During your bridal appointment, one of the first questions you’ll be asked by the stylist is what type of wedding dress silhouette you’d like to wear. You might already have an idea of how you want your dress to look (Flowy? Fitted? A little bit of both?), but knowing exactly how to describe your dream gown will come in handy as you’re working with your stylist to find The One. We’ve created this guide explaining the differences between five popular wedding dress silhouettes that you’ll definitely want to know about. And while we recommend trying on more than just one type of silhouette during your bridal appointments, this guide will help you put your dream dress into words or help you narrow down your options if you’re still on the fence.
Ball gown wedding dress
If you’ve ever dreamed of having your own fairytale moment, then this is the silhouette for you. Ball gowns are one of the most classic wedding dress silhouettes and will instantly give you the Cinderella effect on the big day. A ball gown features a fitted bodice (sometimes with a corset) with a wide, full skirt, most often achieved by using crinolines or layers of tulle. Since the full skirt glides over your hips and lower torso, this silhouette is great for brides who want to cinch in their waist. The ball gown is one of the most regal silhouettes—the Duchess of Cambridge, Grace Kelly, Jackie O, and Princess Diana all wore ball gowns for their weddings.
A-line wedding dress
Consider the A-line as a halfway point between sheath and ball gown silhouettes. An A-line skirt, which is named for the way it creates an “A” shape on the body, flares out from the waist more than you’d see on a sheath gown, but not as dramatically as the ball gown. This universally-flattering silhouette is ideal for all styles, whether your wedding is bohemian, classic, beachy, or something in between. A-line wedding dresses often feature organza, lace, or tulle, but you’ll also see them made from structured fabrics, such as Mikado.
Mermaid wedding dress
Va-va-voom. The mermaid is known for being one of the most flirtatious wedding dress silhouettes, since it’s extremely fitted throughout the bodice, waist, and hips. In other words, if you want Beyoncé-worthy curves for your wedding day, look no further! A mermaid gown will either accentuate what your mama gave you or create the illusion of an hourglass shape for brides with slimmer figures. This attention-grabbing silhouette flares out at the knees and is often paired with beading, ruching, or ruffled skirts for added wow factor. Another option? Opt for an unembellished satin mermaid gown and then add a bridal cape to achieve a fashion-forward look.
Fit-and-flare wedding dress
Brides who want to show off their figure without committing to the dramatic mermaid silhouette should consider a fit and flare wedding dress instead. This toned-down version still hugs your body through the chest and waist, while being a little more forgiving through the hips, derriere, and thighs. The skirt flares out above the knee, giving you a little bit more freedom with your legs. Fit and flare gowns are perfect for brides who want to let loose on the dance floor! This wedding dress silhouette looks incredible when paired with a sweetheart neckline.
Sheath wedding dress
A sheath wedding dress fits close to the body and falls straight to the floor below your hips, with a very minimal flare. This wedding dress silhouette is perfect for brides who want an effortless gown, since it requires less fabric than other silhouettes (and is therefore very easy to move around in!). What a sheath wedding dress lacks in volume, it makes up for with its versatility—the sheath silhouette works well with nearly every type of fabric, from beading, lace, satin, and even crepe. Sheath wedding dresses are a flattering option for slim figures and petite brides who don’t want to be overpowered by their gowns.
Column wedding dress
This sophisticated wedding dress silhouette is similar to sheath styles, but the opening at the bottom is a little bit more narrow. Column wedding gowns skim your hips and fall straight to the floor, creating a structured, statuesque look (hence the name!). These types of wedding dresses are ideal for petite brides, since the minimal amount of material won’t overwhelm small figures. They’re typically made from sturdier, thicker fabrics, such as silk charmeuse, crepe, or beaded satin.
Empire waist dresses feature a raised waistline that sits just below the bust. The rest of the dress then flows down to the hem. Therefore, they can lengthen the appearance of your legs while highlighting and defining your bust. This makes them perfect for petite brides who want to appear taller as well as brides with small busts. Additionally, empire gowns also make a lovely maternity choice for pregnant brides.
Sweetheart necklines are cut low and shaped like the top of a heart across the bust. They can either have straps or be strapless and are perfect for projecting a feminine and romantic appearance. The style can work well for brides with small busts as well as those with larger busts, who want to show just a little cleavage. Also, the soft curves of the sweetheart neckline make it ideal for balancing strong facial features.
A halter neck dress features a strap that sits around the neck to help hold up the top. Most halter neck gowns feature a high-neck and backless design, but this can vary. The style is a flattering and stylish option for modern brides and is ideal for showing off your shoulders and arms. It also makes an excellent alternative to strapless styles and is useful for adding the appearance of height to a petite frame.
V-neck styles feature two diagonal lines, which form a ‘V’ shape and expose the decolletage. Just how low a V-neck goes depends on the design. So, you can easily choose how much cleavage you want to show with this look. Additionally, while the cut does reveal cleavage, its straight lines can actually minimise the appearance of your bust and its plunging shape can add height to your look.
A square neckline features a straight cut bust that connects to straps at a right angle, creating the three sides of a square or rectangle. Although the style is angular, some options can be slightly rounded for a softer appearance. Either way, the look appears formal and elegant and is ideal for broadening shoulders or balancing a round face.