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Design Terms

Searching for the perfect dress can be a real nightmare for the novice bride-about-to-be. Read this week's Design Terms and learn the "words of the trade".

Before you know it, you'll know the difference between a watteau and a mantilla and be able to talk fashionably with dressmakers and shop clerks.

Before going out to find the perfect dress, it's a good idea to be familiar with certain design terms and phrases. Those which follow are commonly used by dressmakers and shop clerks: understanding them will help you to express your thoughts and ideas clearly.

Skirt Styles & Lengths

Batiste - Fine, thin fabric often made of cotton or rayon.
Brocade - Ornamental fabric woven with a raised design throughout.
Chintz - Cotton fabric, usually glazed: either one colour or printed with a pattern.
Crepe - Thin, crinkled fabric made of cotton or rayon.
Moir‚ - Fabric, usually made of silk, characterised by a wavy or watermark pattern.
Organza - Sheer silk or synthetic fabric made to look like sheer silk.
Raw Silk - Rough textured, natural silk
Satin - Smooth, glossy fabric made of silk, rayon or nylon.
Taffeta - See Moir‚.
Tulle - Fine netting used for veils and sheer panels on gowns. Also known as netting.

Skirt Styles & Lengths
A-Line - A close fitting waist with a flared skirt.
Ballerina - Full skirt that falls to just above the ankles.
Floor-length - A skirt which barely touches the floor.
Full Skirt - A skirt, gathered at the waistline, creating a full silhouette to the floor.
Tea Length - A skirt which ends at the shin.

Brush - The shortest style, it barely touches the floor.
Bustle - Gathering of the train at the back of the gown, allowing ease of movement.
Cathedral - Train extends approximately three to four yards behind the gown.
Chapel - Train extends approximately one and one-third yards behind the gown.
Court - Extends about one foot beyond the hem of the gown.
Royal - The longest style: this train extends more than four yards behind the gown.
Watteau - A train which falls from the back of the shoulders to the hem of the gown.

Bell - A long sleeve that flares gently from shoulder to the wrist: think choirboy.
Cap - Short sleeve which covers top of arm only, not usually fitted.
Dolman - A long sleeve that starts wide at shoulder and narrows down to wrist.
Fitted - Long sleeve, tight from shoulder to wrist.
Leg-of-Mutton - Bouffant shoulder that becomes a fitted sleeve from elbow to wrist.
Long - The sleeve ends at the wrist.
Point - Long sleeve that comes to a point over the top of the hand.
Three-Quarter - The sleeve ends just above the elbow.
Sleeveless - No sleeve at all.
Strapless - No sleeves, straps or collar on the dress.

Blusher - A short veil worn over the face, the length falls between the chin and waist.
Bouffant - A full veil worn towards the back of the head, creating a halo effect.
Cathedral - The longest train, it extends three to four yards behind the gown.
Elbow - Layered veiling effect, stopping at the elbow: very pretty with a tiara.
Fly-Away - Layers of veiling that brush the shoulder, giving full view of gown's back.
Fingertip - Layers of veiling which stop at fingertip level when hands are by your side.
Mantilla - Inspired by the traditional Spanish veil: worn without a head piece.

Cowl - A loose draping effect which falls from shoulder to shoulder.
Mandarin - Short stand-up collar copied from the Asian collar by the same name.
Portrait - Shawl collar which wraps around the shoulders, sitting low on the bust.
Sabrina - A slight scoop at the front.
Square - Shaped like a half-square, may be in the front and back.
Sweetheart - The top of the bodice is shaped like the top of a heart.
V - Beginning at the shoulders, the dress comes down to an open point above the bust.

Bolero - Waist-length jacket, often without a collar or buttons, usually worn open.
Bugle Beads - Tiny tubular beads used as decoration on a gown.
Sequin - Small, shiny decoration sewn onto fabric for sparkling effect.

Bodice - Upper part of a gown.
Fitted Bodice - Tight fitting top.
Midriff - The part of the gown from just below the bust to the waist.
Waistline - The narrowest part of the waist.

This is an edited extract from
The Irish Wedding Book
by Kim McGuire,
Wolfhound Press Publishers.




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