Behind The Seams
The bridal fashion industry has a number of terms that can confuse even the most style-savvy bride-to-be. Here, Bhria Vellnagel speaks with the owner of Paula & Jo Designer Dressmakers, Paula Newman, about some common shapes and fabrics that you’ll come across in your search for the perfect gown.
Image Credit: Ross Wallace Photography
When looking for wedding dress inspiration, you’ve probably noticed that the bridal fashion industry has its own language. Therefore, learning some of the most commonly used terms will ensure you can easily communicate the details of your ideal gown to your seamstress.
Figure It Out
Finding a shape that works for your figure will ensure you feel fabulous in your wedding gown. For curvy brides-to-be, a body-hugging fishtail gown will draw emphasis to your waistline and give you that desired hourglass figure. “[The areas in which] a gown fits onto the body create a silhouette and character that embraces the whole look and vibe of the [dress], and what the bride is trying to convey,” Newman says.
Tall brides-to-be can benefit from a column silhouette, which features a fitted bodice that draws emphasis to the waistline and a sheath skirt that balances long legs. An empire silhouette, which cinches just below the bust, is ideal for those with a petite figure. Similarly, the long skirt, which is a stand-out feature in column wedding gowns, provides the illusion of height and will simultaneously slim the waist and hips.
Cap It Off
While it’s paramount that your dress complements your body shape, it’s equally important that it represents your personality and style. By adding unique additions that you love, such as beaded sleeves or an illusion back, your wedding dress is sure to make a lasting impression.
For those who prefer to feel covered on their big day but like the appeal of a strapless gown, long
sleeves made from a sheer fabric are the perfect solution. “This can be achieved in many different ways, from lace through to transparent fabrics,” Newman says. “These details create depth and whimsy.”
For a trendy look, ask your seamstress to incorporate stunning flared sleeves into the design. Newman says she has recently had many clients opting for bell and flowing waterfall sleeves, as well as capes.
The Magic Of Fabric
Fabrics can drastically change the look and fit of any dress, which is why many brides opt for a made-to-measure gown. “We spend a fair bit of time explaining the variety and depth of the fabric,” Newman says. “There have been many occasions where a client will say they don’t like lace, and yet when they see our range, they fall in love with it.”
From the classic elegance of Chantilly, to the textured appeal of guipure, lace is a smart addition to your gown as it won’t go out of fashion. An extremely popular style of lace, Chantilly is best defined by its soft, floral design. This handmade bobbin lace originates from France and features a fine-ground outlined pattern.
Similarly, Alençon is an elegant needlepoint lace of French origin that’s frequently sewn onto sheer tulle. Often referred to as the ‘Queen of Lace’, this stunning textile can be made in various designs.
Featuring exquisite embroidered stitching, guipure lace is most commonly seen on bohemian-style
gowns. Containing a number of patterns and no netting background, it’s a versatile addition to almost any style of gown.
Resilient and luxurious, silk is highly regarded by those in the bridal fashion industry. “Our favourite [silks] are probably from a range I import from London,” Newman says. “Mostly hand-loomed, [the range includes varieties of] crepe, duchess and zibeline.”
Zibeline is a thick, pure-silk fabric that features twill weaves, which is ideal for structured silhouettes. Similarly, duchess satin is a heavy, silk-blend textile that’s often used for draping. While silk may be a desired fabric for wedding gowns, blended satin is used more prevalently due to its variation and affordability, but Newman says the fabric is often underestimated. “The most confused and misused word [in the bridal industry], even for sales staff, is satin,” she says. “Satin simply means that the fabric has a shine or gloss on the surface.”
Satin is typically made from numerous fibres, which means, compared to pure silk, it differs drastically in structure and texture and is less prone to wrinkling. Some of the most common types of satin include antique, baronet and charmeuse, as well as the aforementioned duchess.
Finding your perfect wedding dress is an exciting experience, but trying to understand the terms used by industry experts can be difficult. By learning the correct terms of some popular fabrics and dress styles, you’ll feel like a pro when it comes to communicating the vision of your dream gown to your seamstress.