Are you struggling to find your perfect dress for the big day? Perhaps you have no idea of which styles will suit you but a strong opinion of the things you definitely don’t want… If this sounds like you, you might find this post helpful - we’re looking at everything ‘wedding dress’ and bringing you a complete guide to discovering the gown of your dreams!
Check out our infographic below for a quick summary of wedding dress silhouettes and necklines then read on for more details to help you find the perfect dress.
Our article is split into the following main sections:
One thing that we would tell everyone is to start on Pinterest - pin anything that strikes your fancy, it doesn’t matter if you end up with umpteen very different styles of dress, it is just helpful to see all of the different silhouettes, necklines, lengths, finishes in one place. Once you have an idea of the dresses that are available, you may start to warm to a particular style.
QUICK TIP: The decor, season, venue and time of day all play a role in choosing the right dress for your wedding, so definitely consider these before taking the plunge. For example, a huge princess ball gown might look (and feel) a little out of place for a country barn wedding.
Choosing your silhouette is probably the most important step to take before you even consider colour, embellishments or extras. But this choice can be a little tough if you’re not sure what suits your body. Here are the most popular wedding dress styles and shapes to help you:
Mermaid dresses go from a fitted top to a more voluminous skirt at the base and usually have a defining line between the fitted section and the kick-out section (reminiscent of a mermaid’s tail). The flared section will most commonly start just above or at the knee.
This style of dress is perfect for showing off your curves and making you feel sexy yet elegant on your big day. Mermaid dresses often have trains which can vary from a subtle kick to a huge statement in size.
Trumpet wedding dresses have a fitted top and voluminous bottom, much like the mermaid, however, there is no defining break/line between the two sections of the dress. The flared section begins around the mid-thigh and kicks out more gradually than a mermaid style wedding dress.
Again, if you want to hug your curves in all the right places, a trumpet wedding gown could be a great option for you. Trains can vary from sweep to a cathedral length, depending on how dramatic you want to feel on your wedding day. Oftentimes a trumpet style dress is easier to move in than a mermaid dress due to where the flare begins.
Fit and Flare
Sometimes known as fit to flare, these dresses are very similar to the mermaid and trumpet styles, however, the flare begins just below the hips and is more gradual than the mermaid. This dress is flattering for many body types as it accentuates existing curves (perfect for pears and hourglasses) but can also help to create curves for those with more athletic body types.
QUICK TIP: One thing to take note of is that there are quite blurry lines between mermaid, trumpet and fit and flare wedding dresses, as the differences can be extremely subtle. Depending on where you are shopping for your dress, there could be dresses which are labelled mermaid, where you may think they look more like a fit and flare, so perhaps use all of these terms when shopping to make sure you get to see all of the dresses which follow a similar sort of silhouette.
A sheath or column style wedding dress is reminiscent of a slip dress, as it hugs the body but appears more draped. To the base of a sheath wedding dress, there is more of a subtle kick out, however, some can look a little more fit and flare than others when they have more of a train. This style of dress makes a great evening gown, as the bride can move freely and easily, making it perfect for the dancefloor.
Sheath dresses are usually made from lighter, more flowing fabrics to get that effortless, glamorous look - perfect for a laid-back bride who still wants to look sexy and elegant on her wedding day. Due to the lighter fabric, sheath dresses may not be so forgiving, so some form of body control/contouring underwear might be needed.
This classic design is what many people think of when they hear the words “wedding dress” - a poofy and voluminous skirt with tulle for days and a strapless, fitted top, laced up at the back. This is often the case when it comes to princess or ballgown designs, however, there is plenty of room for manoeuvre when it comes to fabrics, fastenings and embellishments.
The basic silhouette of a ballgown wedding dress has a fitted top and a dramatic flared skirt from the waist down. Skirts can vary in size, with some people choosing to wear hoop skirts or petticoats to help fill out the dress even more.
This style can work on many body types and is a great choice for those who want to define their waistline and create a more hourglass shape.
The A-line wedding dress silhouette is fairly similar to a ball gown, only it is not as voluminous and has a more triangular shaped flare to the skirt. This style of gown suits pretty much every body type, as the skirt glides outwards from the waist creating an hourglass shape and the top can be in any style to flatter all busts, shoulders or décolletages.
This is probably one of the more traditional silhouettes for a wedding dress as it is a classic shape which is timelessly elegant.
To add to the confusion already being caused by the mermaid and trumpet styles, the modified A-line is a combination of A-line and fit & flare silhouettes. The top of the dress is fitted and lightly hugs the hips before kicking out into the triangular shape of an A-line skirt from just under the bum. The skirt sits closer to the body than a traditional A-line in the modified style.
More often than not, a tea-length wedding dress will be A-line, creating a more vintage, 1950s silhouette. This is a perfect cut for curvy ladies as it really accentuates the hourglass shape and is so flattering, kicking out from the waist and stopping at the knees or calves. The shorter length of a tea-style dress is perfect for showing off those pins and the amazing shoes that the entire wedding party needs to see! It is also a great style for summer and for those who love a bit of vintage-inspired fashion.
This style of hemline can work on a few different dress styles and is quite a quirky look for a wedding dress. It is probably most frequently found in an a-line/ball gown style, but this hemline can look quite chic on a sheath/column silhouette dress.
The skirt will be shorter to the front and get longer at the back - this is why it is sometimes called a mullet hemline, so if you want to show off your pins or keep cooler at your resort wedding, then this might be a good choice for you!
If you aim to be cinched at the waist for your wedding day, then you might want to look into dresses with basque waistlines. These dresses have fitted bodices which sit on the bride’s hips but dip to the front to form a ‘V-shape’, therefore elongating the torso. This style is particularly flattering on slender body types and works perfectly with a ball gown skirt, creating an hourglass shape.
Once you’ve got your silhouette down, you’ll want to think about the neckline of your dress and there are a LOT of those to consider… just peek at our list:
The sweetheart neckline is fairly popular when it comes to wedding dresses as it is a very flattering choice and mimics the shape of a love heart. A v-shaped dip in the centre of the bodice creates two curved edges which flatter the bust and look softer than a straight across neckline.
This style works best if you have a bit of bust to work with, otherwise, it can make a flat chest look even flatter.
A V-neck bodice can look similar to sweetheart, but to create a V-neck, there have to be straps or sleeves of some sort on the dress. This neckline is very self-explanatory - the ‘V’ is created in the centre of the bodice, extending from the edges of the collar bone down into a ‘V’ just above the chest.
This neckline works well on brides with curves as it helps with the hourglass illusion, especially on an A-line silhouette wedding dress.
When a dress is styled with a wrap neckline, this creates a V-shape at the front of the bodice and the fabric will look to overlap diagonally under one side of the bust.
This style works well on those with larger cup sizes as it is very flattering, however, it is probably not the best for those who are self-conscious about their bust or cleavage being too obvious on the wedding day.
A plunge neckline is very similar to the V-neck, only the opening will extend further and could end anywhere between the middle of the chest to just above the navel (or beyond if the dress is particularly risqué).
A plunge dress is perfect for those who are a little more on the flat-chested side, perhaps with a more athletic figure, as it can be a very elegant way to look sexy. However, for those who want their cleavage to feature on the big day, a plunging neckline is the obvious choice - we recommend tape to keep things in place and avoid any accidents!
Often these more extreme neckline cut-outs are held together with a nude mesh which creates more of an illusion than actually showing a lot of cleavage or skin. This mesh often has lace or beading, making it look as though the skin itself is embellished.
This style is perfect for a little more safety/support while still giving the illusion of a plunging neckline.
On the other end of the spectrum is a high-neck bodice. This can be anything from a choker/turtle neck style to a slash neck or boat neck - these styles will cover the entire chest (and sometimes decolletage) and create quite a classic, understated look.
High-necked wedding dresses work really well on those with smaller to mid-sized busts.
The boat-neck is slightly curved and goes from one side of the collar bone to the other, dipping just below the decolletage. A slash-neck is straight across and does not scoop at all.
Often wedding dresses with these higher necklines feature a scooped or low back - perfect for showing skin without worrying about flashing anyone!
Halter wedding dresses are sleeveless and leave all of the shoulders on show, but cover up the chest and sometimes part of the neck (turtle-neck). This neckline elongates the shoulders - perfect for balancing out the hips to give the illusion of an hourglass figure.
Halter-neck dresses are a great choice for those with a smaller bust.
A jewel neckline is quite close around the neck and is round in shape. This style will commonly be seen on a halter neck dress but may also feature on a sleeved dress.
An asymmetrical neckline could be the perfect choice for someone who wants that little touch of uniqueness in their dress - whether this means one strap, off one shoulder, one sleeve… anything non-symmetrical which gives the bodice a modern edge.
Cowl-necked dresses are curved downward slightly with an excess of material creating a ruched effect across the top of the bodice. These wedding dresses can often look slightly Grecian and are usually on the bodice of a sheath dress.
Square necklines are created by the straps (or sleeves) coming straight down over the shoulders and meeting the top of the bodice at a right-angle and the bodice is straight across the front. These bodices can often be quite structured and have boning in them to help keep the shape.
A square neckline is perfect for someone who wants to wear jewellery on the big day as it leaves plenty of room for a necklace to be seen.
Named after the French actress Brigitte Bardot, this off the shoulder neckline was popularised by her in the 1950s and 1960s. This look has since made quite the come-back and is a popular option for the boho bride. A Bardot neckline bares your entire decolletage and shoulders so is a very feminine style with that little bit of sex appeal.
A cold-shoulder wedding dress accentuates the shoulders and creates quite a unique look. Some dresses will feature regular straps and draped fabric around the tops of the arms, others will be cut-outs from the tops of the sleeves - all versions highlight bare shoulders.
This is another style which is quite popular for bohemian-inspired or beach weddings due to its relaxed styling.
Certain dress styles will dictate the kind of fastenings used, but there are a multitude of options and some bridal boutiques can alter a dress with your preferred method of fastenings.
Buttons give a very classic look to a bridal gown and not only do they function to keep your dress on you, but they also look stunning in photographs too! Some button backed dresses will have a zip as well for extra security.
Just make sure you have someone who’s ready to help you with all those buttons on the day and maybe invest in a little tool if there are loads of buttons to do up!
More frequently found in the corseted (or basque waistline) dresses, a lace-up back adds some lovely detail to your dress and again, looks lovely in photographs as well as when you’re walking up the aisle.
You will definitely need to enlist the help of your bridesmaids to get you laced into your dress - just make sure you can still breathe and sit down once they’re done.
This wonderful modern invention does make getting your dress on a heck of a lot easier. Zips are almost always invisible and won’t be seen once you’re all fastened up, so you don’t have to worry about them distracting from your beautiful wedding dress.
Hook & Eye
This is another type of fastening that may appear on your wedding dress somewhere - whether that’s at the top of your zip fastening, or down the front or back of a corseted design. If you have more than one of these, you might be getting the bridesmaids involved!
Believe it or not, you don’t have to be dressed in white to get married, in fact, there are lots of different tints and tones which are proving more popular than stark white. Here are some colour choices you might want to consider when shopping for your dress:
White is the traditional wedding colour for many and is the perfect choice for a crisp winter wedding. Chiffon or organza dresses are best suited to being bright white.
This is probably one of the most popular choices for wedding dresses at the moment. You still get the traditional look of white, but without the glare. This colour is perfect for vintage-inspired weddings and great for those with a pale skin tone.
This creamier tone works beautifully with satin and silk dresses and looks fab on pretty much every skin tone.
Champagne is a warmed-up white which not only sounds expensive but looks distinguished and sophisticated. This would be a great choice for someone with olive skin or yellow undertones.
This vintage-look colour is very flattering for a number of skin tones and is a great alternative to white or ivory.
Blush wedding dresses can range from a subtly tinged frock to a full-on blush gown. This colour is great for brightening up warmer skin tones.
Of course, you don’t have to stick to 50 shades of white, you can opt for the entire spectrum or just pick your favourite pop of colour. A bright coloured wedding dress may suit your personality more and will help make your big day more memorable.
Bright colours are a very popular choice for Asian wedding dresses with some featuring a multitude of beautiful hues.
If you’re more of a fan of dark colours or you tend to sit on the more gothic end of the scale, then you might want to consider plum, teal, aubergine, burgundy or even black for your wedding dress. Again, any colour goes, it’s your wedding!
The kind of fabric your dress is made from can really change the whole feel of it. Some dresses will be lightweight, some tip the scales quite drastically, it all depends on the design and how much of what type of fabric is involved. You might also want to think about the season you are getting married in and opt for a lighter fabric for summer and perhaps something a little more substantial for winter. Here are some of the most popular fabrics used in bridal dress design:
Other Things to Consider
Wedding dresses are very customisable and personalisable, so you could consider a whole host of extras and detailing to make your dress unique to you.
Detailing and Embellishment
A plain dress can be brought to your exacting standards with the addition of embellishments or extra detailing. Here are some ideas for additions to make your wedding dress as “you” as possible:
● Lace - trim, applique, inserts
● Layering - overlaying another fabric
Extras and Accessories
In the same way that extra embellishments can lift a wedding dress, there are also a multitude of accessories which can be added to a dress to make it yours:
● Petticoat - for volume (or a pop of colour perhaps)
QUICK TIP: If you plan on alterations and customisations, don’t leave it to the last minute, you will need plenty of time to make sure everything can be done before your big day.
So, there you have it, the complete guide to wedding dress styles and the little extras that help you to make the right decision when you come to buy your dress. Good luck!