When it comes to bridal wear, silks rule. Made from the cocoons of silkworms, around 2500 B.C. the Chinese discovered and developed the process of weaving it into fabric. China is still the largest producer and exporter of 80% of the world’s silks. Most silk weaves are luxe, opulent and suggest a certain formality ideal for the bridal gown. Tightly woven silks like duchesse satin have a luster and are ideal for structured silhouettes, whereas loosely woven silks like charmeuse and crepe lend themselves to drapery. Choosing the right silk depends on the style of your gown in addition to time of day and year your wedding takes place. Here are a few of my faves
Brocade-Heavyweight fabric used in structured silhouettes. The elaborate patterns of this fabric are created by mixing muted and glossy yarns in matching (sometimes contrasting) colors. Most bridal gowns made out of brocade have a surface design of florals though I once saw a gown with some interesting geometric patterns. Brocade molds perfectly in sheath and A-line silhouettes. A fall/winter fabric, brocade is an excellent option for bridal suits.
Charmeuse (aka crepe-backed satin)-Lightest weight of all the satins. This fabric has a glossy finish that clings and drapes the body beautifully. No other fabric evokes the image of the white, bias-cut evening gown quite like charmeuse. Works best in evening gown and slip dress styles.
Chiffon-Lightweight and transparent, the delicacy of this fabric makes it best for billowing sleeves, cowl draped necklines, ruffles, ruched bodices and long, airy trains. See-through dresses worn over slips can be made of chiffon. Full skirts in chiffon are ethereal and can be layered. Be careful if you’re planning on dressing your bridesmaids in full skirts of pastel chiffon. Unless you have a stylistic eye they could come off like they’re auditioning for The Lawrence Welk Show.
Crepe (aka crepe de chine)-Lightweight and drapey, the crinkled surface is achieved by a hard-twisted yarn process. To get a sense of what crepe is like, look at the subjects of any Maxfield Parish painting. Though it’s available in wool, cotton and rayon, silk reigns the favorite due to its incredible swathe and drape effect.
Damask-Lighter weight than brocade, damask is a jacquard fabric with woven designs thorough out. Best for structured silhouettes.
Duchesse Satin-Medium weight satin with a glossy finish. A staple of traditional bridal wear, it has versatility whereas it works for strait as well as full silhouettes.
Dupioni-(Above) Made from thick uneven yarns rolled from double cocoons. Has irregular slubbing and lustrous texture. Ideal for fuller silhouettes yet I have used this continually in sheath and modified A-lines with excellent results.
Faille-Medium to heavy weight, cross-ribbed fabric with a tight weave. Structured silhouettes.
Gauze-Lightest weight transparent fabric. Since it’s lighter than chiffon it has an airy
quality perfect for light trains, veils and scarves.
Georgette- Lightweight and sheer fabric made from twisted yarns. Somewhere between chiffon and crepe, it has a crinkly appearance surface.
Marquisette-Very light mesh fabric. Drapes like chiffon and georgette. A very hard fabric to find.
Mikado-Medium weight twill weave with beautiful luster. Ideal for both A-lines and full skirts. Used by more and more designers in recent years, brides love the surface sheen of this fabric.
Moire-A treatment of watermarking given to fabric, leaving an undulating, watery finish. Most moiré is either faille or taffeta.
Organza-Light, springy and transparent fabric. Once considered suitable only for summer, organza is now year-round and widely used in gowns requiring full skirts, A-lines, trains, veils, drapes and overlays.
Peau de Soie-Heavier-weight satin with dull finish. Structures well in either straight or full silhouettes. Ideal for tailored gowns and suits.
Taffeta- (Above) Stiff, crisp, lightweight cross-rib weave. Taffeta can have either a slight luster or muted finish. It can be shaped, adding volume without bulk and weight, making it an ideal choice for A-lines and ball gowns. Nice in a sheath silhouette providing it has some kind train preferably of the same fabric with some degree of fullness.
Tulle-(above) Fine mesh netting with hexagonal pattern that comes in silk or nylon. Tulle is standard material for bridal veils. Also used in bouffant skirts proffering that layer upon layer ballerina look Vera Wang popularized a few years back. While the big tulle skirt is classic, edgier versions of late suggest special effects like draping, ruching and pick-up treatments over more modified skirt silhouettes.
Velvet- (Below) Heavy-weight, napped fabric. Perfect for the winter bridal suit. Pictured below is a cut velvet ensemble.
All Dresses by Amy-Jo Tatum
Header Photo by Strotz Photography
Chiffon Photo: Shona Nystrom of Studio 7teen Photography
Dupion Photo: Hayden Housini
Georgette Photo: Stephanie Williams Photography
Organza Photo: Pixamage
Taffeta Photo: Winter Tree Studios
Tulle and Velvet Photos: Scott Williams Photography