One of the most common questions I am asked as a dressmaker is ‘is it really worth paying a little extra for silk, and what’s the difference?’ – a question most brides wouldn’t think of unless given the option to choose.
Polyester is a man-made, synthetic material. Because polyester is man-made, it is widely available in numerous weaves and textures. Silk, being a natural fibre, is not as popular because the highly specialised manufacturing process of course makes it the pricier option. Silk is derived from silkworms, and clothing manufacturers refine it through a process called sericulture.
Cotton-polyester blends (poly-cotton) can be strong, wrinkle and tear-resistant, and have limited shrinkage. Synthetic fibers in polyester also create materials with water, wind and environmental resistance compared to plant-derived fibres. Polyester is also incredibly affordable with a wide range of different materials available.
Being a synthetic fibre, Polyester is non-breathable – meaning it will trap heat and moisture within the layers and stick to your skin. It is also less fire resistant and will melt to your skin if ignited. Polyester also creates a flash-back when flash photography is used, and will look blueish in certain lighting – this is most noticeable in white fabrics and therefore will be incredibly noticeable on your wedding dress!
Silk’s breathability makes it comfortable to wear in warm weather and while active. Its low conductivity keeps warm air close to the skin during cold weather, while still maintaining a high level of breathability during the warmer months. Silk also absorbs light rather than reflects it – meaning no blue flash-back in wedding photos! Being a natural fibre, silk is also highly recommended for brides with sensitive skin as it is a non-irritant.
The highly specialised manufacturing process is reflected in the higher cost for silk. There is also a lot of discussion surrounding the welfare of silk worms used in sericulture – where possible, wild silk is preferred as the pupa have already emerged from the cocoon leaving the cocoon ready to be spun in to long lengths of silk. Silk wedding dresses must be dry cleaned, however this is recommended no matter which fabric you choose.
So which should you choose? If your budget will allow it; choose silk. Silk is light, breathable, warm, durable and comfortable. A symbol of luxury, silk is often seen as delicate and fragile when in reality, it is stronger than steel, easily cared for, and will last a lifetime. If your budget won’t allow silk, consider combining polyester blends with a higher quality lace, or using polyester for linings and layers while using silk for the main fabric. Either way; if your dress is being custom made to suit you, it will look amazing!