Every Wedding Dress Jargon Explained: A Guide By Emerald Bridal

Emerald Bridal

Every Wedding Dress Jargon (A-Z) Explained

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.

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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?

Most wedding dresses fall under one of the following 6 silhouettes: a-line, ball gown, sheath, mermaid, trumpet and empire.

From left the right: a line, sheath, trumpet, mermaid, ball gown

What are the different wedding dress necklines?

There’s strapless, halter, bateau, Queen Anne, one shoulder, spaghetti straps, scoop,  jewel, high neck, sweetheart, illusion, V-neck, and off the shoulder.

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.

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Definitions For Wedding Dress Jargon

A-line silhouette (also known as fit & flare in Australia)

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

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

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.

Asymmetrical waistline

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.

Ankle length

Used to describe the length of a wedding dress that reaches the ankle (i.e., exposes the feet).

Ball gown silhouette

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.

Ballerina length

A bit longer than tea length, ballerina length dresses are those with skirts that fall between mid-calf and ankle.

Bateau neck

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.

Basque waist

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.

Bias-cut

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. 

Boatneck

Also known as bateau neck.

Bodice

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.

Boning

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

Brocade is a rich jacquard woven fabric with intricate designs on its surface. Resembling embroidery, brocade wedding dresses are popular for the textured look.

Bustle

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.

Butterfly sleeves

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.

Cage

 

Cathedral length

The cathedral length train is 22 inches or longer.

Cap sleeves

Cap sleeves are a style of short sleeve that cover the shoulder.

Chantilly lace

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.

Chapel length

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

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.

Chiffon

A sheer and lightweight fabric of very fine weave silk.

Crêpe

 

Crepe de chine

 

Cold shoulder

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.

Corset

 

Court train

A court length train measures at 2 feet and is perfect for achieving the look of a train without a bunch of trailing fabric.

Cowl neck

A cowl neck is a draped neckline that draws attention to the décolletage area.

Column silhouette

Also known as sheath silhouette.

Crinoline

A crinoline is essentially a hoopskirt. It is a structured hooped petticoat that provides structure to the skirt of a wedding gown.

Darts

V-shaped seams that are sewn into the wedding dress to allow for a tailored fit.

Drop waist silhouette

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.

Dupioni

A crisp silk fabric with an elegant appearance. Its irregular lines of thicker threading is what makes it unique.

Empire silhouette

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.

Empire waistline

Same as empire silhouette.

Fit & flare 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.

Fishtail silhouette

Also known as mermaid silhouette.

Floor length

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

Flutter sleeve

A sleeve style created by pleats or cutting the fabric wider to create a fluttering effect. Flutter sleeves provide a fuller volume.

Eyelet lace

 

Godets

 

Graphic lace

 

Guipure lace

 

Halter neck

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.

High-low hem

Used to describe a hemline that runs shorter in the front and longer in the back of the wedding dress.

Hook and eye closure

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.

Illusion detail

 

Jewel neck

 

Juliet sleeves

 

Keyhole cutout

An opening in the wedding dress that allows for a peek of skin.

Knee length

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.

Lace

 

Long sleeves

 

Mermaid silhouette (also known as fishtail silhouette)

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.

Natural waistline

 

No waistline

 

Off the rack

Also known as ready to wear.

Off the shoulder

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.

Organza

Slightly stiffer than chiffon but similar in properties (i.e., sheer and lightweight fabric of very fine weave silk).

Portrait

 

Prêt-à-Porter

Also known as ready-to-wear.

Princess seam

The princess seam is a curved seam within the wedding dress that helps create a tailored fit.

Ready to wear (also known as Prêt-à-Porter and off-the-rack)

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).

Royal train (also known as monarch)

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

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.

Satin

The lustrous quality of this silk fabric (or sometimes synthetic materials) is its defining characteristic. It tends to hug the body. 

Sateen

Similar to satin but is constructed of cotton or cotton blend.

Scoop

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.

Shantung

Similar to dupioni but with more subtly. It is also lighter in weight than dupioni.

Sleeveless

 

Silk

 

Surplice neckline

The surplice neckline is a diagonally crossed neckline that forms a deep V-shape.

Sheath silhouette (also known as column silhouette)

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.

Spaghetti straps

A spaghetti strap neckline uses a very thin shoulder strap used to support the wedding gown.

Strapless

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.

Sweep length train

A sweep train is a subtle way to add an accent to a wedding gown’s skirt. It measures around 6 inches long.

Sweetheart

The sweetheart neckline is one that frames the décolletage and looks like the top of a heart shape.

Silhouette

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.

Sweep

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

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.

Three-fourth length sleeves

Sleeves on a wedding gown that ends somewhere between your elbow and wrist (usually around elbow-length).

Tiers

 

Trumpet silhouette

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.

Train

The long back portion of a wedding dress that trails behind the bride.

Tulle

Used in wedding gowns to create lightness and volume. It is a fine-netted material.

V neck

This neckline dips into a ‘V’ shape in the front, coming down to a point on the throat or chest.

Watteau train

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.

 

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