As a bride, the most important thing to think about after choosing the right dress for your body type is the best color for your complexion.
So, if you’re gearing up to embark on the all-important search for the perfect wedding dress, it’s time for a color crash course in ivory vs. white wedding dresses to ensure you get the shade that will give you that special bridal glow.
White and ivory are, without fail, the most popular colors for bridal gowns, but knowing which hue is right for you is key to looking your best on your big day. If you choose the wrong shade, you could end up wearing a wedding dress that washes you out, plays up the sallow notes in your complexion or even makes your skin look ashy. And no bride wants that.
To help you choose the right shade for your skin, we’ve broken down everything you need to know about ivory vs. white wedding dresses, and even have some great examples to help you jump-start your dress search.
What is the Difference Between White and Ivory?
Ivory, technically, is a shade of white, yet they are very different hues.
To help you better determine the hues of wedding dresses when you go shopping, here is a comprehensive breakdown of each color and the shades that fall under each.
White is the ultimate neutral because it has no shade of any other color in it. The brightest of all hues, pure white — especially with shinier fabrics like Mikado or satin, can appear slightly blue in full light.
Another shade you may come across when dress shopping is diamond white. It is a slightly softer version of pure white that photographs as white but is flattering to more skin tones.
Ivory is a richer color than white thanks to its creamy, slightly yellow undertones. That doesn’t mean your wedding dress will look yellow in person or in photographs, however. It will just have a slightly warmer cast than a pure white gown.
The difference between white and ivory is slight and you may not be able to tell which is which when the dresses are on the hanger. They will, however, look slightly different against your complexion — unless you have neutral skin.
Ivory vs White Wedding Dresses: Which Shade Should I Choose?
To help you decide which shade will best work for your unique skin tone, we’ve put together a guide of the different complexion categories as well as what shade of white works best with each.
True white wedding dresses tend to wash out paler skin tones simply because there is not enough contrast between the cool undertones of pale skinned brides and the blue undertones of a pure white dress. The better choice for cool, light skin tones is ivory or antique white.
Exception to the rule: While most pale-skinned brides tend to have cool undertones to their skin, there can be exceptions. Check the veins at your wrist to determine your undertone. If they are blue or even appear purple, then you have cool skin. If they are greenish, then you have warm undertones and would look better in white than ivory. If you can’t determine the color, you are blessed with neutral skin and can wear just about any shade.
Fair-skinned brides often look their best in the warmer-hued ivory because it plays nicely against light skin.
Exceptions to the rule: Brides with a lot of natural pink in their cheeks may be able to pull off a starker white dress. A rosy complexion won’t look as washed out as pale or creamy skin and, with the right makeup, can glow against white and diamond white fabrics. To make the best choice, try on gowns in ivory, white and diamond white and see which best flatters you.
Women with yellow undertones, also known as an olive complexion, can look washed out in bright white, especially in photographs. The richness and warmth of ivory, however, will play up your golden undertones and make your skin glow.
Exception to the rule: Brides with darker olive-toned skin often look great in diamond white, a less stark variation of pure white. Diamond white has fewer blue undertones making it slightly easier to wear than its pure white counterpart.
Often blessed with what is called “neutral” skin, ladies with medium complexions have neither warm nor cool undertones, allowing them to wear any color their hearts desire.
This complexion type has enough depth to wear white but can also pull off ivory easily because medium skin doesn’t have yellow undertones.
Exception to the rule: While most medium complexions tend to be neutral, not all are. Medium skinned brides can also have warm undertones. The easiest way to check is by looking at the veins in your wrist. If it’s hard to tell whether your veins are blue or green, then you have neutral skin. If your veins appear green, then you have warm undertones and should follow the same rules as olive-skinned brides.
Dark-skinned brides can run the gamut from caramel to espresso complexions and tend to
have a lot of colors that flatter them. The contrast of stark white against darker skin can be absolutely gorgeous but warmer ivory can be just as beautiful.
Exception to the rule: Brides with very dark or ebony skin may have cool undertones and, therefore, are flattered more by the warmth of ivory.
How to Find the Right Dress for You
The best way to determine your perfect bridal shade is at a local bridal salon. Trying on a variety of colors in natural lighting will help you to determine what looks best on you.
If you’re having trouble determining which shade is white and which is ivory as well as which one flatters you best, ask your bridal consultant. As an expert, she should be able to walk you through which color is which and can make recommendations based on your skin tone.
To help prepare you for some real-life wedding dress shopping, here are examples of dresses in each color at different price points.
Dresses under $100
Wedding dresses under $100 may not be easy to come by, but with some creativity and smart shopping, you can find some lovely options for your wedding day.
These dresses are not only a bargain price, but pretty too:
This stunning ivory gown is the perfect foil for the model’s caramel-colored skin.
The model’s mocha skin and dark hair look warm and rich against this simple ivory trumpet sheath.
Despite being a fair-skinned blonde, the model looks outstanding in this bright white dress. Why? A golden tan and the right blush keep her from looking washed out.
With her olive skin, this pure white dress is not the best color for her complexion. Although she still looks beautiful, a warmer ivory would make her radiant instead of pale.
Dresses under $200
While the selection of wedding gowns in this price range will not be as extensive as higher price points, there are still a lot of great finds for the budget-conscious bride. Here are some beautiful dresses to consider:
The warm undertones of this off-white (another name often used for ivory) gown are an attractive contrast to the model’s light, porcelain complexion.
This creamy ivory gown plays up the model’s blonde hair and makes her fair skin glow.
This pure white dress looks magnificent on both the neutral-medium skin of the first model and the light brown skin of the second model. The contrast between their skin tones and the white fabric of the dress is quite eye-catching and would be even more so on a chocolate-skinned bride.
The model wearing this pure white gown is the perfect example of how stunning stark white can look against chocolate-hued skin.
Dresses under $500
A designer dress may not be possible in this price range, but there are more choices available to you than you may think. Here are a few examples to get you started.
Shown in ivory, the warm hue looks stunning against the yellow undertones in the model’s skin and plays up the rich highlights in her hair.
This ivory lace gown is the perfect foil for the model’s light, peachy skin and warm, golden hair.
The first model’s light olive-toned skin looks washed out and slightly sallow in this white gown. If she were wearing ivory instead, her skin would take on a much more attractive golden glow. The second model’s warm undertones would also be better flattered by an ivory gown.
The model’s medium-toned, neutral skin looks perfect with this pure white slip dress.
Dresses under $1,000
More and more wedding dress designers are realizing not every bride wants to spend a fortune on her wedding gown.
To accommodate thrifty brides, there are more dresses available in the $500-$1,000 range than ever before. Here are a few:
The model’s fair, tanned skin glows against the warm ivory fabric of this gorgeous spaghetti strap dress.
The rich hue of this strapless ivory dress is equally stunning against the first model’s fair skin and hair and the second model’s warm, light brown skin and dark hair with caramel highlights.
This diamond white strapless gown is an ideal color for the model’s neutral skin tone and plays up her dark eyes and hair.
While most fair-skinned brides wouldn’t look their best in a white gown, the model has enough pink in her cheeks to avoid looking washed out. Instead, the white plays up her rosy cheeks and pale hair.
Dresses under $1,500
With the average price of wedding dresses falling just over $1,600, shopping for a dress under the $1,500-mark is a good idea because it will give you room in the budget for your veil and some alterations.
Here are a few styles to get you started:
The model’s fair skin and hair are shown to advantage by this flattering shade of ivory.
This ivory gown perfectly complements the model’s light skin and brings out the copper tones in her hair.
The model’s dark skin is shown to advantage in this white floral appliqued gown.
The starkness of this lovely bright, white dress washes out the model’s light skin. A softer ivory hue would be perfect for any bride with a similar complexion.
Dresses under $2,000
If you’re a bride with a healthy budget, there’s no reason not to splurge a bit and get the dress you want. That said, you don’t have to break the bank to look like a million bucks.
Here are some gorgeous dresses that come in under $2,000:
Lightly tanned fair skin looks great in ivory as shown off by the model in this halter-neck dress.
Pale-skinned redheads look their best in ivory as shown by the model of this classic a-line dress.
This white off-the-shoulder gown plays up the richness of the model’s espresso skin and makes her black hair and dark brown eyes pop.
Despite being fair-skinned, the model’s golden hair and neutral complexion is an attractive contrast with this illusion back white gown.
This sweet and simple dress is the color of innocence — pure white — and looks phenomenal against the model’s light brown skin.
Be True to Yourself, Despite Color
While skin tone should be a factor in your decision, it is not what’s most important. Ultimately, what matters most is that you adore your dress.
If you fall in love with a dress, even if it’s not the best color for you, wear it. You can always play around with your makeup and accessories to accommodate the hue you choose.
The most important thing is to feel like a million bucks by wearing what you want to wear. It is your special day, after all.