Am I Being Crazy About Shiny Fabric?
January 23, 2013 11:59 AM   Subscribe

Do you think that silk dupioni is the best choice of fabric for my wedding dress when I am plus-sized? I have described it in detail inside.

I am getting married in October, and I'm looking for a 50s-style wedding dress with these requirements:
- knee- or tea-length full skirt to wear with a brightly-colored crinoline
- not strapless, not even strapless-with-a-bolero. Just no.
- a not-white color- gray is preferred.
- sized to fit a busty (US retail) 14-16

I really like this dress on Etsy and, less so, this dress from Trashy Vintage and this dress from Vivien of Holloway.
All three dresses are in a shiny fabric of some kind. The Etsy seller uses silk dupioni, the Trashy Vintage dress is a shiny cotton satin, and the Vivien of Holloway dress is a shiny polyester satin.

However, I'm concerned about shiny fabric! I am a US size 14/16, and while the full skirt/decolletage will be flattering, I'm worried about the dress photographing well or accentuating my figure flaws. The wedding will be held in a music venue at night with some stage lighting. Bad cameras will abound, as they do. I'm concerned about the shiny fabric in these circumstances. Obviously, I want to feel confident in my dress and look as nice as possible.

My favorite dress by far is the Etsy dress, and the silk dupioni is almost certainly a better fabric than the polyester satin of the Vivien of Holloway dress. I've seen the latter online a lot (their dresses are very recognizable) and I don't think they photograph well at all. But is the quality difference enough to make it more flattering?
The Etsy dress has a better neckline and more structure to the bodice, so it's preferable. I can also pick any color I like, and I could possibly ask for a different type of fabric. However, I worry that I will choose a fabric that is unsuitable as I just don't know enough about them. I also worry it will be a hassle for the dressmaker.

- Do you think this is a reasonable concern? Does shiny fabric (of any type) accentuate figure flaws, even in this silhouette? Do you think the quality (the silk vs the poly satin) makes a difference?
- Do you think that color makes any difference? If I picked a silk dupioni in this charcoal or this dove gray, do you think the darker one would be more flattering?
- What kind of silk is more matte than dupioni, and could be made into a dress like this? If it's something that could be ordered from this vendor, that would be helpful. A similar price point is preferred.

To be clear, I live in a small town in the Midwest and there are no luxury fabric stores nearby. I prefer to shop online because bridal stores are scary. I also prefer to work with an established Etsy seller rather than a local seamstress; I've had some bad luck with the latter.
posted by aabbbiee to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (38 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I am not an expert, but isn't dupioni quite a stiff fabric? I think that would make the dress look structured and so less likely to show up least favoured body parts (as long as the style flatter and fits).
posted by plonkee at 12:06 PM on January 23, 2013

It's your wedding! Wear whatever makes you happy. I think feeling beautiful always gives me the confidence to pull off things that might be tough. And incidentally, I think shiny fabric is only super flaw-revealing when it's also really tight.

The gull gray you link above is beautiful and I bet it would make a gorgeous dress. I'd love to see a follow up with what you decide and what color crinoline to work with!

posted by chatongriffes at 12:07 PM on January 23, 2013

I wore a dress made of silk dupioni in a light champagne color as a bridesmaid for a wedding recently. I'm a size 12. I didn't find that the fabric was a problem at all in photos in terms of looking unflattering. What WAS unflattering was the cut of the dress to have two pleats in the back, an issue I couldn't really have altered due to the expense. I think the cut of the Etsy dress is really flattering and that particular fabric has a gentle sheen but it is not going to be dramatically shiny as you seem to be worrying, even under camera flash. Dupioni has a nice texture and it's really very subtle. Also, let go of the idea that any shine is "wrong" for your figure. It isn't, and the cut of the dress is beautiful and flattering--that's by far the most important element.
posted by araisingirl at 12:09 PM on January 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

Also seconding that silk dupioni is stiff and holds structure well--my dress had darts in the front and other features that held up nicely and kept my figure looking shapely and pretty, given proper foundational garments of course :)
posted by araisingirl at 12:10 PM on January 23, 2013

That etsy dress is gorgeous, and the cut looks completely flattering, I would not give the shininess of the fabric a second thought.
posted by dpx.mfx at 12:12 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

No advice on the fabric choice, but I actually was a bridesmaid in a wedding where we all bought dresses from that Etsy seller (one of the girls got the one you linked to) -- she was fantastic to work with, I believe she sent the bride a bunch of fabric swatches to choose from, and happily made changes that we requested from the patterns she had posted -- as well as responding to a bunch of questions and making alterations on one that didn't fit right.
posted by brainmouse at 12:12 PM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I love the Etsy dress and think the dove gray is very pretty for a bridal gown. I don't think fabric color or shininess will be an issue. The dress is form fitted at the bodice so the fabric will not matter beyond how pretty it is. The skirt will only benefit from the silk as it has soft folds/fullness via the way it is sewn brought out by the crinolines–it will be really pretty. Congrats!
posted by marimeko at 12:12 PM on January 23, 2013

The Etsy dress is similar to my wedding dress, though the skirt is fuller, and mine was red. It was silk dupioni and I am a size 14 and it looked awesome. I think you should wear whatever you want, of course, but I also think you should want to wear that Etsy dress.
posted by librarina at 12:19 PM on January 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

I was a US size 18-20 when I got married and I wore a silk dupioni dress in a light grey, just a shade or two lighter than the dove grey you link to. It's a stiff enough fabric that it didn't cling anywhere I didn't want it to, and the cut of the dress was such that it didn't accentuate any of my less-favorite body areas. This is true even in the non-professional shots of our wedding, bad flash and all. In fact, I think the sheen on that type of silk looks lovely even in bad lighting situations, so you should be fine.

posted by bedhead at 12:19 PM on January 23, 2013

The Etsy dress is awesome, the cut is super flattering. I wouldn't worry about the dupioni at all. It's a mildly stiff fabric but still has some drape to it. Go to Nordstrom lingerie department and find the older lady who's been working there forever (not the cute young thing) and get yourself the most suitable foundation garments (Spanx or the like) for underneath. You will be beautiful.
posted by matildaben at 12:19 PM on January 23, 2013

My ex wore a silk dupioni dress at our wedding and looked great -- it was cornflower blue. It also photographed well.

She was larger than you are.

Memailed me if you'd like to see a pic -- it's been a few years, but I think I could find one.
posted by vitabellosi at 12:20 PM on January 23, 2013

Here's my dress (frequently linked in my many related questions). It's a bridesmaid's dress by Wtoo from Watters and Watters -- fake silk, polyester. I have a 50" bust and wear a 2x/20 on top and 18 on the bottom; this was a 22 in their sizes, which are available up to a 24.

The awesome thing about bridesmaid's dresses is that they come in sooooo many colors. They know brides will want them, too, so the colors typically include whites and close-to-whites like silver and ice blue. Or, you know, bright red.
posted by Madamina at 12:23 PM on January 23, 2013 [7 favorites]

The really crucial factors are that this dress fits you well and that you can wear it with confidence. And yes, suitable foundation garments — no straps showing! I'd take either of those two gray silks with the picture to a good dressmaker and let her get to work. You're going to look wonderful.
posted by orange swan at 12:30 PM on January 23, 2013

I love the Etsy dress and think you will look beautiful in it.

Madamina, that photo is amazing. You are glowing.
posted by rdc at 12:31 PM on January 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

When I got married I was a size 22 and I wore a silk dupioni ballgown, in gold. It was gorgeous and wonderful, I got a shitload of compliments on it. Contact me if you want to know more.
posted by KathrynT at 12:32 PM on January 23, 2013

I wore a silver silk dupioni wedding dress and that was the size I wore then and I looked like a million bucks in the photos. The cut of the dress has to work with the fabric so it isn't stiff and bulgy, but that's a challenge with that fabric at every size.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:32 PM on January 23, 2013

I think the Etsy one would be totally fine as long as you get it tailored to your body. Shiny fabrics are usually an issue around the tummy, thighs and behind if it's tight, but that dress flares out and only comes in at the waist. Just make sure it fits properly. Also, if you got it lined that would probably eliminate any issues all together.
posted by whoaali at 12:37 PM on January 23, 2013

I don't think shiny fabric accentuates "figure flaws" in photos. (Unless it's satin, which is the most unforgiving fabric to everyone.) But silk dupioni? Beautiful and elegant - very much a special occasion fabric. It's all about the design and structure, anyway.

(By the way - I don't think the Trashy Diva Ballerina dress has the cut you think it does. It's not actually one of those 50s-style nipped in the waist, big flared skirt dresses. The bodice looks bigger than the skirt - I think that skirt is actually cut rather slim and short. It's also described as a mini-dress! Not knee or tea length. Very different from the other two you linked to ... just wanted to make sure that you noticed that.)
posted by stowaway at 12:40 PM on January 23, 2013

No lie, I wore that exact style of dress from that Etsy seller for my wedding, but in polyester satin. I loved it. Mine was reversible - white on one side, coral on the other. The satin didn't read as shiny at all in the white, and a little glossy but not straight-up shiny in the coral. Everyone said it was the best dress they'd ever seen, but I think people are obligated to tell you that at your wedding. MeMail me and I'll send you photos.

I saw wedding photos of a friend-of-a-friend who had a similar dress in silk dupioni, and while I love dupioni, it just looked messy on her - wrinkly and shiny. Then again, hers was white, and dupioni often looks nicer the darker you go.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:40 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by Madamina at 12:40 PM on January 23, 2013 [11 favorites]

I work a sort of pale gold silk dupioni wedding dress, am a 16ish, and it photographed beautifully. It's not a clingy fabric, so it was flattering, and it didn't look shiny in the photos, just gently glowy.
posted by mostlymartha at 12:44 PM on January 23, 2013

I love that Etsy dress too, and I favor the dark gray colored fabric you linked to. You'll look like a knockout, particularly if you have dark hair and pale skin.

No worries about the photographs, You'll look like a million bucks.
posted by bearwife at 12:56 PM on January 23, 2013

My friend, who is probably a 14-16, actually got the Etsy dress that you linked to and she looked fabulous. She did not get it in the shiny duploni silk, but got something a little more matte. Her only concern was that she looked REALLY busty, but everyone (myself included who was her Best Lady) felt that it was totally PG and not a problem.

It was very well made and arrived right on time. Go for it!
posted by Leezie at 1:06 PM on January 23, 2013

Response by poster: stowaway, I'm really sure that this pretty bride is wearing the Ballerina mini dress (re: this post). It is short, but the skirt is full, and I like the way this bride layers it over a bright petticoat to lengthen it to the knee, and I would try to mimic that in my own way. It would be a different look than the Etsy dress, for sure.

Thank you for all the comments! You all have made me see the light, and the light is clearly pointing towards that Etsy dress in the silk dupioni. I'll have to get swatches to pick the gray, but I'm leaning towards a turquoise or even multi-color crinoline/petticoat from here and it will probably look great. (It's all going to be great, even if my anxieties get the better of me on these issues from time to time.)

Feel free to MeMail me any pictures of yourself or others! I love to look at any pictures, but it does really help to see the silk dupioni in various colors and lights.
posted by aabbbiee at 1:06 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're uncertain, is there a bridal store or formal dress store near you, where you could try on various styles and fabrics and colors and get a sense of how the different fabrics work, and how they work on you?

(having said that, i suspect that your first style, in the etsy link, in a nice stiff duponi satin and suitably constructed, would look AMAZING on you!)
posted by tabubilgirl at 1:08 PM on January 23, 2013

Hehe, those folks got married at El Corazon. Sweet. Yeah, if you're going for an obviously visible crinoline, that dress would work. I was thinking from the other two dresses that maybe you wanted more of a "I've got a secret ..." crinoline.

Congratulations on the forthcoming nuptials!!
posted by stowaway at 1:20 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Etsy dress is lovely and I think it would be beautiful in either gray and not too shiny at all. I just did a Google Image search for "plus size dupioni dress" and although most of the images are not in fact plus size, I did notice that the gray dresses looked the least shiny.

However, if you're concerned--one of the nice things about Etsy is that you can correspond with the maker. I can't remember the last time I made a purchase there without some back and forth. Why don't you tell her about your concerns and ask her if she'd be willing to substitute a fabric, and if so ask what fabric she recommends? Silk taffeta would have about the same body and be a little more matte.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 1:36 PM on January 23, 2013

Shiny will be fine, as long as it fits you properly. Shiny can accentuate when a dress is too tight - the dress will then cut in and the shine shows up the lumps, but if you have that lovely etsy dress made to your measurements, and wear some sort of smoothing foundation garment under it, you'll look fantastic. A darker colour will actually look slimming in pictures, because only the middle of the dress will be lit up, and the darker edges will blend into the background.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:54 PM on January 23, 2013

Taking a closer look at the etsy dress, it really is a great design. I love the shape of the neckline, that will be so flattering. Something you could ask about to make sure that the dress will look great all night and in pictures is if the fabric is at all reinforced at the waistband. If you look at the Vivien of holloway dress, you can see that there is a slight bulge between the seam right under the bust, and the seam at the waist. If that band of fabric was stiffened with interfacing and lining, then the dress would be smoother and more flattering. Since you would be getting the dress custom made, you can ask her to add this, if the dress doesn't already have it.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:17 PM on January 23, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for those tips about reinforcing the band. I'd like to try to make it look a little more hourglass, as well. Having big boobs means that every dress I own ends up being empire-waisted! I will definitely correspond with the dressmaker.
posted by aabbbiee at 7:05 AM on January 24, 2013

Etsy dress, or I will cry. The gull grey is fantastic, although the original Atlantic Blue takes my breath away.
posted by spinturtle at 8:00 PM on January 24, 2013

I missed this earlier, but I did exactly this; got a custom wedding gown from a well-established Etsy seller and it was by far the best decision I have ever made.

Your dress looks very much like my wedding dress. I got a tea-length "rockabilly" style in periwinkle blue silk dupioni. The silk is gorgeous, and photographs beautifully regardless of the light (we went from bright sun, to overcast, to nighttime indoors, and it all photographed well). It definitely has enough structure to hide any figure flaws you're concerned about. The best thing about working with an Etsy pro like this is all the options you'll have. I got my designer to add boning and contrasting back lacing and she offered me the option of revealed or hidden tulle petticoats (I chose hidden). My gown was originally a strapless design and I opted for straps (I have no boobs, thus nothing to hold a strapless gown up with).

Ultimately this was the very best decision I could have made. I have different figure concerns to yours (basically that I've got very little figure to work with) and opting for a boned, structured gown in heavy silk was the BEST thing I could possibly have done because it made me look feminine and shapely without looking like a little girl trying on her mom's clothes (a problem I'd had with more traditional wedding type gowns).

It also cost less than a tenth of what a traditional wedding gown would have, and I look ghastly in white anyhow, so there's that.
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:01 AM on January 25, 2013

Response by poster: As a follow-up:
I bought the Etsy dress in silver silk dupioni. It arrived and is just the most beautiful dress ever. I have a turquoise crinoline and magenta shoes, and I'm trying to keep from trying the whole outfit on every week between now and the wedding because I love it so much!

Thank you all for helping me see that the weight/structure of the silk dupioni would be a totally different type of shiny fabric than the cheap poly satin. The dress has a shine, but it's very flattering and looks very luxurious. I love the texture of the dupioni, too.

The Etsy seamstress was an absolute joy to work with and I recommend her to anyone. She was wonderful. I was a total obsessive and sent her a bunch of measurements (not just the standards) and some specifications, and she took it all in stride. The dress arrived, and it fits like a glove, well-made and gorgeous. I am still worried about midsection bulging, so I bought a Rago waist cincher to wear underneath.
All together, it's just exactly what I wanted (even though I didn't know exactly what I wanted when I wrote this post)!
posted by aabbbiee at 12:33 PM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

oh, do make sure you update this with pictures when you wear it - I'd love to see that outfit.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:46 PM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I have pictures! Pictures of the wedding dress on me are here at the photographer's site along with other pictures and info about our wedding in early October (2013).

Thank you again to everyone for your comments last winter. Collectively, you talked me into the right course of action. Multiple strangers stopped to admire the outfit when we were walking around doing the photos, and it was just a joy to wear a floaty petticoat that flounced as I walked.

Links: Dress (Etsy shop); Petticoat (PettiskirtStyle); shoes (Bait); hair flowers (Etsy shop); my glasses (Rivet & Sway); his suit (Men's Wearhouse). If you have any questions about decorations (most of it was DIY), memail me and I'll share links.

I wore the dress again for Halloween. I was Bride of Frankenstein and he was Frankenstein (I referred to us as the Equal Partnership of Frankenstein). If I can figure out how to style it for Santacon (snow queen, maybe?), I'll wear it then too!

Thank you!!
posted by aabbbiee at 9:35 AM on November 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

You look amazing. Congratulations!!
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:48 AM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Gorgeous! The colors are really beautiful and I love that you tied in your glasses!
posted by chatongriffes at 11:14 AM on November 5, 2013

looooove the dress, and the crinoline and glasses are just smashing!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:30 PM on November 5, 2013

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