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Wedding Dress Types and Terminology

Updated on September 19, 2018
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Victoria is a stay-at-home mom, author, educator, and blogger at Healthy at Home. She currently lives in Colorado with her family.

Wedding Dress Types and Terminology
Wedding Dress Types and Terminology

With so many styles available to you, it may be difficult to pick the right one. Even worse, you go to the bridal shops loaded down with pictures and can't tell your consultant what you want. "I really like the frills here and the curves here." Really?

With a little help from me in this article, we can work together to educate you a little bit more on all the vocabulary of wedding dresses. Don't fear looking silly. Having the right information will definitely make the process a lot easier on you, but they are used to brides being a little green.

I hope this article helps out a little!

Wedding Gown Silhouettes

(From left to right)


For a more subtle look in a wedding dress, this one is slim on top, fitted through the waist, and softly flaring away from the body. This is the traditional wedding dress, and has been the most popular choice of brides all over the world.


Traditionally thought of as a length rather than a silhouette, the ballerina silhouette is perfect for younger brides, brides with smaller frames, and those with a lighter, more casual theme for their weddings.

Ball Gown

A ball gown is typically a boned bodice and very full skirt supported by crinolines underneath to give it width, height, and fullness. This is considered the princess look. Although this is the most requested dress of brides-to-be, it is not the most purchased as brides are surprised with the weight and hugeness of the skirt when actually putting it on.



This very trendy look hugs the torso of the bride, and then flares out from the knee or just below. This is definitely a very fun and elegant look. Think Audrey Hepburn!


This silhouette has a very high waist hitting just under the bust line. It's great for minimizing larger stomachs, hips and legs, which makes it the perfect and most attractive look for brides that are expecting.


This is a sophisticated close-to-the-body shape that outlines every curve. Not very many brides can truly pull this incredible look off and feel totally comfortable in the process. This look is definitely for brides with smaller frames and those more comfortable with their curves.


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Wedding Dress Necklines

(From top to bottom, left to right)


From one side of the bodice, the shoulder strap drapes across the bride's body to swing over the other shoulder. This is a sophisticated option for the small to medium-busted.


This neckline follows the curve of the collarbone to end just at the tip of the shoulders, which elongates the look of the bride's neck.


The cage, or otherwise called illusion, is a see-through neckline, whether it drapes over one shoulder, drapes individually over each breast and over the shoulders, or acts as a high neckline. This is similar to strapless but with a little more coverage.


This neckline features loose fitting draping in the front of the dress. Front or back, high or low, cowls are sexy and give Old Hollywood flair to a wedding gown.


Popular neckline where fabric either folds over on itself or opens up to peek-a-boo another fabric underneath. This varied neckline gives a sweet but original look to any wedding gown.


This neckline simply has straps that wrap around the back of a bride's neck. It can show or not show as much cleavage as one wishes. It's a breezy, playful look for a more casual wedding.


(From top to bottom, left to right)

High Collar

Designed as the name states, this neckline features a high-necked collar that elongates both the neck and body of the bride. This neckline is not recommended for bustier brides.


This neckline follows the curvature of the bride's neckline. It's clean and classic beautifully sets off any wedding jewelry. This neckline works well in enhancing the chest area, obviously not needed for well-endowed brides.

Off the Shoulder

This is a beautiful neckline for highlighting the collar bone and shoulders. This is a good counterpoint for a bride with wider hips, drawing the focus upward to the bride's face instead.


This neckline is similar to the off-the-shoulder look. It's a great selection if you have larger arms and collarbones. This neckline is somewhere between a bateau and a v-neck, not completely modest, but not so revealing as a v-neck.

Queen Anne

This is definitely the royal look. With a high collar at the back of neckline that falls low across the chest, this neckline works well for most body types and can help to elongate a bride's body and displays a discreet amount of cleavage. This essentially leaves a diamond-shaped hole in the front neckline of your dress.


This is simply a U-shaped neckline where so many others are squared, or sharply-shaped. This is a very traditional look that gracefully allows a bride to display a modest amount of cleavage.


(From top to bottom, left to right)

Spaghetti strap

The thin straps on this type of dress typically flatter smaller frames and narrower shoulders.


This neckline mimics a square shape. Not only is it flattering for women that are already well-endowed without revealing too much cleavage, but it is also a good choice for most all body types as right angles generally draw the eyes up towards the bride's face.


This can be done with the fabric of the wedding dress, but dresses of this sort typically are decorated with beads, jewels, lace, or other designer feature drawing the eyes upwards.


Strapless simply means no straps. Just about every neckline can come in a strapless form. This neckline also allows for a great deal of creativity on the part of designers and brides. I would not recommend this neckline though, if a bride has a large chest and shoulder area and/or larger arms as this would only accentuate them more.


As the name states, this neckline is shaped like the top half of a heart. This is a great way to enhance or even create the illusion of curves.


For brides that want to show off a bit more cleavage for a more seductive look on their wedding day, this neckline does the trick. This is definitely a steam-lining lengthening dress style.


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Wedding Dress Waistlines

(From left to right)


This waistline hits at your actual waist for a classic, tailored look. Perfect for women with straighter figures and no obvious waist. This cut will give you the illusion of more curves.

Princess Seaming

The vertical seams and no defined waist of this dress will slim and elongate. This adds a beautifully curved, tailored look to any wedding dress.


The dropped V of this cut slims the waist and the flare of the fabric below it is very forgiving to larger, curvier hips.


Dropped Waist

This style features definition and attention under the buttocks instead of at the natural waist. This style is great for the short waisted, or to accentuate smaller waists and hide larger hips.


This waistline hikes up one side of the waistline which is a great trick for slimming the waist and hips.


This cut lengthens a bride's body, giving her the illusion of being taller and slimmer, and it's great for hiding a larger waist or hips. Ideal for expecting brides!


Whatever style you choose, it is absolutely necessary to go to bridal shops and try them on. Regardless of how much you like the way a dress looks in the pictures, you and I both know that it may not look the same once its on your body. Although I suggest taking pictures and ideas with you of what you are looking for to same time, have an open mind and you might accidentally land yourself the ideal dress without even knowing it!

© 2013 Victoria Van Ness


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