Wedding Dress Terms You Need To Know

It goes without saying that once you’re immersed in all things wedding planning there are times you can feel completely confused about your options, especially when it feels like people are speaking a completely different language! This is particularly true when it comes to your gown. Knowing these dressmaking terms not only will help you feel less frazzled when you begin your dress hunt, but also give you some indication as to what type of budget you will need.

Haute Couture / Couture

Haute couture is French for ‘high-sewing’ and generally speaking, is a term only reserved for fashion houses that have earned the honour by meeting a certain criteria governed by the Parisian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. If you see a dress labelled ‘haute couture’ it most likely means it’s been made-to-measure for the individual using high-quality fabrics and hand-made techniques. The more correct classification for this type of wedding dress is ‘couture’. Couture gowns are not mass-produced and usually involve the bride working closely with the designer to create a one-of-a-kind design. Given that many elements are done by hand and the use of luxury fabrics, a couture gown can cost around $10,000 and above.


Much the same as couture. As the title suggests, a made-to-measure gown is crafted from scratch and designed to fit the exact measurements and body shape of the wearer.



‘Demi’ is French for ‘half’, therefore, demi-couture essentially translates to ‘half couture’. So what does that mean? Well a demi-couture wedding dress is crafted with the same quality of fabric and techniques as a couture gown, but can also be mass produced. Considered to be a step below couture gowns, a demi-couture gown can often be purchased off-the-rack. In terms of cost you are looking at anywhere from around $3,000 upwards, depending on the style.


Ready-To-Wear / Prêt-à-porter

Unlike couture, ready-to-wear or prêt-à-porter gowns are available to purchase straight off the rack in standard sizing. While some designers may offer minor alterations like taking in the gown at the waist or shortening the hem or straps to perfect the fit, the design and structure of a ready-to-wear gown is complete and most likely will not change. This is a great option if you wish to stick to a small budget as you can find a ready-to-wear gown for under $1,000, with prices increasing depending on the designer and style.

Pre-Loved / Vintage

A pre-loved wedding dress is one which has been worn or owned by someone else. Given that most brides only wear their wedding dress once, many pre-loved dresses are still in good condition. This is often a great option for brides wanting to wear a certain style of dress, or a dress made by a prominent designer, but the full price is out of the budget. While buying a second-hand gown will bring down the cost, it’s still important to make sure you’re paying for quality goods. Before committing to anything, make sure you take your measurements correctly and get high-quality photos of the gown from every angle and get confirmation that the gown has been professionally dry cleaned.