Confused by different fabrics and materials? Don't know the difference between shantung and charmeuse? This guide is here to help! Choosing the right prom dress can seem overwhelming: there's the color and silhouette to consider, as well as the material the dress is made of. Don't ignore the fabric descriptions while browsing for prom dresses online; the right material can make or break a dress, and turn your dream gown into one that's not as appealing as you thought! Different fabrics are suitable for different silhouettes: for example, if you want a very fitted sheath dress then you'll want to avoid chiffon or georgette! On the other hand, if a flowing A-line gown is what you had in mind then those materials will give you the style you're looking for. If comfort is most important, then an evening gown made of knit fabric is just the thing.
Fiber is what the fabric itself is made of. Fibers can be natural, such as silk, cotton, wool or linen or manmade such as polyester, acrylic, rayon or acetate. The highest quality (and most expensive) fabrics are made from natural materials, but manmade fibers can produce beautiful prom dress fabrics as well.
Silk is one of the best materials that can be used in making elegant prom dresses. Silk is made from natural protein fiber made from silkworm cocoons and because of this, it comes with versatility and comfort. The advantage of this material is that it does not shrink as compared to other types of fabrics and that can be hand-washed. In addition, the material has a high level of absorbency and therefore can be dyed in many different colors. Silk is a great material for prom dresses as it retains its shape, comes with a great luster and caresses the figure. Terani 629 and Clarisse 1373 are both made of lovely silk fabrics.
Polyester is a popular manmade fiber to use, as it can mimic the properties of silk while being less expensive. It can be hard to tell the difference nowadays between the two!
Types of Fabrics
Chiffon can be made from silk or synthetic materials such as polyester. Chiffon is known for its simple weave as well as its subtle shimmer and therefore it is a popular choice for formal and evening wear. It's very lightweight and sheer, so dresses made of this material will usually have several layers. It's perfect for flowing, feminine A-line gowns such as Alyce 35590 or
Clarisse 3000. Silk chiffon comes with added advantage of strength because it is made from natural fiber and this means it will come with a higher cost as compared to synthetics. The material is difficult to work with because it is slippery and to help this it is usually coordinated with an under layer. Those working with this material need to be extra careful to avoid sewing it too fast, as it will gather and bunch causing an unpleasant look. Chiffon is also prone to runs and snags.
Georgette is another flowing, lightweight and sheer fabric similar to chiffon. While chiffon has a smooth, shimmering surface, georgette has a subtle texture to it due to highly twisted threads. Traditionally made from silk, georgette is now also made from polyester. Georgette can be easily dyed because it has a high rate of absorbency and can be printed with a pattern. One thing that has made this material very popular for prom gowns as well as for evening wear is the springy feature that makes the fabric seem to move on its own. The other advantage is that it is very lightweight meaning that it can be used in layers without making it bulky. Caring for this fabric involves simple steps such as using mild detergent while washing in cold water and hanging it to dry while ensuring it does not stay out in the sun for too long to avoid fading. Like chiffon, georgette is ideal for flowing a-line gowns such as Clarisse 2715.
Knit fabrics have become very popular recently for clothing other than t-shirts and sweaters! Knit fabrics have a beautiful drape, and are stretchy and comfortable. They can have a matte finish, a smooth, glossy finish such as Clarisse 4729, or even a slightly textured feel such as Clarisse 2795. Knit fabrics for evening wear can be lightweight and very stretchy or heavier with just a bit of stretch. The unique properties of knit fabrics make them ideal for sexy fitted sheath silhouettes.
Charmeuse is a satin finished fabric made from silk or polyester. It is lightweight and glossy and has a beautiful drape, especially when cut on the bias. This lustrous fabric is ideal for slinky, flowing dresses such as Clarisse 9106, or Tony Bowls 111738. Charmeuse has a very classic, Old Hollywood elegance that's perfect for the girl who love vintage glamour. Charmeuse is a very delicate fabric that's prone to pulls and snags.
Taffeta can be made from silk or synthetic fibers. This type of fabric is known for generating a rustling sound but also for its soft and smooth feel. Taffeta is stiffer than other fabrics, and so is excellent for more structured silhouettes such as mermaid or trumpet gowns. Stretch taffeta fabrics have the advantage of being more comfortable to wear. Taffeta may conjure images of tacky bridesmaids dresses, but don't discount this elegant and lustrous fabric! Clarisse 3148 is a gorgeous and sexy modern stretch taffeta gown that proves just how irresistible this material is!
Organza is another choice for prom formal dresses. It's a smooth, lightweight and sheer fabric similar to with a stiff, crisp feel and not much drape. Organza is perfect for dresses with a more structured silhouette, such as fun Clarisse cocktail dress 2225 or lavish ball gown 9203.
Satin is a very popular type of material for prom dresses. Satin is a specific weave of fabric that produces a shiny side and a matte side. Double faced satin has two shiny sides. It has been used for years in making some of the best garments. Clarisse 3153 is a simply elegant gown made of lustrous stretch satin.
Tulle and mesh are other types of material for making prom dresses. These fabrics are made from silk, rayon, nylon or cotton and comes with an open weaving that is based on a mesh pattern. Mesh creates a lacy look that comes with a floating appearance While tulle is mostly used to add bulk on different types of garments. Tulle gives poufy dresses such as ball gowns and mermaid dresses their pouf! Sheer mesh can be used for illusion necklines and cutouts. Tony Bowls 114746 has a magnificent tulle mermaid skirt.
Shantung is a sophisticated and lustrous fabric that's very popular for eveningwear. It was traditionally made from silk, although high quality polyester fabrics can now mimic the unique properties of this gorgeous material. Shantung is shiny and iridescent with slubs across the surface that give it a slight texture. Clarisse M6235 and 1404 are an evening gown and cocktail dress that show off this elegant fabric.
Lace comes in many different patterns, weaves and weights. A dress can have lace appliqués, such as Tony Bowls 11465, or be made entirely from lace, such as Clarisse 4852. Because of the open weave of lace, it can be very delicate and easily caught or snagged.
Velvet , is a soft pile fabric with a 'fuzzy' texture that was traditionally made from silk but can now be made from different fabrics such as cotton and synthetics. The advantage of this material is that it takes dye so well and is very lustrous when made from silk. It is can also be very warm, so it's ideal for fall and winter events. Though mostly related to vintage gowns, Velvet is available in different variations but still with the soft pile, such as velveteen and velour. Clarisse 2687 is a stretch velvet cocktail dress that's perfect for holiday parties.
Mikado is a heavy fabric that's ideal for mermaid and trumpet dresses as it can hold a structured silhouette. Mikado does not have any stretch, so make sure to measure yourself carefully when ordering a dress in this material! Clarisse 4701 uses mikado to create a dramatic, architectural silhouette.
Sequin fabrics are perfect for when you want to turn up the glitz! Sequined fabrics have a mesh or organza backing. The sequins themselves can be made of plastic or metal, and can be attached flat to the backing fabric or only on one side, so they can flow freely. Sequins can be large or small, and come in every color imaginable! Scala cocktail dress 4109 is covered in large sequins for a fun look, while Tony Bowls 111539 mixes an all-sequin skirt with a charmeuse bodice.
Neoprene is a newcomer on the eveningwear scene. Traditionally used for wetsuits and aquatic gear, this soft and stretchy material has found its way into everyday clothing recently. 'Scuba' material, as it's also known, has a thick, spongy texture and is very warm. Clarisse 3086 uses this innovative fabric to create a gorgeous trumpet silhouette.