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Wedding Gown Guide: Silhouettes

Updated on September 12, 2008

As a Bride-to-be, I have been a bit overwhelmed by the many different kinds of wedding gowns that are available. It seems that when you start shopping for the perfect wedding dress, there is suddenly a new language that you have to learn. Do you want a ball gown, a sheath, or a trumpet gown? Do you want a sweeping train or a chapel length train? It can be enough to make you want to throw up your hands and scream!

I decided to put together a three-part guide to the lingo of wedding gown shopping. Once you know the main parts you are looking for (Mermaid with a sweep train and a sweetheart neckline thank you very much), it will be so much easier to start narrowing down the choices until you have found the perfect dress for your Wedding Day!

Below is an explanation of the four main types of Sihouettes you will find for wedding dresses.

Traditional Ball Gown
Traditional Ball Gown

The Ball Gown

A ball gown is the epitome of the "princess" dress. It has a fitted bodice and a full bell-shaped skirt. Just how full the skirt is depends on several things. Some ball gowns have layers and layers of fabric, pushing it out into a large bell-shape. Some dresses require a crinolin or slip underneath that will help it to keep its shape.

One of the best things about a ball gown is that you can find almost any neckline and any length of train that works with this style. So whether you had your heart set on a strapeless dress or a V-neck, you can still find a princess ball gown to go with it.

The ball gown is usually seen at more formal weddings, but that doesn't mean you can't wear it on the beach too. It's your wedding and you should have the dress that makes you happy!

Body Type: Ball gowns are great for Pear Shaped women, as they can really hide a larger bottom half. This style of dress also looks great on slim girls. Sometimes the layers and poof of the skirt can make a big woman seem even bigger, so before you get your heart set on a ball gown, try a few on and see if this style fits your body well.

A-Line Dresses are similar to Ball Gowns, but not quite as flared below the waist.
A-Line Dresses are similar to Ball Gowns, but not quite as flared below the waist.

A-Line Dresses

Like the ball gown, an A-Line dress also has a fitted bodice that is cut close to the rib cage, but from the waist down it will have a nice capital A shape. This type of dress has a very nice, clean line to it that is elegant and versatile.

You can usually find A-line dresses in any fabric, any neckline and with any length of train that you want. If you like the look of the ball-gown but don't want quite as much poof at the bottom, a full A-Line would be a great choice for you!

Body Type: The wonderful thing about A-Line is that it works on almost every body type! If you play around with different necklines and flares, you can really find a dress that will enhance all of the right parts, while hiding all of the trouble areas.

Sheath dresses are sleek and elegant.
Sheath dresses are sleek and elegant.

Sheath or Column Dresses

Often called a column dress, a sheath is a silhouette that hugs your body. Unlike the ball gown and a-lines that are only fitted at the top, the sheath follows the curves of your body from head to toe.

This is a great choice for weddings that are more intimate or casual, as well as beach weddings. The sheath is usually floor length, but a fun, flirty bride can also find a beautiful sheath that is shorter. You will often find sheath dresses with a shorter train than some of the above styles, but if you look, you will find a few that have the long train as well.

Fabric makes a huge difference in the shape and feel of a sheath dress. With a damask fabric or a thicker silk, it can be crisp and structured, showing a little bit less of your body underneath than a satin or light silk sheath, which will show all of your curves.

Body Type: Tall and thin women tend to look best in this type of dress, because the narrow shape can be quite unforgiving to larger women or boxier women. If you are slim and petite, a sheath can also help to make you look taller, so this would be a good choice for you as well.

A Mermaid Silhouette is great for showing off curves.
A Mermaid Silhouette is great for showing off curves.

Mermaid and Trumpet Dresses

A Mermaid silhouette is a type of sheath where the skirt flares out below the knee. The Trumpet silhouette is just more flared at the bottom than a Mermaid.

The most popular necklines found with a Mermaid style are strapless and halter tops, but you can find almost any neckline and sleeve length. These dresses really hug your body and accentuate the curves, so be sure to experiement with underwear before your big day, as these dresses will show every single line!

This style is definitely one of the sexiest silhouettes that you can find for a wedding dress, so make sure that you are really comfortable wearing it before you choose a dress like this. It isn't going to hide anything!

Body Type: Curvy brides who want to look sexy and sophisticated will look great in this dress, but only if ou have the kind of curves that you want to show off!!

I hope this guide has helped you see the basic differences in the types of silhouettes you will see in a bridal shop. Please check out my other hubs which focus on necklines, trains and waistlines that are commonly seen on wedding gowns. Thanks for reading!


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      5 years ago

      Good information about the wedding dresses..looking forward for more..

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks so much for this. I have been looking for just such an illustrated guide for ages. :)


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