Wedding Dress Silhouettes: A Beginner’s Guide
Your wedding gown is a statement piece (and it should be). Some of us have more curves than others. Some of us are taller, shorter, rounder, etc. That is, we all have different body shapes (hourglass, triangle).
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What are wedding dress silhouettes and what do you need to know in order to find the perfect one for you?
Every wedding dress designer starts from a base silhouette in mind and will make stylistic modifications to the neckline, sleeves, inner construction, train, and skirt. Wedding dress silhouettes refers to the overall shape of a wedding dress.
As you begin your search for your wedding dress, you will come across terms such as style, a-line, shape, curves, waist, bust, fit-&-flare, and skirt. These all relate to different wedding dress silhouettes.
Some styles are more flattering and popular for certain body shapes (e.g., petite, curvaceous) but since our body types are all different, use this guide as a rough reference point.
5 Essential Wedding Dress Silhouettes
1. A-line Silhouette
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French couture designer Christian Dior was the first to use this term in his 1955 spring collection. However, it was Dior?s successor, Yves Saint Laurent, with his 1958 spring collection that featured dresses that flared from a fitted shoulder line.
A-line wedding dresses refer to a wedding gown that is fitted above and around the hips but flare gently to the hem, giving a streamlined and slimming look.
- This cut suits most body shapes as it draws your eyes upwards and emphasises your waist.
- For petite brides, the A-line silhouette gives the illusion of a little bit of extra height and for curvier women, it will draw focus to your waist whilst drawing attention away from your hips.
2. Mermaid Silhouette
Also known as Fishtail
Recommended: view our range of mermaid wedding gowns
The fluted hem and fitted bodice is the distinctive feature of the this silhouette. That is, the style of the dress fits closely to the body through the torso and hips, then fishtails out in a flare to the floor. This is why the mermaid style is also referred to as the fishtail silhouette.
- The flared skirt adds an illusion of additional curves.
- Walking in this style of wedding dress tends will be difficult.
- Mermaid wedding dresses are often strapless although there is no universal rule on this silhouette?s details around the neckline.
- If you have a classic hourglass figure, try this on in-store to see if you like the accentuation of your chest and butt.
- This silhouette looks best on tall brides (e.g., Taylor Swift, Kendall Jenner, Amy Adams, and Sofia Vergara).
3. Trumpet Silhouette
Also known as fit-and-flare in some bridal stores
Recommended: browse our range of trumpet wedding dresses
The trumpet cut flairs just below the hip instead of below the knee. Similar to mermaid, the trumpet silhouette is body-hugging at all the right places.
- If you intend to walk around quite a bit during your wedding reception and want the flexibility of being mobile, this cut will make it easier to move around in (and dance).
4. Sheath Silhouette
Also known as Column
A sheath wedding dress skims the body and falls straight to the floor below the hips. Also referred to as a column dress, sheath tend to be slim-fitting gowns with a straight narrow shape.
- The sheath silhouette is a sleek and modern choice.
- Considering adding lace and/or beading depending on your taste (or keep it minimalist if that is your style).
- You can add drama to a sheath wedding dress by incorporating a cathedral length veil (approximately 3m long).
5. Ball Gown Silhouette
Also known as Princess.
Recommended: browse our range of ballgown wedding dresses
The ball gown has a fitted bodice and a wide and full skirt. Considered as one of the most classic styles, the wide and full skirt is often achieved using layers of tulle.
If you are considering a ball gown wedding dress, you are in the company of Princess Diana, Jacki O, and Grace Kelly.
Despite sharing similar body types, your hips, waist and bust measurements makes you unique. Therefore, we always recommend brides to go for a wedding gown fitting as this is the only guaranteed way to know whether a dress is the perfect fit for you.
We published this wedding dress silhouettes blog post as a rough guide only. As a bridal gown boutique, we try to steer away from body shape stereotypes (e.g., a-line is best for X, Y silhouette is best for Z body shape, petite brides should only try on X etc).
Instead, the perfect fit takes into account who you are, your unique curves, waist, shoulder and bust measurements. Ultimately, the tried and tested way to finding the perfect bridal gown is by trying it on.
Frequently Asked Questions
What wedding dress will make me appear more slender?
Larger sized brides will look beautiful in A-line dresses. The main thing you want to avoid is body-hugging designs that flare from the knees or above. The choice of fabric can also help you appear more slender. Choose a light fabric such as chiffon and silk over bulky fabrics such as velvet and satin.
What wedding dress will make me look taller?
A gown with a high neckline will help you achieve a taller look. You may also want to try on short sleeved or sleeveless dresses with long gloves to elongate your appearance.
I want a longer-looking torso, how can I achieve this?
Look for a dress that is fitted at the bodice and opens up gradually to a full skirt. This will help draw out your figure in an elegant manner. Consider looking at Fit & Flare (A-Line) styles with a dropped waist bodice.
What wedding dress will de-emphasize my bust?
For starters, avoid empire or cinched waists as these will accentuate larger breasts. Try, instead, a v-neck or high neck wedding dress with a keyhole yoke. In terms of dress shape, ask your bridal shop stylist for a fitted bodice or a straight skirt.
What wedding gown will de-emphasize my height?
For tall brides, a dropped waist (like the basque style) can help. Avoid column/sheath silhouettes as these can add the perception of a couple of vertical inches (which is the exact opposite of what you want). Beyond the dress itself, hats or dramatic veiling are other options to consider.
Do you have any advice for petite brides?
For most petite ladies, the goal is to find a wedding dress that reduces or removes a shortening effect on the overall appearance. A lot of advice on the Internet suggests that petite brides avoid ball gown dresses. The truth is that you will never know until you try it on. When it comes to finding your dream dress, you are in control and you are free to choose whatever style, cut and features that will make you feel your best.
Do you have any advice for pear-shaped brides?
Most brides with pear-shaped bodies prefer their upper half. Therefore, a strapless ball gown wedding dress will cover your bottom half whilst drawing attention to your upper body. To go one step further, try on a princess gown that has an off-the-shoulder neckline.
About Emerald Bridal
We hope you found this guide to common wedding dress cuts useful.
Emerald Bridal specialises in off-the-rack (ready-to-wear) wedding dresses that offer a careful balance between style, affordability, and quality. Our focus is on helping brides find their dream dress so that they look and feel comfortable and beautiful on their big day.
Come visit our Sydney showroom for a personalised fitting.