Chiffon, charmeuse and shantung have you in a swirl? Navigating bridesmaid dress fabrications can seem daunting, especially your first time. What exactly is peau de soie and for god’s sake what will it feel like? Here I present a tutorial in bridesmaid dress fabrics and finishes—it’s all you need to know to help you choose which finish is right for the styles you like or the type of event you’re planning.
First of all, there’s a difference between a fabric and a finish. Fabrics are cotton, silk, nylon, rayon or polyester, to name a few. Finishes are terms like chiffon, taffeta, and satin. It’s important to know the difference. Most people are more familiar with fabric than finish, so we’ll cover finishes here. If a dress is listed as “satin,” this does not mean it is made of silk. Synthetic fibers like polyester and rayon can easily take on a satin finish, so be sure to check closely before making a decision.
It’s also important to note that while the descriptions below give a general idea of each finish, the characteristics of the fabric can vary greatly based on the quality of fabric the retailer uses. Some satins will feel much smoother than others, just as some taffeta will be stiffer. That’s why it’s important to feel the fabric yourself before committing. Request a swatch to make sure it looks and feels the way you think (and hope) it will.
Chiffon is very lightweight and flowing, meaning that it does not cling to the body and is very good for styles with a lot of draping, like dresses with empire waists. It can be a bit sheer, so you will often find it draped in multiple layers. Chiffon is a nice fabric for muted colors and pastels because it does not have a distinct sheen, allowing delicate colors come through. It can be found in regular or “crinkle” chiffon, meaning that the fabric will have a subtle accordion pleat. Chiffon is ideal for outdoor or daytime weddings, as its light weight will keep girls cool.
Georgette is quite similar to chiffon in drape and feel. It is only slightly heavier than chiffon and a bit less sheer. It is ideal for outdoor or daytime weddings, as its light weight will keep girls cool.
Voile has the draping power of chiffon, but with a subtle sheen and a bit more weight. It is most often applied to cottons or cotton blends, resulting in a lightweight, breathable fabric. It tends to have a sort of luminosity to it and is a bit sheer. It also has quite a bit more structure than a chiffon, making it good for full or A-line skirts. It is ideal for outdoor or daytime weddings and can appear a bit more casual than other fabrications.
Cady has a nice balance of stretch and structure. Most often applied to cotton, this finish holds it shape well, but is quite smooth with a hint of stretch. It has a very minimal sheen, almost to the point of being matte. It is ideal for outdoor or daytime weddings and can appear a bit more casual than other fabrications.
Satin. When we think of silk, the texture we normally envision is satin. In reality, silk can be rendered in almost any finish, but the adjective “silky” describes it in satin form. It is smooth and soft to the touch, and usually quite lightweight, though the degree of softness will vary across retailers. It tends to drape with the body, meaning it’s good for form-fitting styles, and it has a lot of movement (think twirling on the dance floor). Most satin has a subtle sheen, meaning it will catch the light slightly. Satin is best for formal or nighttime weddings. It should be avoided for events that will be held in high heat, as it shows sweat easily.
Charmeuse, A cousin to satin, charmeuse has the same sheen and drape as satin, but is lighter and even a bit softer. Its sheen is a bit more muted and its drape a bit more liquid. It is best for formal or nighttime weddings. It should be avoided for events that will be held in high heat, as it shows sweat easily.
Peau De Soie, Also known as Duchess Satin. As its second name implies, peau de soie is similar to satin, but more structured. It has the medium weight and smooth feel of satin, but a bit more stiffness, which lends it to being used in a wide variety of styles. It is also much less shiny than satin or charmeuse, bordering on matte. It is best for formal or nighttime weddings. It shou