PHOTO: HER WORLD BRIDES JUNE 2015

Satin, lace, chiffon and tulle are the essence of romance – and the stuff dream wedding gowns are made of. The easiest way to know which fabric works  best for you – besides your designer’s advice and your personal preference – is to know your body shape. All four fabrics have their strengths and will evoke different feels for the final look. Understanding this will help you make a smarter dress choice. Here’s your handy guide to bridal’s “F4”.

Satin Like wedding gown designs, satin has evolved over the centuries. It now comes in all blends, grades, textures, colours and, of course, prices. Technically, satin is a weaving method that results in a fabric with a glossy front and dull back (the resulting fabric is also called satin). Some satins have high shine; others have understated sheen. Originally, the weaving method used silk yarn to create the fabric; now, it can be mixed with other yarns, including Lycra to give the final fabric a bit of stretch. 

Duchess satin is one of the most popular types of satin because its subtle sheen gives it a luxe look. Moreover, it has enough weight to hold a shape well, which works perfectly for a structured or a more fluid gown. The fabric also takes beading and embroidery well, and can even be used for shoes! 

Charmeuse satin is soft, light and glossy because it’s usually made with a higher percentage of silk or polyester. Its softness makes it ideal for bias-cut dresses or slightly loose, flowing gowns. 

Crepe satin is soft like charmeuse satin, but has more weight which means it can be more forgiving on generous figures. It also tends to be less shiny.
Crepe back satin has glossy satin on one side and a matte-looking crepe on the other – you can use either side. Heavy with a luxurious feel, it is popular for wedding and evening gowns.

Silk satin can be pricey (especially the 100 per cent pure silk version) but
the texture feels absolutely divine against skin.

Double-sided satin is smooth and shiny on both sides. While heavier than charmeuse satin, it’s soft enough to use in a bias-cut design.

Lace
Lace is traditionally romantic, yet can be seriously sexy when cut into a fitted dress. And more than any other fabric (besides tulle perhaps), lace is also often used for finishing touches or dress details. This versatility – and the fact that it looks pretty – is the fabric’s appeal. Lace is an openwork fabric that results when each thread is looped or twisted around, or braided to other threads from a backing fabric. In the process, the fabric is patterned with open holes or spaces that become part of the design. There are many varieties of lace, and traditionally, each is classified by how it is made. But some types of lace became so famous for their design or pattern that they were each named for the region in which they were made, such as Chantilly, Alencon or Cluny lace. Lace was handmade until the 18th century when machines were created and introduced to the industry. Today, lace can come from different countries – South Korea, Thailand and Japan – but European lace, particularly French, is still believed to be the best. Some local designers – and brides – think that French lace is worth the splurge, just because it feels much softer on skin. 

Chantilly lace is one of the better-known French laces, and comes from Chantilly, a city north of Paris, France. First made in the 17th century, this is an extremely fine lace, characterised by floral designs and rich details. 

Alencon (say ah-long-sohn) is another French lace popular here. It’s sometimes known as corded lace as its floral patterns are edged with heavier, raised threads, giving the patterns more definition and dimension. This lace is heavier than Chantilly, and, when used with a lining, holds a dress shape well. 

Guipure (say gee-poor), alsoknown as Filet lace, is sometimes categorised as a form of embroidery because it’s created on a knotted net backing. Guipure often has larger geometric motifs that are repeated through the fabric to create a three-dimensional pattern. 

Leavers lace is made by the Leavers machine developed in the 1800s. The machine allows for more creative and complicated patterns. Often, the resulting lace fabric is so well made, it reportedly takes an industry expert to be able to tell whether it’s done by a machine or by hand. 

Chiffon and tulle 

Chiffon is a sheer, light fabric that’s popularly used for gowns or overlays. In gowns, chiffon allows for more fluid, or “drapey” designs – think Greek goddess-inspired styles. Its slightly matte finish also allows designers to dress it up more, often with glittering details that up the glamorous feel of flowing gown styles. If used as an overlay, chiffon gives a dreamy touch, thanks to its airy, “fly-away” quality. Chiffon is woven from silk, cotton or synthetic yarn, and can be dyed to almost any shade, so it’s also often used to create evening dresses too.   

Tulle is an ultra-fine machine-made fabric that is like netting, but has a different texture. It is softer and smoother, with a more refined finish, while netting is stiffer, rougher and usually used to make the structured petticoat worn under a bridal gown. Tulle is more often used for veils or decorative purposes. In recent years though, it has become the fabric for making the full skirts of princess ballgowns. In a look inspired by the ballet tutu, multiple layers of tulle are sewn together to create the actual skirt portion of a ballgown. And since the gauzy fabric is light, even multiple layers don’t weigh as much as a ball skirt made of duchess satin, for instance. This makes the gown comfortable to wear. And brides love it – not just the gown but the whole feel that tulle gives off. The fabric is stiff enough to give a gown structure, but still flows easily with each dainty step; its translucent quality adds a dreamy, romantic appeal. What more can a girl ask for?And that sentiment pretty much sums up the essence that every bride looks for in her dream dress. 

This story was first published in Her World Brides December – February 2011.