless different styles, they are also crafted in a number of different fabrics. Knowing the difference between chiffon and charmeuse can be tricky, so we've compiled a guide of the seven most popular gown materials. Although some fabrics are best suited to a certain circumstance, Jennette Kruszka, director of marketing, public relations, and events for New York City's Kleinfeld Bridal, suggests brides keep an open mind to each and not limit themselves. "We like to say there are really no rules anymore," she says. "It’s about what the bride wants." When combined with the right silhouette and color, a wedding dress fabric can make your dream bridal look a reality. Find out everything you need to know about each unique fabric here.
Charmeuse, a light and sheer fabric, feels soft and silky to the touch. The material is commonly used for form-fitting dresses because it hugs the curves, so brides looking for a looser fit should stay away. "It's a very clingy fabric," says Kruszka. She also adds that dresses made of silk charmeuse tend to be difficult to alter.
Chiffon is characterized by its lightweight feeling and sheer look. Since the fabric is so transparent, designers typically layer chiffon or use it as an overskirt. However, the fragility of the material makes it fray and snag easily, according to Sareh Nouri, a couture wedding gown designer in New York.
Thanks to its delicate texture and inherent elegance, lace is often used as a detail on wedding gowns. The open-weave fabric works well for indoor and outdoor wedding ceremonies, and it can be extremely flattering because it hides imperfections. According to Kruszka, lace is often used in combination with other fabrics on a wedding gown.
Lace comes in a several different varieties, which include Chantilly, Venise, and Alençon. Chantilly, a popular option defined by its intricate detail, is a lighter lace that works in a warmer climate, says Kruszka. As a coarser and thicker lace, Venise is better for cold-weather weddings. Alençon, a needlepoint lace, features floral-print patterns on fine netting.
Organza is also light and transparent, but holds it shape better than chiffon because of its stiff structure. The delicate texture makes it a safe choice for embellishments, such as skirts, wraps, and veils.
As one of the most popular fabrics for wedding gowns, satin is versatile and smooth with a natural sheen. Satin's durable structure makes it an ideal material for ruching and draping on ball gowns. Many brides wear satin to winter weddings, since the material is thick and heavy. If you're getting married outdoors in the summer, you may want to avoid satin so you don't overheat in your gown.
One of the most expensive wedding gown fabrics, silk looks clean with a beautiful texture. There are several different types of silk, according to Nouri, who prefers using silk for her dresses. Brides should remember that silk never comes in pure white, but instead it takes an off-white shade.
Tulle is the voluminous open-weave fabric often associated with ballerina tutus. The sheer netting, usually composed of silk and nylon, is airy and light—but also prone to holes and ripping. Since the fabric has dramatic volume, it works well as a ball gown skirt. "Tulle is photographed beautifully," says Nouri. "The messier it is, the prettier it is." Most of the time, tulle is mixed with other fabrics on a wedding dress.