Dresses Decoded

A glossary of gown silhouettes

On top of learning the many ins and outs of wedding vendors during the planning process, tying the knot presents its fair share of sartorial firsts as well. Even the most fashion savvy bride to-be would have no reason to be well-versed in bridal gown jargon pre-proposal. And although enlightened shop owners will no doubt impart their gown knowledge during appointments, it's best to go into boutiques with a bit of wisdom when it comes to preferences. Though I'm a firm believer in slipping on silhouettes you'd never dream of donning (it's an absolute must), it's also important to understand shapes that work with your shape. So read up and take note. Like any vendor meeting, it's always beneficial to have some basic thoughts and preferences in mind. Once you've learned the terminology, peruse the boutique's website and find a few gowns that fit the categories you like. Then have the owner set those gowns aside for your appointment. Dress shopping is inevitably overwhelming. But not to worry–with a few pointers below, you can breathe a sigh of relief and simply have fun. As you should! 

A-Line

The Look: Fitted bodice, slight flare skirt (a subtle version of the ball gown)

The Fit: Universally-flattering. Works well to conceal large hips.

Ballgown

The Look: Fitted bodice, full skirt (this is your typical princess dress)

The Fit: Works for most body types but can be overwhelming on petite brides because of the exaggerated skirt. The ballgown plays up a small waist.

Empire

The Look: High-waisted gown (in which the waistline begins right below the bust)

The Fit: The high waistline elongates the leg, so this silhouette works well for the petite bride. It's also typically most-flattering for those with narrow hips, as it does not define a waistline. 

Mermaid

The Look: Extremely fitted bodice from bust to knee, flared hem below. (works well with a ribbon sash)

The Fit: This gown works well for the athletic bride or an hourglass bride looking to show off curves. Also works well for petites. 

Peplum

The Look: A short petticoat that covers the hip portion of the gown (the skirt is typically trumpet and the bodice fitted)

The Fit: This silhouette works well for an hourglass figure or even boy shape. It emphasizes a small waist. 

Portrait

The Look: A gown with a lace-insert or large cut-out back. (the skirt silhouette can vary)

The Fit: Works well for athletic bride or bride looking to show off a toned back. 

Sheath

The Look: Hugs the body all the way to the floor. (close fit requires expert tailoring)

The Fit: This figure-skimming silhouette is very unforgiving. It's best for boy shapes and also works well for petites. Proper undergarments are an essential. 

Tea Length

The Look: Fitted bodice, flared skirt that hits just above the ankle. (Essentially a short version of the a-line dress)

The Fit: Tea-length works well for a tall bride but is otherwise universally-flattering. Can also be considered for the petite bride as an option to forego alterations to the hem. 

Trumpet

The Look: Fitted bodice from bust to above the knee or mid-hip, flared hem below. (Essentially a more subtle version of the mermaid gown)

The Fit: Works well to add curves to a boyshape or accentuate hourglass figures. 

{gown pictured above: Lineage Bridal}

Categories: Bride + Groom