White vs. Ivory Wedding Dresses: What's the Difference? (2023)

Whether it’s a princess gown or a sleek sheath, finding the wedding dress that makes you feel like a bride comes with many considerations. One of the biggest? Selecting the right shade of white. From crisp diamond white to supple eggshell, traditional bridal whites run the gamut with differing undertones, tints, and hues. Such a large yet subtle shade range can be daunting for even the most color-astute amongst us, but we've got you covered.

We consulted with bridal boutique owners Ruthie Broughton and Madison Blackburn, as well as bridal designer and master seamstress Nancy Rodrigues Spirito, to break down the difference between stark white, natural white, and ivory—and share their tips for deciding which is right for you.

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Meet the Expert

  • Ruthie Broughton is the owner of Blue Bridal Boutique in Houston, Texas.
  • Madison Blackburn is the owner of Bridals by Madison in Woodstock, Georgia.
  • Nancy Rodrigues Spirito is a designer and master seamstress with over 25 years of experience in the industry. She is the owner of Bridal Finery, a Rhode Island-based custom heirloom accessory company.

Stark White

The brightest white, stark white is typically bleached to get its crisp tint and is best achieved with synthetic fabrics (satins, taffetas, and polyester blends). The hue is known to pick up the colors of its surroundings but can appear too electric for some tastes. Over the years stark white has become less popular as brides favor more universally flattering shades, and experts expect the color to continue to fade in popularity.

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“We advise brides to be careful choosing stark white because with HD cameras the gowns can picture with a light blue tint," cautions Broughton. “Brides need to think about the lighting at their wedding venue and talk to their photographer.”

Natural White

Also called “diamond white" or “silk white,” this is the whitest shade natural fibers can achieve. It falls between stark and ivory and features a little less warmth than ivory. Some women fear that since it’s not the brightest level of white, it won’t look as bridal, but a good natural never fails.

Natural white tends to photograph the same as stark white (minus any unwanted blue notes) but is much more flattering to a wide range of skin tones, especially ones with yellow undertones.

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Ivory

Often referred to as “eggshell,” this hue has quickly become the most popular shade of white for modern brides. The creamy color adds a level of luxury while still photographing as white. Some ivory dresses have yellow undertones as opposed to just a soft white look.

If selecting ivory over a traditional white makes you nervous, experts insist marketing and word choice have everything to do with the allure and not as much to do with the actual hue. “People tend to assume all ivories always have a yellow or nude tint,” says Blackburn. “But to the naked eye, most brides think ivory is natural white on the rack until told otherwise.”

Picking the Right Shade for Your Skin Tone

“The general rule is brighter whites work best on darker skin tones or complexions that have a yellow or olive undertone,” explains Spirito. “White dresses on fair skin can be harsh and appear washed out.”

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If you’re fair or have pink undertones in your skin, yellow-ivories will complement your complexion best. “Ivory is typically the most universally flattering version of white,” says Blackburn. “So, when in doubt, go ivory.”

If you're not 100 percent sure about your skin tone, ask the consultant at your wedding dress salon. Mention you’re unsure which white you want and ask for help breaking down your options and explaining what does (or doesn’t) complement your vision.

When it comes down to it, your best bet is to compare in person. “The only way to truly find your best shade is to try the dresses on, preferably in natural light,” says Spirito.

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