A few common questions answered.
There are a few similar questions I often get asked when brides are choosing the fabrics for their wedding dress.
Here are the questions I get asked the most.
What’s the difference between silk and satin?
In short, silk is a fibre and satin is a weave.
Silk is a fibre from a silk worm, that is made in to a whole variety of fabrics, from delicate tulles and chiffons, right through to heavy raw looking fabrics. Satin is a weave that has long warp floats which means the fabric is smoother, giving it more sheen. Satin can be made from any fibre.
The amount of sheen on a satin comes down to what it is made of. The stiffness or drape of the satin is also dictated by how stiff the thread is that it’s woven from, and how it’s finished.
So, silk comes in a massive variety, as does satin. You can of course get satin made from silk, which can come in all weights, and then there are blends….. (so there's a lot of options)
The only way to decide what you want is to look at and feel the fabrics.
Kim's dress (below) is a lovely example of a silk crepe backed satin. Most of the dress has the crepe side showing, with elements of the shiny side to give a subtle tonal colour difference. You can see that it has a lovely sheen without being too shiny.
Should I have silk or synthetic?
Often the expectation is that synthetics will be shiny, and look cheap, but in fact, some of the high quality polyesters look and feel just like silk and are more practical.
The two main things that usually influence the decision is practicality and cost.
Generally synthetic fabrics are less expensive than silk, with the exception of some of the newer eco recycled fabrics. So if you want to keep the costs down, a good quality synthetic might be the way to go.
The other big factor is practicality, if your big day will involve being outdoors, with the possibility or moisture getting on your dress from damp grass / sand, a synthetic fabric will dry out quicker, and be easier to clean after.
Amy's dress (below) shows a perfect combination of fabrics. Amy chose a gorgeous delicate silk tulle for the top layer of her dress, but had a synthetic fabric lining the train, meaning it was unlikely to get damaged as it got dragged along the ground.
Will it crease?
In most cases, natural fibres like silk, cotton and linen will crease a lot more than synthetics like polyester and acetate.
If you want a fabric that’s less likely to crease, but like the appearance of silk, a good option is to go for a blend. For example, a silk / polyester blend satin will have a similar look and feel to a silk satin, but the polyester content will prevent it from creasing so much. The prices of these are generally a little bit less expensive than silk too.
Sarah (below in green) chose polyester for her wedding dress. You can see from the style of her amazing wedding that she really didn't want to have to think about practicality and creasing. The right fabric for your style of wedding helps you enjoy your day so much more!
Can I dye it after?
I never recommend buying or making a dress with the intention of dying it after the wedding. Even if you go for all natural fabrics that should dye well, the thread could dye differently. If you're making your dress from scratch, it could be sewn with cotton thread which will be more likely to dye evenly, but practically all off the peg dresses will be made using polyester thread, therefore it won’t dye the same as your dress.
If you have a dress with polyester fabric, you’d have to get it dyed professionally, and this could end up costing as much as a new dress.
What can I have that’s organic, eco or vegan?
It’s a really difficult one, to make a dress that’s 100% organic, eco or vegan.
There are some fantastic fabrics available now that are made from recycled plastic, and they feel amazing, but the process, although helping the environment, is obviously still using plastic.
You can avoid silk if you want to go vegan, but the alternatives are generally synthetics, which involve chemicals, and the damage they do to the environment and marine life, you could argue is more damaging to animals than what silk is to worms.
Organic cotton doesn’t give you the look of a traditional wedding dress, but is probably the fabric to choose which ticks the most boxes.
If you want a dress that isn’t white, you’d also need to look into what dyes have been used, as these again can flush a lot of chemicals in to the water system.
Most dresses do up with plastic zips, if you want to have something more natural, maybe think about wooden buttons, or metal hooks and eyes.
So there’s a lot to think about if you want a dress that’s 100% ethical and eco, but there are quite a few options to look at now that weren’t available until recently.
Bridal Fabrics, one of my fantastic fabric suppliers have a great range of eco fabrics, take a look here.
I need to take my dress abroad, what’s most practical?
If you want a dress that won’t need ironing at the other end, a synthetic fabric is going to be the most practical. If you know you can get your dress professionally steamed at your destination then I wouldn’t so much, as long as you know you can transport your dress with no risk of anything getting spilt on it, and that you will be able to transport it hanging. Most airlines will do this if you arrange it in advance.
Caity (below) chose silk chiffon for her Ibiza wedding, her dress travelled perfectly. (A heavier silk might have been more tricky)
How can I clean my dress after my wedding?
If you ask most brides, they never actually get around to cleaning their dress after the wedding.
If you do decide to, just make sure you take it somewhere very reputable, it’s not than uncommon for cleaning companies to ruin wedding dresses, I’ve had several very unhappy ladies contact me to ask if I can repair damage to ruined dresses. This has ranged from burn marks right through to the whole dress being ruined because they’ve used the wrong cleaning process.
The worst case was when I made a lovely lady her dream dress out of silk organza, and the cleaning company washed it in water, her lovely crisp organza dress was returned to her floppy and stretched. The company ended up closing down, I can only assume hers wasn't the only dress they ruined!
Always get a recommendation before trusting someone with your dress. (Or just don't clean it).