The following definitions will help you hold your own at a bridal salon and will be especially handy if you’re having a gown designed from scotch.
Brocade. A heavy fabric woven to create a multi tone pattern, brocade was worn by royal brides for centuries. Damask, or Jacquard, is a lightweight alternatives.
Charmeuse. A lightweight satin identified with the slinky gowns of 1930s luminaries like Jean Harlow, charmeuse is the material of choice in lingeries and nightgowns. In formal gowns, it tends to be cut on the bias.
Chiffon or georgette. Sheer, lightweight, and fluid, chiffon can be a great choice for an outdoor wedding.
Crepe. Thin and lightweight, crepe is characterised by its pebbled texture. Bridal varieties are usually made of silk, but crepe can also be made of wool.
Double-faced satin. Heavyweight, with a sheen to both sides, double-faced satin is used for structured styles. It tends to be a high-end, couture fabric.
Duchess satin. Though it can be affordable, this is the satin often favoured by high-end designers. Characterized by a quiet ouster, it can be made of silk, rayon, or a blend.
Douppioni silk. Often on the less expensive end of silk varieties, this textured silk can be a good choice if you’re on a budget. Since it’s available in so many colours, it’s a popular choice for both brides and bridesmaids.
Faille. This finely ribbed silk or rayon blend tends to appear in couture and structured styles. Its quiet sheen also makes it a festive choice for bridesmaids’ dresses.
Illusion. A sheer, mesh fabric with stretch, illusion is often used for sleeves or to fill in a bodice.
Organza. This semisheer, stiffer fabric holds a lot of shape, so it’s usually used in structured styles, like full skirts or overlays.
Peau de soie. This heavyweight satin appears most commonly on shoes and handbags, but it’s also used in high-end gowns.
Shantung. Like a lightweight version of Douppioni with a light catching glimmer to it, shantung has a nubby, irregular texture. It still has a fair amount of hold to it, so it tends to be used for more structured styles.
Taffeta. A crisp and lustrous fabric with a trademark rustle, taffeta is usually woven of silk or polyester. It can either be draped or structured and tends to wrinkle easily.
Tulle. A fine netting, tulle is the material that ballerinas’ skirts are made of. Though the silk variety is softer than the polyester kind, it’s still rough on the skin and necessitates petticoats or slips.
Velvet, burnout, panne. Though all three are forms of velvet, what’s commonly called velvet is the stiffer material. Burnout is a pattern created by burning out the pile with chemicals, so you get a brocaded effect and a thinner, more drape-able material. Panne is a supple, glossy version in which the pile is flattened in one direction.