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Of all the considerations taken when shopping for the bridal gown—color, cut, designer, cost, length, do I look like Kate Middleton yet?—everything starts with the fabric. Summer, winter, sturdy, vintage, or free-flowing, there's a textile you may or may not have heard of that will fit your style. It doesn't mean it's going to be easy, though. There are dozens of wedding gown materials to choose from, and unless you wear a lot of peau de soi in your spare time, it's likely you're not going to be familiar with too many of them. So without further ado, we give you our guide to 15 of the most popular wedding dress fabrics, an illustrated glossary in alphabetical order:
batiste: A lightweight, soft, transparent fabric with a mercerized finish, which gives the fabric its sheen and strength. It's woven with cotton or linen, making it an excellent choice for summer as well as for the eco-conscious bride. The fabric creates a delicate, "home-made" look and is found most often in vintage dresses.
brocade: A Jacquard-woven fabric with raised designs, brocade often comes across as formal and ornate (the name derives from the French word meaning "ornament," so now you know). It's traditionally a fall and winter material.
St. Pucci Sposa, via The Knot
charmeuse: Light, semi-lustrous, and soft, this textile has a satin-like feel. Straight charmeuse is expensive and fairly accident prone, since it's so delicate. It's also a curve hugger so if you don't generally like form-fitting styles, this isn't the fabric for you.
crepe: A light, soft, and thin fabric with a crinkled surface, which is achieved through hard spun yarn or chemical treatments. Though it's great for draping, it can cling to the body, so there's little hiding in it.
damask: A nice alternative to brocade for summer, since it has similar raised designs, but it's woven in a much lighter weight. Especially good for when you want to look like Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina.
duchesse satin: A lightweight hybrid of silk and rayon or polyester woven into a satin finish. It's stiffer and lighter than regular satin, so it carries a shape well while also draping nicely. And bonus: The heavier weight means it's less prone to wrinkling, so it's a good choice for brides who'd like to dance all night long without much wrinkle action.
dupioni: The most popular of silk blends found in wedding garments, this one is often used synonymously with shantung due to the two fabrics' similar sheen. However, dupioni is thicker and coarser with raised fibers that give it rougher texture than shantung.
faille: One of the more structured silks, it's easier to tailor than soft silks and satins but still retains the glossy, finely ribbed, woven look. It can be made from cotton, silk, or synthetic fibers.
georgette: Crepe-like and super lightweight, georgette is often made of polyester or silk. It has a dull or matte look and is a good choice for warm weather weddings because it's sheer but not entirely see-through—a plus when all eyes are on you.
illusion: Illusion fabrics are finely woven net fabrics that are generally used as a decorative elements for sleeves or necklines, thanks to the material's sheerness.
moire: A heavy, crisp silk taffeta with an almost watery design. Its weight lends its well to fall or winter weddings.
organdy/organza: The difference between these two is that organdy is made of cotton and organza is made of silk, but they're both extremely sheer and crisp. Similar to tulle, but more flowing, both are mostly used to stuff princess gown skirts and add overlays.
peau de soie: A soft satin textile that has a dull luster and a grainy appearance. The high-quality cloth sports a heavy twill weave that makes it a good choice for draped construction.
shantung: Shantung has a rubbed texture and resembles raw silk. Slightly smoother than duponi, it's one of the more popular textiles used for wedding garments.
silk mikado: A blend of silks that results in a heavier fabric, mikado is frequently used for cool weather weddings.