Wedding dress designers can get excited. We like to use words that demonstrate the features and benefits of each style, cut, seam, neckline, and material – because we care. But the same words, unfortunately, are alien to most people. So to help you make sense of all the fuss, we’ve put together a list of every wedding dress related terminology.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the parts of a wedding dress?
Almost all wedding dresses have these 6 elements in varying shapes and styles:
(i) a particular neckline (e.g., sweetheart, scoop, spaghetti straps), (ii) a bodice, (iii) a type of waistline, (iv) a skirt, (v) a train (e.g., royal length, court length, chapel length etc) and (vi) sleeves (or lack of).
What are the different silhouettes of wedding dresses?
What are the different wedding dress necklines?
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.
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 de-emphasise 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.
- A-line silhouette (also known as fit & flare in Australia)
- Aleçon lace
- Asymmetrical waistline
- Ankle length
- Ball gown silhouette
- Ballerina length
- Bateau neck (also known as boatneck.)
- Basque waist
- Boatneck (also known as bateau neck)
- Butterfly sleeves
- Cathedral length
- Cap sleeves
- Chantilly lace
- Chapel length
- Crepe de chine
- Cold shoulder
- Court train
- Cowl neck
- Column silhouette (also known as sheath silhouette)
- Fit & flare silhouette (also known as a-line silhouette in Australia or trumpet silhouette in North America)
- Fishtail silhouette ( also known as mermaid silhouette)
- Floor length
- Flutter sleeve
- Eyelet lace
- Mermaid silhouette (also known as fishtail silhouette)
- Surplice neckline
- Sheath silhouette (also known as column silhouette)
- Spaghetti straps
- Sweetheart neckline
Definitions For Wedding Dress Jargon
The A line silhouette gets its name from looking like the capital letter A. Fitted above and around the hips, the A line silhouette flares gently to the hem.
Aleçon lace is a type of needle lace that originated in Aleçon, north-west France. A high level of craftsmanship is required and takes up to seven hours to produce one square centimetre. It is said that to fully master Aleçon lace-making, one requires 7-10 years of training. Therefore, its one of the highest quality laces you can get.
Appliqué refers to the delicate and decorative patterns/motifs that are sewn onto existing fabric such as tulle, for example, a flower motif onto tulle.
An asymmetrical waistline refers to the waistline of a wedding gown where one side of the waistline is different from the other side. For example, drop waist on one side of the dress and raised on the other.
Used to describe the length of a wedding dress that reaches the ankle (i.e., exposes the feet).
A ball gown silhouette is also commonly referred to as the princess silhouette. It has a fitted bodice and a wide and full skirt. Many designs have many layers of tulle to achieve the full skirt. View our ball gown wedding dresses.
A bit longer than tea length, ballerina length dresses are those with skirts that fall between mid-calf and ankle.
Used to describe the neckline of a wedding gown. A bateau neckline is wide and runs horizontally, front and back, almost to the shoulder points, across the collarbone. Meghan Markle wore a Givenchy gown, designed by Clare Waight Keller, with a bateau neck.
In bridal wear, a basque waist has a V-shape and is a type of bodice that either extends below the waistline or over the skirt. This type of waistline provides a close contoured fit similar to that of a corset.
Refers to a technique where the fabric of a garment is cut against the grain. Wedding gowns that are bias-cut tends to help accentuate body lines and curves and drape softly.
Also known as bateau neck.
The bodice is the upper part of a wedding dress that sits around the ribcage and is the fabric that connects the waistline, neckline and bust. It is the part of the wedding gown that runs from shoulder to waist.
Refers to a strip of plastic that is sewn into the inside of a wedding gown to retain the shape of the bodice and create more structure and support.
Brocade is a rich jacquard woven fabric with intricate designs on its surface. Resembling embroidery, brocade wedding dresses are popular for the textured look.
Some wedding gowns with a train can be transitioned into one without a train. Often done with buttons, hooks or ribbons, the bustle makes it easier for the wearer to move about with a long draggy train.
These look like butterfly wings when you lift your arms (hence the name). Generally made from fabrics like knits that are loose, butterfly sleeves add elegance and a petite touch to your wedding dress.
The cathedral length train is 22 inches or longer.
Cap sleeves are a style of short sleeve that cover the shoulder.
Chantilly lace is named after the city of Chantilly, France. It is a traditionally handmade from black threads and feature floral or botanical patterns on a net background. In the context of a wedding dress, Chantilly is often used in the sleeves and overlays of a wedding gown.
The chapel train on a wedding gown is one of the most popular choices for brides. It is between 12 to 18 inches in length.
Charmeuse is a lightweight fabric with a satin weave and matte backing. It has a lustrous sheen and can come in silk and polyester variants with silk being more expensive and delicate. Polyester charmeuse can withstand machine washing but does not breath as well as silk. Compared to satin, charmeuse is softer and is lighter in weight. It is a popular silk fabric due to its resistance to wrinkles.
A sheer and lightweight fabric of very fine weave silk.
The cold shoulder is a style of wedding dress sleeve where the shoulder and part of the arm peeks through. It can provide the illusion of being off-the-shoulder without actually being off shoulder.
A court length train measures at 2 feet and is perfect for achieving the look of a train without a bunch of trailing fabric.
A cowl neck is a draped neckline that draws attention to the décolletage area.
Also known as sheath silhouette.
A crinoline is essentially a hoopskirt. It is a structured hooped petticoat that provides structure to the skirt of a wedding gown.
V-shaped seams that are sewn into the wedding dress to allow for a tailored fit.
A drop waist silhouette in the context of a wedding dress is a gown that has a low waistband – typically in line with the hips rather than the natural level of the waist. Hence the name ‘drop’. The drop waist has the effect of elongating your torso making you appear taller.
A crisp silk fabric with an elegant appearance. Its irregular lines of thicker threading is what makes it unique.
The empire silhouette has a fitted bodice ending just below the bust. That is, the waistline is placed above the natural waist, This gives a high-waisted appearance and can be flattering for a bottom-heavy figure.
Same as empire silhouette.
In Australia, the fit and flare silhouette is the same as the A-line silhouette. In North America, fit-and-flare refers to the trumpet silhouette.
Also known as mermaid silhouette.
Used typically to describe the skirt of a wedding dress that grazes the ground, hence floor-length. Your shoes should not be visible when wearing a floor length wedding dress
A sleeve style created by pleats or cutting the fabric wider to create a fluttering effect. Flutter sleeves provide a fuller volume.
A halter neck wedding dress is typically a sleeveless gown with straps being tied behind the neck. It draws the eyes upward and are effect at showcasing your shoulders.
Used to describe a hemline that runs shorter in the front and longer in the back of the wedding dress.
Often used on the upper back of a wedding dress, it is a closure that has a small hook on one side and loop of fabric on the other.
An opening in the wedding dress that allows for a peek of skin.
A knee-length wedding dress is one where the skirt ends at knee level. A knee length wedding dress will have a skirt that measures 23 inches from the waist to hemline.
The mermaid silhouette has a distinctive fluted hem and fitted bodice. Wedding dresses in this silhouette fits closely to the body through the torso and the hips before flaring to the floor at the knee. Browse our mermaid silhouette bridal dresses.
Also known as ready to wear.
A sleeve style where the shoulders are fully bare and the sleeves drape along the arm. Browse our collection of off-the-shoulder bridal wear.
Slightly stiffer than chiffon but similar in properties (i.e., sheer and lightweight fabric of very fine weave silk).
Also known as ready-to-wear.
The princess seam is a curved seam within the wedding dress that helps create a tailored fit.
Prêt-à-Porter literally translates to ‘ready to wear’ in French. Ready to wear wedding dresses can be purchased off-the-rack at bridal boutiques and bridal retailers. That is, they are not made to order. Instead, ready to wear dresses can be altered to provide the perfect fit. Browse our entire range of ready-to-wear bridal (includes Lillian West and Morilee).
The royal train is the longest train, measuring 12 feet in length. Both Kate Middleton and Princess DIana both had royal trains (pun intended).
Ruching is a sewing technique where fabric is gathered in a repeating pattern to act as embellishment. A wedding dress can have ruching or be described as a ruched wedding dress.
The lustrous quality of this silk fabric (or sometimes synthetic materials) is its defining characteristic. It tends to hug the body.
Similar to satin but is constructed of cotton or cotton blend.
A scoop neckline is a deep and wider neckline that draws the eye downward. It has the effect of lengthening your neck and accentuating your collarbone.
Similar to dupioni but with more subtly. It is also lighter in weight than dupioni.
The surplice neckline is a diagonally crossed neckline that forms a deep V-shape.
A sheath silhouette skims the body and falls straight to the floor below the hips. Sheath wedding dresses end to be slim-fitting gowns with a straight narrow shape. Browse our sheath silhouette wedding dresses.
A spaghetti strap neckline uses a very thin shoulder strap used to support the wedding gown.
A strapless wedding dress is one where there are no shoulder straps or other visible means of support. Strapless gowns tend to rely on an internal corset and a fitted bodice to prevent the dress from slipping out of position. Browse our selection of off-the-rack strapless wedding gowns.
A sweep train is a subtle way to add an accent to a wedding gown’s skirt. It measures around 6 inches long.
The sweetheart neckline is one that frames the décolletage and looks like the top of a heart shape.
The main 6 wedding dress silhouettes are mermaid (also known as fishtail), trumpet, a line, sheath (also known as column), empire, and ball gown (also known as princess). You will also come across the term fit & flare and this will mean different dress silhouettes depending on where you shop. For example, in Australia, fit & flare is the same as a-line while in North America, bridal stores refer to the fit-and-flare silhouette as a trumpet wedding dress.
A sweep train is a subtle way to add accent to a wedding dress’ skirt. A sweep train extends a foot or less from where the fabric hits the floor.
Taffeta is a luxury fabric that has a lustrous sheen that rustles when you walk. It has a more matte appearance than satin and is stiffer, thus provides a bit more structure to a bridal gown.
Sleeves on a wedding gown that ends somewhere between your elbow and wrist (usually around elbow-length).
The trumpet silhouette flairs just below the hip instead of below the knee. This is what makes it different to the mermaid silhouette. Browse our ready-to-wear trumpet wedding gowns.
The long back portion of a wedding dress that trails behind the bride.
Used in wedding gowns to create lightness and volume. It is a fine-netted material.
This neckline dips into a ‘V’ shape in the front, coming down to a point on the throat or chest.
A watteau train is a detachable train that attaches at the shoulders or upper back of the bodice of a wedding dress. It falls loosely to the floor and forms a sweeping train. Think of it as a combination of a veil and a train.