How and where should you begin? Start by familiarizing yourself with the terms used in association with wedding gowns.
Alencon - a handmade, needlepoint lace with designs on sheer net outlined with cord. It originated in Alencon, France. It is very delicate.
Brussels Lace - a light and delicate lace with subtle patterns that is very beautiful and very expensive.
Chantilly - a fine, handmade mesh with scroll and floral designs, often with scalloped edges outlined with silk threads. It originated in Chantilly, France.
Cluny Lace - a lace made of fine linen thread, usually in open designs.
Schiffli - an expensive, machine made lace, usually with fine, delicate floral embroidery.
Venice - a heavy, raised cotton or linen needlepoint lace with floral sprays, foliage, or geometrical designs, which was first made in Venice.
Batiste - a soft, delicate summer fabric made of cotton or a cotton linen blend; the texture is fine and sheer.
Brocade - a heavy fabric with interwoven raised designs.
Channeuse - a lightweight, smooth, semilustrous silk or synthetic fabric.
Chiffon - a fabric with a simple weave often of silk or rayon with a soft or stiff finish that is delicately sheer.
Chintz - a cotton fabric with a glazed finish.
Cotton - a popular natural fiber known for its reasonable cost and its versatility in texture, weight, and construction.
Crepe - a soft, fluid, summer fabric of silk, cotton, polyester, or rayon. The texture is finely crinkled or ridged.
Crepe de Chine - a soft, light, thin fabric of silk, rayon, or polyester. Used mostly for informal gowns in fall or winter.
Crinoline - an underskirt foundation used to extend the skirt of the wedding gown.
English Net - a fine, sheer cotton netting; a traditional but expensive fabric used in wedding gowns.
Eyelet - a silk, cotton, or cotton polyester open weave embroidery used mostly for decoration. It has small, round, holes finished at the edges with lace and/or embroidery.
Faille - a heavier, crisp, flat ribbed fabric of silk or rayon that is used mostly for fall and winter weddings.
Georgette - a silk or synthetic crepe with a dull texture.
Illusion - a silk tulle or nylon material from which most veils are made.
Jersey - a soft, fluid material made of wool, silk, or rayon which usually has a satin or matte finish.
Lace - any open weave fabric used for trim or the entire piece of clothing; see specific kinds of lace.
Linen - made from flax, this fiber has been used for clothing since the dawn of civilization. It is beautiful, durable and elegant, with a natural luster and is used for spring and summer weddings.
Moire - a silk taffeta that, when illuminated, glistens like water.
Net - an open weave mesh fabric often used in veils.
Nylon - a man made fiber which is produced in a wide variety of fabric textures, from smooth to crisp to soft and bulky. It can be heat set to hold pleats and embossed designs.
Organdy - a very fine, sheer fabric, usually cotton, with a stiff finish.
Organza - a sheer, crisply textured fabric which is almost transparent. It may be embroidered with patterns of flowers having rolled edges that are often lightly colored; it is then called embroidered organza.
Peau de Soie - winter dress material made of blended fabrics that has a light, silky texture and a dull, satin like finish.
Pique - a ribbed fabric known for its distinct texture and made of cotton, rayon, or silk.
Point d'Esprit - a net or tulle with dots woven into the pattern.
Rayon - a man made fiber that can resemble many natural fibers. It drapes well and has a good affinity for dyes.
Satin - a silk or synthetic material with a smooth, usually shiny, unbroken surface.
Silk - a beautiful, luxurious natural fabric available in a variety of weaves and weights which holds brilliant color. Silk chiffon is sheer and drapes well; silk brocade is stiff and elegant.
Shantung - a rough textured plain weave silk or man made fiber.
Silk Faced Satin - a full bodied satin with an antique sheen.
Slipper Satin - a lustrous, light, soft, more closely woven satin fabric made primarily of acetate.
Tafleta - a crisp, smooth, glossy fabric with a small crosswise web.
Tulle - a fine, sheer net fabric of cotton, nylon, rayon or silk.
Velvet - a cold weather fabric made of silk, cotton, or a silk cotton blend. The fiber is a thick, soft pile with a matte finish.
Voile - a light, open weave fabric of wool, silk, cotton, or cotton polyester blend that is used for informal dress styles.
A Line - tapered or tight fitting bodice, with a close fitting waist that slowly tapers to a flared hem.
Antebellum - dress with a tight fitting bodice, with a natural waistline that dips two inches to a point in the center front.
Asymmetrical - fabric falls to one side from the natural waistline.
Ballgown - an off the shoulder bodice accented by a natural waistline with a lavish, full skirt.
Blouson - drooping fullness in the fabric from the bodice to the waist, gathered at or below the waist.
Bustle Back - a gown with an exaggerated fullness in the rear of the skirt, built with a pad or frame. This is often done with a bridal train for easier movement at the reception.
Drop Waist - the bodice may be loose, tapered, or tightly fitted, with the waistline of the dress dropping several inches below the natural waist.
Empire - small, scooped bodice gathering at a high waist with a slim yet full skirt. (A raised waist is a waistline that is about one inch above the natural waistline, which may or may not be an empire waist.)
Princess - slim fitting bodice and skirt with vertical seams flowing from the shoulder to the hem of the skirt; accentuates the waist but does not hug the body.
Sheath - narrow, body hugging style without a waist.
Belle - A circular cut that is full and usually a longer length.
Bouffant - a very full, puffed-out skirt.
Dirndl - a gathered skirt, not especially full, with a tight waistband.
Full - is gathered, but less full than the bouffant style.
Hoop - the underskirt is stiffened with circular hoops made of boning.
Peplum - a short flounce or overskirt that is attached at the waistline. Skirt with Shirred Waist - fabric is gathered to make a horizontal panel at the waistline of the skirt.
Tiered - a skirt that has a series of layered panels falling in graduated lengths.
Trumpet - tapers close to the legs, then flares at or below the knee.
High - collar just brushing the chin.
Sabrina a high, slightly curved neck.
Queen Elizabeth - the high collar stands up in the back and comes to a closed V in the front.
Jewel - fabric encircles the natural neckline.
Square - neckline is shaped like half of a square in the front and may be the same in the back or high and straight.
Sweetheart - the front neckline is shaped like the top half of a heart with the back being higher and straight across from shoulder to shoulder.
Off the Shoulder - the neckline falls below the shoulders and hovers above the bustline (but the dress has sleeves).
Boat (or Bateau or Scoop) - the neckline gently follows the curve of the collarbone almost to the tip of the shoulders in the front and the same in the back.
Queen Anne - the neckline rises high at the nape (back) of the neck, then sculpts low in the front either in a sweetheart shape or to outline a bare yoke.
Bertha - a cape of fabric or lace that is attached to the neckline for a shawl effect.
Wedding Band - an upright collar which encircles the base of the neck and is often made of lace.
Bishop - fuller in the lower forearm, then gathered at the wrist into a wide cuff.
Cap - a small sleeve just covering the top of the arm.
Capelet - falls several inches below the elbow in a soft flare.
Dolman - a sleeve which extends from the armhole so large that it creates a cape like effect. It is often fitted at the wrist.
Fitted - a narrow long sleeve.
Gibson - is full at the shoulder and fitted at the wrist.
Leg of Mutton (or Gigot) - a sleeve which is wide and rounded at the shoulder, tapering to a snug fit on the lower arm.
Melon - a sleeve which is extravagantly rounded from the shoulder to the elbow.
Peek a Boo - is a sheer, puffed sleeve that has a different fabric showing through underneath.
Poet - the style is pleated at the shoulder and is very full from shoulder to cuff.
Pointed - a long, fitted sleeve that falls into a point below the wrist and over the top of the hand.
Puff - a short sleeve gathered into a gentler rounded shape usually above the elbow.
Three Quarter - a sleeve which ends between the elbow and the wrist.
16) Dress Lengths
Street - hem just covering the knees.
Intermission - hem slightly below the knee in front and falling to ankle length in back.
Ballet - hem reaching to the center of the calf or slightly below.
Tea - a gown that falls several inches above the ankles.
Floor - hem fully skimming the floor.
Sweep or Brush - the shortest train, barely touching the floor.
Court - a train which is one foot longer than the sweep train.
Chapel - a train which extends about 1 1/3 yards from the waist. This is the most popular train of young brides of today.
Cathedral - a train which cascades 2½ yards from the waist. This is the train used in very formal wedding ceremonies.
Royal - flowing more than 3 yards from the waist. This is the longest train.
Caplet Train - flows from the back of the shoulders.
Watteau - the train falls from the back yoke of the dress.
Detachable Train - a train that is joined to the gown at the waistline with hooks and eyes, and can be removed for the reception.
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