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A bride’s guide to wedding dress fabrics

Shantung, charmuese, organza… if looking at these words makes you think that getting married requires learning a foreign language, don’t worry, you aren’t alone. At we know that going into a bridal salon can often be an intimidating process. There you are, standing in your underwear while a salesperson throws around words you’ve never heard before. That’s why we want to provide you with this glossary of common wedding dress fabrics. The more comfortable you are with the language, the more likely you are to find a dress that works for you.


A soft, lightweight fabric, charmeuse has a sheen, but isn’t as shiny as satin.


A transparent (see through) material, chiffon can be made either from silk or rayon. Chiffon is usually layered over another part of the dress.


Image: Paula Varsalona

OK, this is one you definitely already know. Lace is an open-weave fabric. Usually, it’s used as part of a dress, but if it’s properly lined, the entire dress can be lace, such as this one from Paula Varsalona.


A sheer, stiff fabric made of silk or rayon. Organza is stiff, but has more flow than tulle.


A synthetic (human-made) fabric. Rayon looks like silk, but is easier to work with and less expensive.


The most popular and expensive wedding dress fabric, silk is a smooth, soft, natural fiber. Silk threads are used to create many other fabrics including charmeuse, chiffon, organza, satin, and tulle. Many of these fabrics can also be made with a less-expensive silk/rayon blend, or with rayon alone.

You know this one as the shiny fabric. Satin is made from silk and while Duchese satin sounds fancy, it is actually a more affordable blend of silk and rayon.


Image: Casablanca Bridal

A crisp fabric, taffeta has a reputation as being “old fashioned” or “prom-like,” but can actually be used in very modern styles such as this short dress from Casablanca Bridal.


Image: Oleg Cassini

Tulle is basically netting made from silk or rayon. Tulle is often used for veils, but can create incredibly romantic and dramatic looks when used as part of the gown as in this wedding dress from Oleg Cassini.

Wedding planning can often seem overwhelming. At we like to give you basic information to make you more comfortable with your wedding choices. If you ever find yourself confused or intimidated by a bridal salon or wedding vendor, take a minute to step back. Ask questions and if they aren’t answered in a way that makes sense to you, find another vendor.

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