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Choosing Your Bridal Fabrics
Written by Lisa Merton

Whether you buy your wedding gown off the rack, or have it made to measure, you will need to know what type of fabric will best suit your dress style, and your figure. Lisa Merton from Culture Shock Bridal and Eveningwear explains what to look for in bridal fabrics, and where to go to find them!

Your wedding gown is probably the most precious (and expensive) dress you will ever own, so it is important to make the right decisions when it comes to choosing your fabrics. There are so many things to consider – the look, quality, weight, weave, colour, texture, drape, care and wearability. The most important rule to remember is that you get what you pay for … generally speaking, the more expensive the fabric, the better quality it will be, and the longer it will last.

Beaded and embroidered fabrics can vary dramatically in quality, and come in many combinations and styles. The best quality beaded and embroidered eveningwear fabrics are done on a silk base, such as silk georgette, although these days many polyester and viscose fabrics are used as well. Always ask what quality the base fabric is when you are shopping around. To check the quality of the workmanship, look at the back of the beaded or embroidered fabric and make sure the holding threads are secure and not too long. If the threads are loose you will end up with beads or stitches falling off and possibly catching on jewellery .. not a good thing! .

The best quality beads are glass or crystal, and they are much easier and safer to dry clean, as they do not melt or tarnish. Plastic sequins or beads can easily melt with heat and certain chemicals used in dry cleaning … always get your dry cleaner to test the beads first if you are not sure of their content. Swarovski crystals, beads and pearls are very high in quality, and come in a great range of sizes and colours … good couturiers use Swarovski for all their beading needs.The amount of beading or embroidery on the fabric will greatly affect the price, as will the country of origin.

Beaded fabrics can cost between $60 - $500 per metre, depending on the amount of work and the quality of the base fabric. Beaded fabrics are tricky to work with, so a dressmaker or couturier will charge more to cover the extra care and time taken handling the delicate fabric. Often the dressmaker will have to unpick beads around seams, hems and panel-lines, which is time consuming and very fiddly.

Laces are another example of fabric that can vary dramatically in quality and price. The best laces produced today are French, Italian and Swiss, but there are some fantastic laces coming out of Asia too. French “Chantilly Lace” is usually regarded as the finest, most delicate and highly sought-after, and can cost anywhere between $150 - $700 per metre, depending on the detailing. It is usually a floral pattern and can often have several shades or colours within the design, plus a scalloped border on one or both edges (selveges). There are cheaper copies of this style of lace, but they are never as light or dainty as the original.

Chantilly lace looks great when it is lined with a slightly darker or lighter contrast colour, which emphasises the detail and colour of the lace. Laces are often beaded as well, which greatly enhances the detail of the lace pattern and adds weight and depth. “Guipure Lace” is another popular lace for brides, and was very widely used in the 1950’s and 60’s for bodices and sleeves of wedding gowns. It is woven from cotton, is heavier and slightly chunky texture, usually white and floral and is very pure, clean and innocent looking.

Guipure lace has a lot more coverage than other laces, so it is great for sleeves and bodices when you don’t want too much skin to show. Border or graduated designs on netting are popular these days, especially on a tulle base (where the design is embroidered onto the tulle to give the appearance of lace). Although strictly speaking this fabric is not really a lace, it has the look, weight and feel of lace, but can be less expensive. A graduated pattern is when the design is heavily embroidered on one side of the fabric, then it gradually fades to a scattered and spaced-out design on the other side. This kind of fabric works well in empire-line dresses, where you can feature the heavily embroidered design near your feet, then have it fade away towards waistline, then again use the heavy design around the bodice.

A lot of laces are quite narrow in width (usually around 90 cm wide only) so empire lines and other designed panel-lines work well when a join in the lace is required. Other laces to look out for are knitted “Stretch Lace”, which is quite cheap, and handy for tight-fitting dresses, bodices and sleeves, and “Raschel Lace”, which is also reasonably priced, usually nylon or viscose, but can look good when combined in layers with other fabrics.

“Metallic Lace” with silver, gold or bronze metallic thread can look fantastic, but always feel the back of the lace to make sure it’s not too harsh and scratchy, as the metallic threads can cause irritation to sensitive skin.

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Choosing Your Bridal Fabrics
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For further information on Culture Shock Bridal and Eveningwear please contact Lisa Merton.

Lisa Merton
Culture Shock Bridal and Eveningwear (Sydney)
Ph: 02 9569 0551

This article has been reproduced on Wedding Central Australia with permission. © Lisa Merton 2003. All Rights Reserved.


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