Wedding Gown 101
What do you need to know before you shop for your wedding dress
A stiff, heavy fabric with an all-over raised woven pattern. Brocades look and feel luxurious and slightly decadent, think Marie Antoinette. We recommend: best for a dramatic winter wedding.
The choice for formal, classic ball gowns and gowns with fuller skirts (A-lines or poufs). Satin is a heavy dense fabric with a beautiful sheen and has great body (it holds its shape well). It’s also ideal for structured bodices. We recommend: For traditional, classic and formal weddings; best in cool, comfortable weather.
A stiff textured fabric with a slight sheen and a subtle striped appearance. We recommend: crisp and classic; best for more comfortable temperatures.
A type of organza, yet with more body. This is an ideal fabric for an architecturally designed dress. It can also make beautiful detail shapes. We recommend: works best for a sophisticated look; gorgeous any time of the year.
A fabric with a woven pattern. Classic jacquards are floral and paisley motifs. We recommend: well suited to outdoor and garden weddings but depends on the base fabric.
A heavy, luminous fabric that is used for dresses with important shape. We recommend: elegant, great for formal structured dresses; best in comfortable temps.
A structured fabric that appears to float, it’s less dense than satin. Organza comes in a variety of weights, so it can work in many climates. We recommend: extremely versatile, perfect for any type of wedding; works year-round.
A heavy fabric with a lustrous finish and an underlying cross-rib like weave. We recommend: best for formal weddings and cooler climates.
Raw silk with a nubby, uneven appearance and high sheen. Has a casual feel. We recommend: lightweight, great for an informal summer wedding, less expensive.
A lighter weight fabric with texture. Taffeta is a crisp, elegant material that rustles when it moves and sometimes has a chic, moiré (watermark) pattern to it. We recommend: can be very classic or ingénue in appearance; works year-round.
Slippery silk charmeuse, while extremely unforgiving (everything shows underneath), is elegant and sophisticated. Typically bias-cut and perfect for a super-fit and daring bride. We recommend: great for evening weddings; undergarments can be a challenge; snags easily.
Light and airy, sheer chiffon makes ideal romantic dresses for warm weather weddings. Crinkled and textured chiffon are interesting, new treatments. Chiffon is the ideal fabric for transparent sleeves, yokes and light layering. We recommend: a great choice for a destination or warm weather wedding; undergarments need to be carefully considered.
Sheer and slightly heavier than chiffon with a dry, crepe-like texture. Silk georgette is floaty and can be an amazing choice for a sophisticated evening wedding. We recommend: great in warmer weather; timeless.
The ultimate fabric for a body-conscious bride. Completely form fitting, this fabric leaves nothing to the imagination. Double jerseys work best and provide for proper undergarments. We recommend: the ideal fabric for travel to a destination wedding; also works year-round.
There are many types of lace used for wedding gowns and trimmings: Alencon, Battenburg, Chantilly, Giupure, and Venice to name a few. Lace is a fragile, openwork fabric, is centuries old and is the ultimate wedding-day material. No other fabric says ‘bride’ quite like lace. We recommend: for the truly romantic; perfect for a full-on gown, details and accessories; seasonless.
Chic and timeless. Silk crepe elegantly skims the body and can be worn day or night. We recommend: extremely versatile; works year-round.
While it instantly conjures up a ballerina moment, soft silk tulles that drape can also be extremely romantic and perfect for a summer wedding and look nothing like a Swan Lake costume. Classic tulle ball gowns are pure fantasy in full or tea-lengths. Tulle is the classic fabric for veiling. We recommend: very versatile; super delicate.
Velvets can be very liquid or stiffer. Softer velvets make great bias column gowns, while more structured velvet is best left for trims. Burnout velvets, where part of the patterned portion is literally ‘burned out’ and left sheer have a sexy, bohemian feel. We recommend: can work beautifully on a beach, contradictory to its traditional use.
Shaped like an inverted V, an A-line gown is classic and elegant. It suits any style of wedding, and works on every shape of bride due to its elongating nature and vertical princess seaming. It is particularly flattering to fuller figures.
Grand and dramatic, ball gowns with their fitted bodices and full skirts are surprisingly flattering for many shapes and sizes. They can detract from a full bust, narrow your waist and hide a fuller bottom half. Unfortunately, petite brides should avoid ball gowns.
A sheath can be a very chic, unexpected alternative to a frothy, classic wedding dress. Long or short, a column can be body hugging (great if you’re long and narrow) or body skimming (even better if you’ve got a few curves).
A long, fitted torso with a fun flounce from the knees-on-down can be extremely flattering if you’ve got some well-placed curves or just want to create a few where they don’t already exist. Those on the shorter side should stay away from this style.
This is the classic Audrey Hepburn-style, a high squared-off clean neckline.
A funny name for a very dramatic, high style look. This strapless neckline has a stand-away panel in front… ideal for catching crumbs, or just looking very glamorous.
Off the shoulder
A universally flattering neckline for all women. Whether straight across or slightly scooped, off the shoulder is sexy and demure at the same time.
The fabric that holds the bust extends to straps that attach around the neck. Halter style dresses are more revealing as they are sleeveless and have an exposed back.
The most sought after neckline for brides. A wedding might be the one time you actually don a strapless gown. It feels formal and special. It’s particularly great for fuller-busted girls but needs to be carefully fitted so it stays in place and you don’t spend all your time yanking it up.
The sweetheart neckline is strapless but has a ‘heart’ shaped curve to the top of the bust. It gives a little more shape to the bodice and bustline than straight across strapless.
This waist points to a downward V-shape. Extremely flattering, it can create the illusion of a small, narrow waist even if you don’t have one.
A long extended waistline that hits the top of the hips. The bodice is fitted and can be very slimming. Avoid this look if you are short-waisted, you can look out of proportion.
This waistline sits right under the bust, giving the dress a Shakespeare In Love kind of feel. Romantic and youthful, this is great for small busted and short-waisted girls.
A waistline that literally sits at the natural curve of your middle. Very flattering and modern looking. A dress with this waistline often has a full circle skirt.
A three-dimensional detail hand-sewn to the dress. Lace, silk flowers and pretty feminine motifs can be appliqued anywhere on the dress.
A little bit of sparkle never hurt anyone and in fact beading can add depth and interest to a clean, classic gown. Gowns with all-over beading can look amazing in the right dramatic setting. Crystal and pearl beads are the most classic choice. Silver and gold beads add another dimension of glamour. How much or how little you choose is up to you.
Soft draped bodices and skirts can add a touch of romance to your dress. Take care not to add too much draping around the hips or backside; you don’t want to add inches to your look.
The decoration of fabric with thread. Embroidery is a wonderful way to add a textured pattern and motif to a dress. Patterned fabrics can also be embroidered to add dimension.
Many gowns are now designed with a sheer, light top layer of tulle, lace or chiffon over a more structured fabric. This adds a delicate feel to your overall look and is a nice way to add softness and dimension.
Fully pleated bodices or skirts have a very modern, geometric feeling while pleated hems and train details are unexpected and fresh.
A free-form type of gathering, typically on the bodice from neckline to hips. This can give a simple dress dimension and interesting texture.
The dressmaker takes tiny folds of fabric and stitches it down by hand, bit by bit and does so to create a soft surface texture that can sometimes take on a one-of-a-kind organic appearance.