Alençon is a very fine needlepoint lace that features filled-in motifs outlined with a heavier silky cord (called “cordonnets”) that create a raised outer edge on a sheer net background. The heavy corded lace designs will help you recognize an alençon, or French re-embroidered lace. True alençon laces are made in France and are characterized by a fine fringe of threads along the edges of the scallops. This fringe of threads is called a "beard." These French laces are never wider than 36" and come in strips of 4-1/2 to 6 yards in length. The fringe along the scallops is where the strips have been cut apart and are a sign of quality. Domestic re-embroidered laces do not have the fringe, which is a simple way of telling the finer laces from the others. While the French laces are very expensive, many domestic copies are manufactured up to 60" wide; these can give your finished garment a similar look and feel as the French alençon but with more coverage for the dollar.
Allover or Embroidered Net
Fine cotton or rayon stitching on a fine ground of mesh. Most patterns are very delicate in nature.
Chantilly lace, made in France and named for the city where it originated, features delicate floral and swirl designs outlined with silky threads that define the motif on a fine net background.
Venise or Guipure Lace
Venise lace is one of the most elegant of all laces, featuring close stitches that create a heavy, raised design. These embroidery or buttonhole stitches are stitched on aetx cloth, which disintegrates in the finishing process, thereby leaving the motifs to stand alone. Venise lace can be purchased in trims, pairs of appliqués, yokes, bodice insets, single motifs, or wider yardage. A guipure lace is the French word meaning "lace without any ground mesh." Most commonly, the term "guipure" is used in the European market, while "venise" is used in the U.S. to describe the same type of lace. Instead of being woven on a net background like chantilly or alençon lace, venise laces have silky threads connecting the motifs with an open work feeling.
For the bride who dislikes the look of net but wants lace, a venise may be the answer. Venise lace has great versatility in that it can easily be pieced to create a bodice or appliquéd train that fits the shape of the individual gown. To piece the lace, simply overlap and pin appliqués where needed, then zigzag stitch close to the finished edge and cut away any excess lace from underneath. Instantly you have a new "one-of-a-kind" appliqué, and the piecing is virtually invisible. Try it: you might be surprised at the results.
This fluid, sheer, and transparent fabric is very popular with bridal designers. It can be self-hemmed or finished with ribbons. It gives a gown a feminine, flowing feeling. Because it is so light and transparent, it is generally used as an overlay on a more opaque fabric. Fibers can include silk, rayon, polyester, or nylon. Silk is the ideal choice for bridal gowns, but it’s more expensive. Polyester is the next best alternative.
A very soft satin that has great drape. Can be shiny or have a matte sheen. Commonly seen in both polyester and silk.
A lightweight fabric with a slightly irregular weave. It is generally used for lightweight blouses and linings. Despite the name, china silk is also made from rayon or polyester.
Crepe Back Satin
A light- to mid-weight fabric with a smooth satin face and crepe weave backing. Both sides of this fabric can be used, which makes it ideal for designs with shiny satin accents.
Crepe de Chine
Similar to crepe back satin, but much softer to the touch, lighter in weight, and higher in luster. Silk or rayon fibers are commonly used.
Dupioni or Douppioni
Silk fabric with an irregular weave and tiny nubs showing. It is sometimes referred to as “shantung” or “raw silk.” This fabric is used extensively by many of the top bridal designers and manufacturers. Due to its recent popularity, the market has been saturated by many suppliers, thereby bringing the price down significantly. This is a beautiful fabric to use in most gown designs.
A fine, soft netting with one- or two-way stretch, commonly used in bodices, sleeves, and train insets. Should not be confused with tulle.
A low luster, soft fabric with a visible rib weave. Silk, rayon, or polyester fibers are commonly used.
Combination of the taffeta weight and stiffness, with the rib weave of faille.
A stiff fabric with a design woven in, creating a watermark effect.
A fabric transparent like chiffon, but it’s much stiffer and has a low shine. Usually used for full skirts or as under support to achieve a full skirt silhouette. Silk organza is a great fabric for underlining.
Peau de Soie
A satin-faced fabric with less shine than satin fabric and a slightly visible grain. Many refer to this as a dull-faced satin or Italian satin.
Petticoat Net or Crinoline
A stiff netting used for slips or petticoats for the skirts of gowns. Also used in sleeveheads, bows, and bustles to add shape to the fabric or garment.
A fabric with a shiny, smooth face and smooth back. It’s usually medium to heavy weight. Satin can be made from several fibers; silk and polyester are commonly used in bridal.
A medium- to heavy-weight, raw silk fabric with nubs visible throughout the fabric. Silk shantung is popular for wedding gowns. It is generally found in natural white rather than pure white. Often confused with doupioni, it is usually lighter in weight and has a finer weave than doupioni.
Tulle or Illusion
Fine netting made of a tiny hexagonal mesh. Commonly used for wedding veils and skirts of gowns. It should not be used in bodices and fitted sleeves as it tears easily and will not give with the body (use English netting for this purpose).
A light- to heavy-weight, crisp fabric; also seen with a watermark effect. Taffeta is great for stiff, full skirts.
A medium- to heavy-weight fabric with plush pile. Perfect for elegant winter weddings. Comes in silk, rayon, and polyester.