Finding a Fabric

The Wedding Guru Judy Lewis fields this week’s wedding questions. Today: Silk chiffon, velvet, charmeuse — when it comes to wedding gown fabrics, how do you choose?

Sometimes the simplest question gets the most detailed response. This week, a bride asked about choosing her wedding gown fabric — pretty basic, right? In researching the answer, I was amazed at how much information on the topic exists!

A Valley bride asks: “Before I started looking for my wedding gown, I wondered which fabric is appropriate for the time of year I’m getting married. I just don’t know where to start! Can you please help?”

Dear Valley bride: I think that you’re doing well by starting, as the saying goes, “at the very beginning.” With the advent of man-made materials, you’re fortunate to be able to choose from among “old favorites” such as silk peau de soie and silk satin, and also from several newer synthetic materials like polyester and nylon. There are so many choices! Here’s how to narrow them down:

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Start by considering the time of year that you’re getting married — and whether the ceremony will take place indoors or out. You can eliminate some fabrics because they’re too heavy for the summer (or too lightweight for the winter). Also, make sure you look at the price; fabrics such as silk organza and silk chiffon are more expensive than their synthetic “twins.” Knowing what style gown you want helps, too, since different fabrics are suited better for styles. Velvet, for example, works with a soft silhouette, a full skirt, A-line, ball gown, column, or mermaid style gown. On the other hand, chiffon has a soft, fluid drape and is best suited for overskirts, layered wedding gowns, sheer sleeves, ball gowns, and empire gowns.You should also consider the kind of wedding you’re planning: Is it a formal, indoor affair? Charmeuse is very delicate and will complement that style. Heading outdoors for a more informal wedding,? You’re better off picking a fabric that doesn’t wrinkle easily and is much less delicate, such as tulle and taffeta. (The latter wrinkles, but hides them well.)

To get advice from an expert, I spoke to Barbara Kerner from Styles des Rêves in Accord. With over 25 years experience in creating wedding gowns, she reports that the most commonly used fabric is, unequivocally, satin. “Satin has the kind of body that’s just suited for a wedding gown,” she says. “It has a beautiful sheen and it’s fairly easy to work with. It also doesn’t wrinkle too readily.” (Kerner points out that they can easily be steamed out if wrinkles do occur.) “What’s most important is that even inexpensive satin looks good!” she adds.

As for fabrics to avoid, Kerner lists sheer ones like polyester chiffon and organza — they’re the hardest to work with because they stretch and fray, making them “unstable” and difficult to sew. She also notes that sheer ones tend to pull and snag. Not to say these fabrics aren’t good ones — just keep in mind how they will be treated during your night!

Does this help with your foray into fabrics? Knowing exactly what kind of wedding (and wedding dress) you want will help narrow down which fabrics are right for you. For more ideas — including the pros and cons of common wedding gown fabrics — check out

To submit your own question to the Wedding Guru, email Judy at

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