What is a wedding dress, if not its embellishments? It’s important to select a dress cut that flatters you, but what will really turn your dress from a piece of fabric into a stylish wedding gown is the embellishments.

Most brides don’t want a plain dress and we all want to add our own special touch, which is why dress embellishments but choosing the right embellishment can be tricky because there are so many pretty choices. Regardless of the type or placement of the embellishments you choose, remember that embellishments should draw attention to your best features without overwhelming you or your dress.

If you’re confused over what an embellishment is, read our guide to wedding dress embellishments.

Appliqué

This is simply cut out pieces of fabric, often cut into patterns or shapes such as flowers, ribbons or foliage and then stitched or embroidered onto a gown. They are often raised or textured to add more interest and can be in a contrasting fabric or colour.

Fabric Rosettes

Realistic 3-dimensional flowers made from fabric can be attached to the dress to achieve a variety of looks. The size, shape, and color of the flowers drastically alters the visual impact of the flowers. Wear one large rosette on the shoulder of a vintage wedding dress, or a bunch of small rosettes on one side of the waistline for a modern, slimming effect.

fabric rosettes

Embroidery

Patterns, sections or shapes on the dress that have been created just by thread. Sometimes this is done by hand, but that’s very expensive, other times it is done my machine. It’s a good embellishment if you want to add subtle accents of colour or texture.

Beading

Simply all types of beads: glass, crystal, gems or other material, sewn onto lace or fabric. The pattern can be random or structured, such as a line of beads around the neckline. Beading can be across large areas or very delicate and subtle.

Crystals

Crystals are polished and reflect light, and can be used on a wedding dress in a variety of sizes and combinations. Clear crystals add dimension to an all-white ensemble, and off-white or topaz-colored crystals add color without stealing the show. Colored crystals, because of their transparency, are a more reserved alternative to colored beading.

crystals

Gems

Gems are any imitation crystals (usually rhinestones) that are used to ornament tulle fabrics on the dress bodice or veil to visually add “weight” or substance to an otherwise gauzy material. They are usually glued onto the veil in evenly-spaced intervals, but can also be applied in a pattern.

Pearls

Pearls are the most traditional stone for weddings, so there could hardly be anything more appropriate for embellishing your wedding dress. If you are planning to wear a pearl necklace or earrings, ornamenting your dress with pearls could tie the look together.

pearls

Sequins and Paillettes

Sequins are small, iridescent plastic discs sewed onto a dress to add texture and shine. These are common in figure skating and gymnastic costumes, but also can look fabulous when applied with finesse to portions of the wedding dress.

Paillettes are much larger than sequins, and hang from the dress by holes near the top of each disc. The paillettes move when the bride does, accenting her movement. Sequins, however, are firmly sewn in place on a dress.

sequins

Edging

Edging is any type of ribbon, lace, embroidery, or other embellishment used as trim. A dress with edging appears finished. It is common to see edging sewn at the bottom hem of a skirt or on the sleeves of wedding dresses, and well as around the bridal veil.

edging

Buttons

Buttons on a wedding dress, whether they are functional or simply decorative, give a wedding dress a lot of pizzazz. Buttons may be fabric-covered, uniquely-shaped, or even colored for more emphasis. Buttons are often seen going up the back of the wedding dress, even if they are purely ornamental.

buttons

Fringe

Fringing is ornamental trim consisting of loose strands of thread or beads fastened to a strip of thin fabric that is sewn to the dress. Fringing is a difficult embellishment to pull off. Too much and you can look like a country and western singer; too little and it lacks impact.