Questions of tone

Creamier than the original

While there is no one gown or style that will please everyone, I think we can all agree on the fact that the year’s new warmer whites benefit almost everyone. Few people look good in stark, glaring, antiseptic white gowns – though the contrast is gorgeous on dark-skinned brides.

It’s a question of tone. While ivory is great for redheads and ruddy-skinned brides, it may do little for those brides with darker or more yellowish complexions. Electric whites (another way of describing those whites that are white like a piece of new printer paper) can make pale ladies like me look washed out and grey. Champagne whites look simply fabulous on brides with darker complexions. Warmer whites make the skin look fresher and more youthful on many people.

Beau Coup
has a wonderful (and short) guide to choosing the color of your gown. The advice is sound and can help future brides choose a dress that will highlight her beauty rather than detract from it.

Stark White: The brightest, crispest white you can find. Looks great on dark skin.

Silk, Diamond, or Natural White: A shade off of stark white, though it looks pretty much the same in photos. “Eighty percent of the population looks best in a soft, diamond-white dress, which isn’t as chalky as a white-white,” explains dress designer Melissa Sweet. “When in doubt, buy diamond white.”

Ivory: Also referred to as “eggshell” or “candlelight.” Some ivory dresses have yellow undertones, making them look creamy; some are just a “quiet” white.

Rum or Champagne: A white with pink undertones that looks nearly white in photos.

If your skin is fair: you’ll look best in yellow-ivories and warmer natural colors. You should probably steer clear of stark white, though — it may wash you out.

If your skin is medium with pink undertones: opt for creamier colors.

If your skin is medium with yellow undertones: try diamond whites or champagne.

If your skin is dark: lucky you — most shades of white will complement your skin. If you have yellow or olive undertones, though, stay away from yellow-ivory dresses. Try stark white or rum pink.

For those curious, the dress above is from the Amsale Blue Label Collection, and features an all lace sheath with a scalloped V-neckline and bias flared hem.

10 Responses to “Questions of tone”

  1. Twistie says:

    The one piece of advice I’d add to this list is to try on several different shades of white and have a friend with a critical eye help you out. Sometimes you may be surprised what shade looks best on you. You can even do this before going wedding dress shopping by trying on white blouses or holding up pieces of white fabric next to your face.

    Oh, and if you can do this in a place that has similar lighting to your wedding venue, so much the better! What doesn’t wash you out under flourescent lights might not look at all as good by candlelight.

  2. Never teh Bride says:

    Great advice, Twistie. I imagine one of the most difficult parts of finding a gown must be trying it on in the store and imagining what it will actually look like at the ceremony/reception site. Plus with your hair done and all your makeup and so on. Plus, the dresses at the store may be oft tried on floor models that are not quite as white as they once were. Beware!

  3. Julia says:

    Thanks for all the info regarding colors! I am pale as heck, and I’ve worried about finding a shade of white that will look good on me. My sister, who is a smidge darker than me, wore what I think fits into the “quiet white/ivory” category, and she looked beautiful. My other concern, though, is that with skin as pale as mine, I don’t want a color that will blend in with my skin tone! So I suspect that I’ll have to try lots of colors to find one that works.

    P.S. That Amsale dress is GORGEOUS. I used to think I’d never want lace, but I’ve also seen some Monique Lhuillier dresses using lace that make me drool.

  4. Never teh Bride says:

    I understand the feeling, Julia. I’m quite white myself!

  5. Amy says:


    Do try on dresses in a range of shades, since you never really know what will look good on you. I’m a practically translucent redhead and ended up with a very flattering diamond white gown. It surprised me, since I had my heart set on ivory.

  6. La BellaDonna says:

    Remember, too, that the fabric texture will have an effect on how the colour looks against your skin – if you cannot wear a glaring white satin, you may find that you look wonderful in white velvet. Illusion or lace over white satin will also soften the effect, so keep in mind that if you hold up swatches of different shades of white cotton against your skin, you will discover what colour cotton looks good on you. Keep in mind the neckline of your gown as well – if you are wearing a lowcut or strapless gown, then the fabric is not going to be right up against your face.

  7. mainegirl says:

    I love the dress! As for colors, white makes me look awful. I look best in pink! But my skin is yellow in winter and tan in summer.

  8. Twistie says:

    I went to a wedding once where the bride wore a lovely soft shade of rose pink, mainegirl. She looked fantastic. If that’s what you’d look best in, I say go for it!

    Interestingly enough, for a period of about thirty years (roughly 1840 – 1870) the most common color for wedding gowns in the American West was plaid. No real reason for mentioning that; just sort of showing off. ; )

  9. Phyllis says:

    That bright white color is also known as Optical White – during the milling process chemical whiteners are applied to the fabric which gives it that stark bluish white tone. Often these chemicals fade, and when you see an older gown that has yellowed it’s the natural oxidation of the brightening chemical on the surface of the fabric. I completely agree that trying on different colors of white is essential/ If you’d like to learn more about the many different colors of bridals whites, I recommend getting a Bridal Swatch Set from Thai Silks in Loa Angeles. The swatches are marked and they sell every type of silk fabric: Duchesse satin, regular satin in several weights, chiffon, georgette, jacquard, crepe in several weights, embroidered organza – everything!. The Bridal Swatch Set also includes a full color range for bridal party gowns. You get over well 100 swatches.

    Thai Silks is a well known supplier to the custom bridal industry, and they have great prices. I used them when I made a gown for my brother’s fiancée. Here’s their web site:

  10. Melissa says:

    I saw that same description of what white to wear at too. It’s annoying though because what if you’re like me and have a pale face, tan shoulders and olive undertones? The dress I want comes in stark white, ivory and light gold (which is kind of a peachy beige, not very yellow). The stark white obviously doesn’t work for me because I’m so pale, but I can’t decide between the ivory and light gold. I don’t own a piece of white clothing because I look so terrible in it, so I’m leaning toward the light gold. Everyone says that it will blend in too much with my skin tone though. This process is driving me nuts! ARG.