Your Ultimate Guide to Wedding Dress Styles and Silhouettes

The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Dress Styles | Fashion & Planning

Your Ultimate Guide to Wedding Dress Styles and Silhouettes


Finding the perfect dress is probably one of the most exciting events when it comes to planning your wedding. However, it can also become a real headache if you're not familiar with the styles, fabrics, colors, and necklines used in bridal wear.

Now, don't fret over thinking that your seamstress or bridal salon will expect you to know the technical difference between a chapel veil and a mantilla veil off the top of your head–but they will find it much easier to design or help you choose your dream dress if you tell them you want an A-line. We've gathered up the most common wedding dress styles, necklines, and fabrics you'll come across when searching for your perfect dress. Armed with this information, you'll be able to make the wedding dress selection process much less overwhelming.

There are hundreds of wedding dress styles out there, and most of them keep changing and evolving with the current trends. However, if you filter through them, you can easily boil it down to just five classic full-skirt styles (not including modern mini or cocktail dresses.)

1. A-line

A-line dresses feature a snug top that accentuates the waist and the bust and a flared skirt that widens towards the bottom. It's probably the most used and the most versatile style, as it can work with pretty much any neckline, veil, and train.

It looks great on pear-shaped bodies, distracting the attention from the hips and bottom to the waist, decollete, and neck.

A-line dresses are also great for adding a bit of extra height, as you can easily sneak some high heels under those extra inches of fabric without it being too noticeable.

The ball gown is what you imagine when you think of a princess's wedding dress–a tight, probably strapless corsage, and a full, puffy skirt.

Although this is a very popular silhouette and you can easily find pre-made ball gowns, they usually need quite a bit of adjustment to make them fit you a glove.

With a few fitting sessions, ball gowns can look amazing on any body shape, and will definitely make you feel royalty on the big day.

The empire style, also known as Josephine, is a high-waist dress with a long, free-fitting skirt.

This shape is perfect for brides who are a bit conscious about their waist or hips, as it brings all the attention towards the decollete and the neckline.

Perfect for apple and rectangular body shapes, the empire is also not as restricting as a ball gown or an A-line, allowing more freedom of movement.

The mermaid, or trumpet, is a very dramatic dress that hugs around your curves and flares out from the knees down. Needless to say, this is a very dramatic silhouette that is best pulled off by hourglass figures.

A sheath wedding dress (also known as a column wedding dress) has a slim and snug fit from the neckline to the hem. Some can have a bit of flare from the knees down, but not as much as a mermaid. It looks great on tall, slim bodies, and it can be very versatile when it comes to necklines and textures.

Now that we've covered the major wedding dress styles, let's talk about necklines. Wedding dress necklines are as varied as they are beautiful. Committing to one style can be difficult.

However, there are several neckline styles that you'll see over and over again during your wedding shopping journey. You can pair any of the silhouettes above with any of the necklines listed below.

Below we show how these popular necklines pair with certain wedding dress styles as well as various body shapes. 

1. Square neckline

The square neckline is a staple choice for A-line dresses, but it also looks great with the high-waisted empire. Depending on where you draw the line (literally), it can show quite a bit of cleavage, so it's best worn by brides with a bigger bust.

You'd think a V-neck would be the best way to show some cleavage, but it's actually quite the opposite–V-shaped necklines help draw attention to your neck and collarbone as opposed to the bust.

One of the most popular styles in the past couple of years, a strapless neckline is pretty self-explanatory. The corsage fits tight around the upper body, so it doesn't require straps and draws a lot of attention to the collarbone and decollete area. This style is typically paired with ball gowns.

A variation of the strapless neckline, the sweetheart, creates a heart shape around the bust, adding a bit of dimension and plunge. The style also comes in a “semi-sweetheart” version which has less of a plunge.

The bateau is a high rounded neckline that resembles the shape of a boat (hence the name). It's usually paired with an open back, for those brides who are looking for a dramatic retro look.

The off-the-shoulder style is here to stay, so it deserves its place among these classic necklines. You can pair it up with pretty much anything, from A-lines to ball gowns and even sheath/column dresses. Great for brides with small, round shoulders.

Now we'll dive into wedding dress fabrics. Although “fabric” is a bit of a misnomer as the textures listed below aren't actually fabrics, but finishes. These finishes can be made up of a variety of fabrics–silk, polyester, or a combination of both.

But for ease, we'll just stick with fabrics when describing them.

Now there are other wedding dress fabrics outside of the five listed below, but these are some of the most common and knowledge of them we'll allow you to navigate your way around any bridal salon.

1. Organza

Organza is a sheer, light-weight fabric, but un chiffon, it is stiff and can hold a shape. It's is great for full skirts, but be careful because it can snag and wrinkle easily.

Charmeuse is a rich fabric with a lovely drape and gorgeous sheen to it. It usually made of silk, but can be made from synthetic fibers. Charmeuse is usually used in sheath/column dresses. The fabric is certainly sophisticated but beware as it can show every flaw.

Chiffon is incredibly airy and lightweight, making it great for destination weddings. Because of its lightweight nature it is often used in combination with another, heavier fabric. One must be careful with this fabric as it does fray and snag very easily.

Lace is an open-weave fabric that brings elegance and refinement to any wedding gown. It is usually used as an overlay or detail and comes in a variety of styles.

  • Chantilly: a very detailed, open lace with a defined border
  • Alençon: a lace featuring bold motifs on the net, and trimmed with cord
  • Venise: a heavier and more textured lace great for winter weddings

Satin is one of the most common and most luxurious wedding dress fabrics. Because of it's heavy nature, it pairs well with structured gowns. However, depending on how the gown is cut, it can be very unforgiving, so consider your body shape and any imperfections you want to hide when choosing a satin wedding dress.

This should be enough to get you on the right track to choosing the perfect wedding dress for your body shape. And if you're still looking for inspiration, check out the our Inspiration section to see real weddings and styled shoots featuring the most stunning wedding dresses.


The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Dress Silhouettes

Your Ultimate Guide to Wedding Dress Styles and Silhouettes

When shopping for a wedding dress, the wide variety of dress types available can overwhelm you.

The situation could be much worse if you can’t identify a particular style or tell the difference between it and another. Knowledge is power when it comes to finding the most flattering wedding dress.

We’ve decided to make things easier for you by giving you information on the different wedding dress silhouettes available.

Don’t start your hunt before reading this simple but comprehensive guide.

Empire –Line

The empire-line gown has a raised waistline that starts just under the bust line and flows all the way down to the hem.

This style skims over the tummy area and hips to form a straight flow that is ideal for camouflaging trouble spots short legs and a long torso. It is perfect for pear-shaped brides.

The empire style gown is also suitable for pregnant brides because its fluidity nicely accommodates a large belly.

Photo credit:


The A-line silhouette features a fitted bodice and a skirt that gradually flows out to the ground from below the waist, resembling the outline of the letter ‘A’. It is highly popular because of how flattering it is for almost all shapes.

It can make petite brides look taller, create curves for brides with straight figures, downplay a wide waistline and hide lower body flaws. You can modify the fabric, neckline or waistline to emphasize your best assets while hiding your less impressive features.

The A-line gown suits any occasion, from a traditional church to a backyard ceremony.

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The trumpet gown, sometimes called the fit-and-flare, fits tightly to your body and begins to flare gradually around your mid-thigh. The gradual flare of the skirt resembles the shape of a trumpet’s bell.

It is usually confused with the mermaid gown. The two are similar, but the mermaid is more fitted than the trumpet. The trumpet silhouette adds a nice balance of chic and classic to your dress design.

It is excellent for accentuating curves.

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The mermaid gown tightly embraces the body’s contours from the chest to the knees, or lower, then dramatically flares out to the hem, resembling a fin. It flatters brides with slender figures.

Those on the voluptuous side can also use it to accentuate their curves. However, regardless of how perfect your figure is, you should consider whether or not you’ll be comfortable wearing the mermaid style for your wedding.

It has a bold design that highlights all curves, so you’ll need to be confident to pull it off.

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The Ball Gown

The ball gown style adds a fairytale touch to your wedding. It features a fitted bodice with a dramatic full skirt. It is figure-flattering for most bodies. It is particularly excellent for brides with large busts as it emphasises the waistline, creating an hourglass figure.

It is also ideal for pear-shaped and slender figures because it accentuates the waist and conceals any lower-body problem areas. The ball gown wedding dress often features layered tiers, delicate embroidery and elaborate beading embellishments.

There are many variations and design opportunities that give you room to make the style suit your preferences.

Photo credit: marryalizee.comPhoto credit:

The Sheath

The sheath dress is closely fitted and hugs the body from the head to toe. If you simplicity, you can opt for this dress. It shows off your figure without any superfluous details.

Its straight, slender lines make petite brides look taller. It is a good choice for brides looking to accentuate slim hips or long legs. It can also nicely frame an hourglass-shaped body.

A point to note is that the sheath silhouette will draw the eye to every curve, even those you’d to hide.

Photo credit: marthastewartweddings.comPhoto credit:

As you look for a silhouette that flatters your body, we’d advise you to try different dress styles. Whatever your final choice, just know you’ll look spectacular because of all the happiness attached to your big day. Don’t stress!


Every Wedding Dress Style, From A-Line to Trumpet

Your Ultimate Guide to Wedding Dress Styles and Silhouettes

As you begin your wedding dress search, learning terminology is a major help. Knowing the names of different looks and silhouettes will help you sort through all the different options out there (Sheath! A-line! Slip!).

Being able to articulate your favorite wedding dress styles will also help your bridal consultant at your appointment. But if you don’t know the difference between a trumpet gown and a mermaid gown, not to worry. It’s a lot of information to learn, but we’re here to help.

We’ve put together a definitive guide of all the wedding dress styles you need to know so you can head into your wedding dress shopping experience with confidence. We also tapped Hayley Paige, renowned wedding dress designer, to break down the all the different wedding dress styles.

 Once you find your preferred style, work with a bridal consultant at a bridal salon to find your perfect wedding dress. Read on to find out the name of your favorite wedding gown silhouette, length, and shape. 

Ball Gown

Embrace your inner princess with this stunning wedding dress style. Ball gowns are fitted through your natural waist or your hip and then flare out dramatically for a lovely hourglass effect that will make you feel Cinderella at the royal ball.

“If you’re looking for that 'extra-bit-of-extra,' ballgowns will bring the voluminous drama,” Paige says. “There is something so flirty and fun about layers upon layers of tulle…

the trick is finding one that still feels equal parts manageable and 'twirl-worthy.'”


The column silhouette is typically streamlined and fairly uninterrupted by drastic seamlines. “Not to be confused with a sheath that tends to fit a bit more effortlessly and is lighter in fabrication, the column look is more often seen with a natural waistline and made from fabrications that hold a bit of structure (think: taffeta, brocade, organza, corded lace).”


Photo Courtesy of Jenny Packham;Dress by Jenny Packham

Wedding dresses with an empire waist are perfect for those who love a flowy, boho dress. This silhouette is fitted through the bust and then flows away from the body all the way down.

Another pro? The higher waistline elongates the body, which can make you appear taller.

“Leaving most of the body shape undefined, I love that this silhouette leaves room for the imagination and keeps the focus on the décolletage and smiling face.”


Photo Courtesy of Pnina Tornai;Dress by Pnina Tornai

It’s no wonder why this is a popular wedding dress style (and has been over the years). To-be-weds who want to highlight their figure but also want to be comfortable throughout the night will love this stunning silhouette.

“I to call this a “nice hug and release” because the fit-and-flare is all about highlighting shape…and then some.” The style hugs your bust, waist and hips, and then flares out ever-so-slightly for a pretty and romantic look.

“Depending on the proportions of the seamline, this silhouette can be a nice balance for the bride who wants something form fitting and sexy, but also high voltage and glamorous.”


If you’re looking for a unique style (or you have a pair of shoes you’re dying to show off), consider a high-low dress.

This cut has an asymmetrical hemline: it’s shorter in the front—generally hitting between your knees and your ankles—and is longer in the back. “This silhouette is charming and feels a wee-bit old-school couture,” Paige says.

“You're going to need a devastatingly fabulous pair of shoes because this look offers a sneaky-peek from the mid-calf down.”


Photo by MARIJKE AERDEN;Jumpsuit by Viktor&Rolf

If a dress just doesn't feel right for you, consider a jumpsuit. “I love a great jumpsuit moment because it’s unassuming, unexpected, and always ready to disco.” This style is a one-piece that has a top and connected long pants.

It’s an alternative to a formal gown that will show off your flirty side.

“Whether it’s a wide-legged pant or a pegged-cigarette-slimmer paired with a plunging neckline or a bustier corset, the jumpsuit is forever playful and ever so accessible.”

Photo Courtesy of Temperley London;Dress by Temperley London

Don’t want to wear a traditional long gown? Rock a midi dress instead. This style hits between the knees and the ankles.

“There is no specific measurement or seamlines, but the idea is to curate a length that compliments your proportion and height.

” The hem length is having a massive moment in bridal fashion, making it perfect for the fashion-forward nearlywed. Dress it up with a fun headpiece, some sparkly jewelry or a pretty veil for an on-trend wedding day look.

Photo by LARA JADE;Dress by Lela Rose

Calling all daring to-be-weds. This wedding dress style hits anywhere above the knee, allowing you to show off your gorgeous legs and have total freedom on the dancefloor.

“Anyone can appreciate a mini moment because it’s fresh, fun, and forever retro in a wedding setting,” Paige says. “I also love to encourage it under a detachable skirt, as it doubles as a second look.

 I'm all about multiple looks on your wedding day; especially if you are a style chameleon or having a hard time deciding between two completely different looks.”

Courtesy of Justin Alexander;Pantsuit by Justin Alexander

If you’re going for a formal look but don’t want to wear a gown, a pantsuit is the perfect option. It consists of full-length pants and a matching jacket (or top). Another reason we love this look? Pants are one of the biggest wedding dress trends we’re seeing for 2020.


More of an adventurous to-be-wed? Choose a fun and unconventional wedding dress, a romper. This style is a one-piece garment that has a top and attached shorts. Wear it for your reception or for your whole wedding—it’s your day, after all!


Not into voluminous skirts? Not a problem. The sheath style is a great way to show off your figure without any added drama. The slim silhouette hugs your body and falls straight to the floor.

“Sparing the horizontal join lines, the sheath silhouette is geared to elongate one’s shape,” Paige says.

 “It’s similar to a column shape, but typically consists of silky fabrics that delicately grace the contours of the body via chiffon, charmeuse, or lace.”


Want to shake up your wedding day look? Try out a two-piece look rather than a traditional gown. Separates involve any top and skirt paired together for one cohesive look. “This option offers the ultimate versatility and ideal amount of 'extra' because it can create the effect of two gowns in one.”

Photo Courtesy of Savannah Miller;Dress by Savannah Miller

For the minimalist to-be-wed, the slip dress is a great option. They’re generally made of unstructured fabric (think satin or silk) and loosely graze your figure for a simple and pretty overall look. Pair the look with some flowers in your hair or a long, sheer veil for a gorgeous wedding day style.

Tea Length

Photo by ANTON OPARIN;Dress by Inbal Dror

While tea-length dresses can technically hit between your knee and your ankle, most fall right above the ankle. This style is great for to-be-weds going for a vintage or retro look, and it also allows you to show off your wedding day shoes. “I love the tea-length because it’s curated to your proportion and forever charming.”

Your ultimate guide to wedding dress silhouettes

Your Ultimate Guide to Wedding Dress Styles and Silhouettes

Twirling in front of a mirror in a host of different gorgeous gowns is one of the best parts of preparing a wedding. But with so many stunning gowns and different styles available, it can be hard to know where to start when confronted with a whole host of desirable options.

So, we have pulled together the ultimate guide to wedding dress silhouettes to help you to work out which styles might work best with your figure.


The name of this style is deceptively ordinary, given that is has magical powers. The cut, which is literally in the shape of a capital A, is flattering for almost all body shapes.

With a fitted bodice and a shirt that flows out slightly on its way to the floor, it gives height to petite brides, creates curves for ladies with a straighter figure, disguises wide waistlines and completely covers your lower body.

Ball gown

The ballgown is the quintessential princess wedding dress and there are more reasons why this is a fairytale design. The silhouette is a fitted bodice, natural waist and a billowing, full skirt and because of its design, everyone can look amazing in it.

The cut gives straight-bodies women the appearance of more curves, while giving proportion to brides with large busts by creating an hour glass figure. For women with pear-shaped figures, the fitted bodice will define the waist and the ample skirt will cover the hips.

You can have a lot of fun with the appearance of the skirt, with anything from delicate embroidery to layers upon layers of tulle a possibility.

Dropped waist

For brides who want to highlight trim middles, the dropped waist silhouette is perfect. This style flares out at the hips, with a fitted shape all the way down the torso. The dropped waist should be avoided by straight-lined brides, but can work well for petite brides if the flare is not too dramatic.

Empire waist

The empire silhouette is a raised waistline, cutting in just below the bust with a flowing gown.

This style is perfect for those who want to draw attention away from their waist and hips and is a dream design for those with shorter legs, long torsos, or pear-shaped bodies.

The empire is also perfect for pregnant brides because the flowing nature of the gown can fit a belly of any size underneath. The only body shapes that should steer clear of this design are those with a large bust or fuller hips as this style will accentuate those features.


Far from traditional, the tea-length has become a popular trend in recent years. The silhouette is a fitted bodice with skirts that typically fall between the knee and the ankle. This style is perfect for less formal weddings and for the bride who wants to show off some amazing shoes.

Find the perfect wedding dress designer here. 

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