How to: Know Your Wedding Dress Styles

A guide to different wedding dress styles; learn the names of the different silhouettes, styles and necklines before booking bridalwear shop appointments.

You’ll want a wedding dress style that makes you look and feel your best, so why not think about the most flattering styles for your figure before you start shopping? There are many different shapes and silhouettes that you will need to consider when thinking about what wedding dress will work best for you; thinking about the clothes in your existing wardrobe may help. Falling in love with the picture in the bridal magazine may well show you the way to the dress that you will ultimately don down the aisle, but it is worth going through the following list before commence your journey to finding your dream wedding dress.

A Guide to Wedding Dress Silhouettes 

No two wedding dresses are the same, except for maybe their colour. When searching for your dream wedding dress you’ll be faced with numerous different styles. Some brides like to find a style they like and stick to it, where as others may be open minded and may try on a variety of different gowns to suit their shape. Below is a list of the most popular wedding dress shapes. 

A-LINE

The most flattering style for many brides. The dress will gently flare out from the shoulders and as such suits most shapes and heights.

BALL GOWN

The ultimate fairytale dress with a narrow fitted waistline and a full, flowing skirt. This ‘big’ dress tends to suit taller girls.

EMPIRE

High waistline that starts just below the bust (and tends to emphasise the bust), this skirt is usually slim and flowing.

PRINCESS

Vertical panels of fabric follow the natural contours of the body. Very flattering and suits most figure types.

SHEATH

Simple and elegant, follows the natural curves of the body. Usually fairly figure-hugging.

Wedding Dress Skirt Shapes

The skirt on your wedding dress will play a big part in the way you walk down the aisle. If you plan on wearing a short wedding dress then you won’t need to worry about this part, but if you are planning on wearing a long wedding dress, then the skirt, and its length, are definitely something to consider – especially when it comes to buying your wedding shoes.

BOUFFANT

A very wide skirt, often on a hoop to make bigger. Works well to conceal big hips.

BOX PLEATS

Deep parallel pleats of fabric that cascade down the skirt. Flattering for most figures and works well with heavier fabrics.

BUSTLE

Fabric gathered below the waistline at the back to create fullness. Flattering to most figures.

PICK-UP HEM

An elegant look where pieces of fabric gather and curve at several points around the hem to give a slightly scooped effect.

TRUMPET OR MERMAID

​Sophisticated and flirty at the same time. Slim and figure-hugging until mid-thigh, where it flares out to finish.

Top Tip: You may find that you fall in love with a certain style of wedding dress in print or online, but when you try it on, it may not be the most flattering design for your shape. Consider trying on numerous silhouette options when shopping for your wedding dress. 

Different Wedding Dress Necklines 

You’ll want to feel comfortable and confident in your wedding dress, and the shape of your neckline can play a huge role in this. If you’re a fan of halterneck tops when it comes to your ‘going out’ attire, then you might want to consider a halterneck neckline. 

BOAT

Sits below the collar bone and goes straight across the chest. It can be used with or without sleeves and works well if you want to minimise a large bust.

CONTESSA

An off-the-shoulder Bardot-style neckline that attaches to the sleeves to form a continuous line across the arms and chest. It flatters long, slender necks and well-defined shoulders.

SLEEVELESS

The back and front attach at the shoulder with narrow pieces of fabric. A sophisticated look for the bride with toned upper arms.

HALTERNECK

 A sleek, sexy and informal look that works well if you can carry off the bra-less look.

SCOOP

A softly rounded neckline that slopes across the collar bones. Pretty and demure as long as the scoop isn’t cut too deep.

SQUARE

Similar to the scoop neckline but more formal.

SWEETHEART

Neckline dips down to a point into the cleavage.

STRAPLESS

Arms and shoulders are left bare.

PORTRAIT

A romantic style that suits most figure types. A shawl-like collar that wraps around the shoulders.

Top Tip: The jewellery you wear on your wedding day will need to work well with the neckline of your wedding dress. It would be advisable not to buy any wedding jewellery until your wedding dress has been chosen. You can then accessorise to your hearts content. 

If you fall in love with a particular wedding dress but feel that it needs something extra, like having straps added, the hem taking up, or additional embellishment added, speak to a seamstress, because it may be possible to amend the dress to suit your personal requirements and style.