As you start looking for your wedding dress, you soon discover how many variables there are in terms of silhouette, necklines, fabrics and amount of detail.
When you finally find the perfect dress, it is worth paying attention to the shade of the fabric – even though it might just look like some kind of white at first.
Intriguingly, not only is this about style – to make it even more perfect, consider the influence fabric has to your overall look.
And we will tell you how this works, so carry on reading!
When I was hunting for a dress a year ago I was told by a consultant to avoid ivory dresses, which puzzled me as I knew it was a popular color. Trying a dress which was on the creamy side of ivory color it became quite clear why – it amplified something in my overall skin one and I seemed yellow like lemon meringue pie. Too much of a good thing, it turned out I needed to balance my undertone with a “colder” fabric color.
Deciding on off-white lace with a blush underlay, the only odd color on me as I walked down the aisle was the unusual whiteness in my face – which I blame on nerves! (It quickly turned back to normal after the I do’s, in case you wonder).
I had no idea how complex it could be to find the best dress fabric.
That is why I want to make sure that you know, as Brides-to-be are already full of planning to-do’s and challenges to solve. The very reason I started this blog was to help other Brides to an easier engagement, you see.
Color science can seem confusing at first, but it makes sense once you have cracked the code, I promise!
As this is an article with lots of bridal fashion know-hows, these chapters are added for easy navigation.
Click each to read, or to read all, which is recommended – just scroll as usual.
Let’s begin with some basics….
Why does fabric color matter?
The result of choosing the right color is that the dress will make the best out of your complexion and overall look, especially when the photos have developed. The perfect dress will fit your body and style, and the perfect color will make your skin glow and complete the picture.
When dress shopping, look for a dress in a color that will not make your skin look dull or orange. Even just a subtle variation in fabric color can make a big difference!
First we need to establish the difference between skin shade and skin undertone…
Most wedding fabric color guides recommended wedding dress colors according to skin shade categories. Skin shade means colors of our actual skin, such as Dark, Brown, Olive, Medium, and Fair skin.
But the actual meaning of this is not what shade of skin you have – the pivotal factor is your SKIN UNDERTONE. Not skin shade.
When you look for a dress, the shade of your skin does not determine of how good the fabric looks. Please ignore any guides that suggests darkness or fairness, your ethnicity or tan influences the beauty and compatibility of your dress at all – it doesn’t!
What looks good is only depending on your skin undertone.
Actual skin color – complexion – does not matter!
If you already feel you know all about wedding dress fabric colors you may jump straight to unlocking the Color Key by clicking here.
Pure white is whitest of all whites. The brightest, crispest white you can find – it might even give blue/ violet shimmers especially in photos. This fabric is most often man-made, I.e synthetic, as natural fibers will not come out this white even when bleached.
Pure white is a cold color.
Also known as winter-white, natural or off-white.
A shade below pure white, it will appear slightly greyer or “dustier” than pure white. Other terms could be diamond white or snow white. Natural white should not be confused with Ivory. It is less stark than pure white and hence easier for all to wear. It most often is made of natural materials such as cotton and silk. Natural white is a neutral fabric color.
Ivory and Cream
As ivory is a highly popular color, many shades of ivory have been developed. They can be called things like eggshell, milk, almond-white, candlelight, creamy white. All ivories are warm in the appearance if compared to white. Some ivory dresses look more golden, while others are very subtly a warmer shade of white.
Ivory is a warm color.
Cream, as name suggests is a creamy color. It is a deeper and more saturated version of ivory and will appear darker. Cream could also be called dark ivory or light gold, and is a warm color, as it has more yellow-orange in it.
As Brides more and more frequently choose dresses beyond the standard white and ivory, more colorful shades have been included below.
A darker or tinted underlay gives gorgeous dimension and extra personality to the dress, making it a perfect choice for modern Brides.
Champagne and Nude
Nude and Champagne have been joined in this overview as they are related, the difference being that Champagne is more on the subdued gold side and generally lighter, whereas Nude is usually closer to a solid beige color as seen in the first picture.
Champagne, sometimes called Gold or Rum pink, is often used as an underlay for an ivory lace gown to create depth and make the pattern of the fabric stand out, or some dresses are made entirely in this lovely golden color.
Nude is similar to Champagne but visually appears warmer and more peachy.
Champagne is a neutral color, whereas Nude is a warm color.
Blush, Pink and Purple
Pink or millennial pink more saturated than blush,appearing more intense. Pink is a cold color as it has blue/ mauve tones in it.
Blush is a subdued pink with subtle hues of light grey, beige or dusty rose. Blush is a neutral fabric color.
Purple shaded such as Lavender or Mauve are known to be cold colors as they contain blue.
Perhaps mostly used as a Bridesmaids of Mother dress color, adding a layer of subtle layer of dark to a dress will make it highly unique and dreamy.
Mink / Oyster – both silvery shades with subtle pastel tones – diluted they may appear visually the same, the difference is that mink being towards brown/ red, and oyster slightly towards purple, sometimes more on the green side.
Wedding dresses with light mink or oyster hues gives the wedding dress extra dimension used as an underlay below tulle or lace,or just giving it a bit of “duskiness” making the wedding gown less stark.
Both colors being essentially neutral, however Oyster usually appears more on the cool side, and Mink somewhat warmer.
Blue, Smoky and Grey
Wearing your dress as “something blue” or a smoky shade like Hillary Duff is a style statement you will never regret. A smoky blue or grey dress will give your wedding look a hint of fairytale magic that redefines the essence of Bridal cool!
Unsurprisingly, blue tones are cool, whereas grey could be either neutral or cool.
How do I know if I have a warm or cool skin tone?
There are three different undertones – cool, warm, and balanced.
Knowing yours is helpful for many more reasons such as your wardrobe staples, the right foundation, eyeshadow and lipstick color – even hair color!
How you find out:
Find a natural indirect light source, by a window for example. Look at the color of the veins on the inside of the middle of the underarm, half way from your hand to elbow. Don’t look on your wrists – the color there will always be purple or blue for everyone.
Hold up your arm in the natural light and determine the predominant color, looking at the veins at the middle of your arm. You might need to “pull” the skin back a little to expose the vein if it hard to see at first.
- If your veins appear on the green or brown side means you have a warm skin tone.
- If they seem blue or purple-blue, means you have a cool skin tone.
- If you can’t tell if your veins are green or blue, they might just look very dark, you are likely to have a balanced skin tone. If you have an olive complexion, you might fall into this category, but any persons skin shade could be balanced.
(Note that you’re veins aren’t actually the color you see—they only look it because you’re seeing them through your skin)
As we mentioned before, your skin undertone, is different from your skin shade, your complexion.
It sounds complex I know – this is how to best summarize it:
Skin shade/ complexion = the most apparent shade of your skin. For example dark, olive or fair.
Undertone =If your particular tone is warm, cold or balanced, what you just determined by looking at your veins.
You can have either skin complexion, but your skin undertone could be warm or cold, irrespective of skin shade.
Interestingly, your undertone could remain the same even if you are tanned.
Undertone is highly individual and can be different for two people with the same complexion.
I figured out my undertone tone – so what dress color suits me?
The basics of undertone vs fabric color is to balance out your skin undertone with the opposite “temperature” color in order to to achieve an equilibrium that will complement and not override or amplify your natural color.
Lets say you have warm undertones – your veins appeared green – then cooler colors such as a pure white, pink, lavender and any blue tones which will work well.
You can also wear off white, champagne, blush and oyster as these are neutral.
If you have cool undertones, go for warm hues such as ivory, cream and nude which will complement you beautifully. All neutral colors will also work!
Hang on. Is balanced skin tone only for neutral fabric color… I’m confused?
Do you have balanced undertones? Congratulations – you are blessed with the option of looking good in whichever fabric color – warm, cold or neutral!
Having a balanced undertone therefore means you can pull off ALL colors.
Some fabric colors are neither warm and cold – those are called neutral colors. A neutral fabric color can be worn no matter what your skin tone happens to be, which means it is a safe card for everyone.
This means that having a balanced skin tone doesn’t mean you are destined to wear neutral color fabrics only!
Balanced skin tone – happily wear any fabric
Neutral fabric – works for any skin tone
(Colors have been enhanced for educational purposes.)
It is the same for wedding dress colors as it is with balancing body temperate: if you are cold you might warm yourself up with a hot cup of tea, and a frozen margarita will cool you down in the summer heat.
Opposites will balance and complement!
Whichever color you choose for your dress, be sure to adore it and love how you look in it. The difference in colour is sometimes extremely subtle and therefore don’t let it be the final deciding factor should you find the perfect dress in the “wrong”color. Each wedding gown is special and beautiful, especially when a happy bride is wearing it.
Warm undertones look great in cooler colours such as pink, and neutral such as blush or mink tone.
Neutral undertones can look wonderful in either white, off white or ivory.
If you have warm under tones, white and off white will complement you.
Neutral undertones look good in any dress color, such as off white.