We think Merriam-Webster says it best: To embellish is “to heighten the attractiveness of by adding decorative or fanciful details.” Many wedding dresses come with embellishments already on, but if you want to “heighten the attractiveness” of your gown, you may wish to work with a seamstress or designer to add personal details. These add-ons go far beyond just sequins and lace. We encourage you to learn about your options for sprucing up your wedding dress and get familiar with the terms so that you know what to look for. With a little searching and some help from our consultants, you might end up finding a dress that already has all of your favorite embellishments!
Wedding Dress Embellishments
Types of Beadwork
Beautiful wedding dresses often have depth and dimension. One way that designers give dresses a more three-dimensional look is by sewing or gluing on sequins, crystals, or beads in intricate patterns. You can find these delicate touches in various places on a dress. Sometimes the designer sprinkles them throughout the dress, trails them away from the waist of the dress (to define the waist), or clusters them around the skirt. Wherever the details lay on the dress, each type of beaded detail gives a different look:
- Baroque pearls are natural pearls (like saltwater pearls) or faux pearls that have irregular shapes. These wedding dress embellishments look great on bohemian and romantic dresses.
- Bugle beads are long, tubular-shaped glass beads. They work well on designs with straight lines, which is why you will find them on many 1920s- and Art Deco-inspired gowns.
- Most crystal beads are made out of genuine transparent quartz. However, some crystals, like Austrian crystal, are lead crystal that has been polished and faceted to give full-spectrum light. If you ever decide to make the tough decision to part ways with your dress, you might consider asking a professional seamstress to carefully snip a few of these valuable beads off from an inconspicuous place on your dress. This way you can have them as keepsakes or to place on a necklace chain.
- Seed beads are very small beads that are sometimes made out of authentic pearls. Unlike bugle beads, these tiny beads can trace around curves, giving the design a more organic feel.
- More often than not, jewels on wedding gowns are faux, as real jewels would be very expensive and heavy.
- While sequins certainly had their heyday in the early 2000s on everything from shoes to purses, they actually add a discreet and tasteful hint of shimmer to modern wedding dresses.
Other Types of Embellishments
If you want details without the shimmer, you have options. Here are a few embellishments that aren’t shiny, but still add elegance to a dress:
- Embroidery is timeless. In fact, embroidery dating back to the 5th–3rd century BC has been found in China (source). Purchasing a dress with embroidery work will be a decision you’ll undoubtedly look back on fondly because it never goes out of style.
- Appliqués are fabric cutouts that designers sew or glue on dresses. Sometimes they have beadwork on them, but often they are bits of lace or designs made out of ribbon or thread.
- Trim is lace, ribbon, fringe, or beadwork on the hem of a dress. Adding a statement to the bottom of a dress can make it feel more balanced, as it entertains the eye and draws it down. Some people refer to it as edging.
- Ribbons are just as nostalgic as they are beautiful. Some dresses come with a belt that ties into a bow rather than fastens. As your mother ties the ribbon into a bow, she might be reminded of tying the bows you once wore in your hair as a little girl.