Demystifying wedding dress silhouettes—All you wanted to know about different wedding dress styles

By on December 27, 2018

If we say that finding the perfect wedding dress is as challenging as finding the perfect groom, will you agree?

The wedding fashion scene presents an overwhelming variety of options in wedding dress. This, of course adds to the excitement of dress shopping; however, wait till you set foot in a bridal shop, and all this variety will only add to your confusion.

Nevertheless, you must find a way out and reach your goal—a “dream wedding dress” perfect for the most special day in your life! And for this you must know what your options are and direct your attention to choices most suitable for you.

Clever brides know that the wedding dress search begins with choosing the right wedding dress silhouette.

So, join us as we explore this first step in detail. In the coming sections, we will look at different wedding dress silhouettes and identify which of these is best for you based on your body shape.

Let us begin!

Chapter 1: Wedding dress silhouettes—how are they different from regular clothing? 

Wedding dresses are very different from regular clothes in the following ways

  • They are complex garments that have internal boning and other special elements like corsets and heavily layered fabric. These features hold the gown up by creating its structure and shape and allow it to drape perfectly. You will rarely see these features in regular clothes.
  • Most wedding dress silhouettes involve intricate and elaborate details like embroidery and lace appliques. This type of fine work is often hand-embroidered.
  • The fabric used in designer wedding dresses is of high-quality, expensive and made of the finest fabrics.
  • Look closely at any designer wedding dress. You can see the impressive quality of work at each level. Everything from how the seams are made to the definition of details will be impeccable.

This video will help you better understand the extent of work that goes into the construction of a wedding gown.

See how much effort it involves?

So, wedding dresses are very different from any other garments!

Now, let us move on to the key factor that differentiates different wedding dress styles—the Silhouette!

By silhouette, what we mean is the shape that your body has when you wear the dress. Wedding dress designers follow certain basic structures when designing wedding dresses. Although there is a stunning variety in style aspects like neckline, sleeves, fabric and length, there are only a handful of wedding dress silhouettes.

Recognize the wedding dress silhouettes that flatter your body type best and your search for the perfect dress becomes much easier. We will tell you why in the coming section.

Chapter 2: Importance of wedding dress silhouettes in your search 

We already told you that the silhouette is a defining factor of a wedding dress, which is basically the shape that your body achieves when you wear a certain gown.

Since there are just few wedding dress silhouettes, you can use this as the starting point for your wedding dress search. Identify the dress silhouettes that suit your body type and appeal to your taste and it will be easy to narrow down the rest of your search criteria.

Let us look at this with an example.

Say, you decide to go with the ball gown silhouette. So, this is your first search criterion.

When you convey this information to your bridal consultant, she will only bring you ball gowns to try on. This eliminates the need to explore other silhouettes. Such a focused search will save you time and effort.

Except for the highly unlikely situation that you do not find a single ball gown that you like, you need not even pay attention to any other dress style.

Chapter 3: Types of wedding dress silhouettes 

Let us now move on to decoding each wedding dress silhouette in detail. For this, we will discuss the defining characteristics of different silhouettes as well as the pros and cons of each style.

The first one on the list is the ball gown.

Ball Gowns 

Think fairytale, and the ball gown is the first style that pops into mind!

The ball gown is a silhouette that says ‘bride’ so very clearly. Synonymous with the princess look, it is opulent and dramatic.

Ball gowns always feature a fitted bodice, defined waistline and full skirt. The contrast between the top and bottom halves of the dress is what makes this silhouette very dramatic.

These dressy gowns are created in fabrics like silk, taffeta and tulle and the skirt is structured to hold a fancy, bouffant style. Ball gowns feature different necklines and sleeve styles, as the ballooning skirt can hold its own against any elaborate or simple bodice.

If you want a dramatic and striking look without much effort, the ball gown is the perfect choice. You will have no dearth of options as there are ball gowns with tiered skirts, ruffle details and stunning embellishments in the hemline or scattered in the skirt. This style looks good on most body types, and hence is a safe choice.

Modern versions feature illusion bodices, striking back details and crisp lines that add flair to this classic silhouette. When fashioned in shantung or dupioni silk, the look is polished and sophisticated.

This dress style works just great for weddings in the cooler months, since it offers ample coverage and keeps you cozy under layers of fabric. When your silhouette is as dramatic as a ball gown, you need few other accessories to complete your wedding day look.

Who should avoid ball gowns?  

Ball gowns are not the best choice for brides who are petite or curvy. Petite body structures tend to be swallowed by the elaborate layers in a ball gown. Similarly, curvy brides will look fuller when they opt for this silhouette.

Still unsure? Visit this post for more reasons on why the ball gown is an amazing choice.

Here are some sample ball gown styles from our collection to inspire you.

Sweetheart neckline, draped bodice and ball gown skirt

Romantic illusion bodice and lace appliques on ball gown skirt

Modern ball gown with sheer bodice and spaghetti straps

For a quick and easy understanding of the ball gown shape in wedding dresses, we suggest you view this video.

A-line and modified A-line 

The very name of this wedding dress silhouette is self-explanatory, isn’t it?

The easiest way to identify an A-line dress is to check whether it resembles the shape of a letter A. A-line gowns have a fitted bodice and waistline and open into a full skirt beyond the waist. This makes the silhouette look like the letter A.

This style is classic and elegant and is suitable for both formal and casual wedding themes. The A-line skirt is also very versatile, and works well with any neckline and sleeve style.

Now, there is a variation of the A-line that is very popular. It is the modified A-line, which is very similar to the classic A-line, except that the dress has a fitted bodice and waistline that continues down to the hips. It flares into a full skirt only beyond the hips, thus defining the natural curves of the body better than a regular A-line wedding dress silhouette.

The modified A-line is the perfect balance between the classic A-line and mermaid. It defines the shape better than an A-line, but allows easier movement than the mermaid.

A-line silhouettes are universally flattering choices, that look good on most body types. Hence it is a very popular choice among brides. Here is a video that explains the shape and structure of the A-line silhouette in detail.

Here are some of the diverse choices in A-line wedding dresses from our collection at Best for Bride.

Sweetheart neckline and lace embellishments on A-line wedding gown

Illusion halter neckline with sweetheart bodice and A-line wedding skirt

Plunging V-neckline on sleeveless lace bodice A-line gown

 Trumpet 

The trumpet is a wedding dress silhouette with a straight bodice that continues down the waistline and hips. The skirt begins at mid-thigh and opens out into a flared shape that resembles a trumpet. The flared skirt is easy to move around in.

The straight shape of the top-half draws attention to the stomach and hip area. Hence it is a good choice for women with slender waistlines and delicate figures. Brides with a curvy figure can accentuate their curves with a trumpet silhouette.

However, if you have a full figure, we believe this may not be the ideal choice since it further enhances your natural curves and draws attention to less desirable areas of your body.

You can find trumpet dresses with all types of necklines, sleeves and interesting features. Watch all that we just discussed in the video below.

Here are some trumpet dress silhouettes from our collection.

Spaghetti strap trumpet dress with all over lace design

Off-the-shoulder lace trumpet gown with full-length illusion sleeves

High neckline with illusion lace motifs over sweetheart bodice and trumpet skirt

Mermaid 

Do you want a sexy, stylish and stunning wedding dress silhouette?

Then, the mermaid is the best choice to consider. It has a fitted bodice that closely fits the natural curves of the body all the way down the waistline and hips. The silhouette flares out into a dramatic and full skirt below the knees, creating a stunning effect.

The fitted style of the mermaid makes it suitable for curvy brides who like to show off their natural shape. It is not the best choice for brides with bulky waistlines and hips, since the shape highlights these areas.

Don’t worry if you find yourself confused between the mermaid and fit and flare. Both wedding dress silhouettes have similar shapes and it isn’t always easy to distinguish between them. However, there are differences. So, look for the following.

  • The bodice in the fit and flare gown is straight while the mermaid features a fitted bodice that closely curves along the natural body shape.
  • The skirt in the trumpet silhouette usually starts at mid-thigh while the mermaid skirt flares out further below, at knee level.

Here are some mermaid dresses

Dramatic strapless satin mermaid dress with ruffle skirt detail

Flounced organza mermaid wedding dress with embellished bodice

Ruffled mermaid gown with lace applique embellishments in bodice

Fit and Flare 

Like the mermaid and trumpet, the fit and flare silhouette also has a fitted bodice and a full skirt. However, the difference here is that the skirt flares out gradually, beginning at the waistline. In the case of the trumpet and mermaid, the flaring of the skirt occurs much below, at thigh or knee level.

The fact that the fit and flare silhouette has a skirt that gradually flares out makes it comfortable to move around in. Hence it is convenient to dance, walk around or climb stairs in it.

The fit and flare dress looks good on brides with slender waistlines. Since it draws attention to the waistline and bust, it can also be worn by brides who wish to distract from their hips and legs.

Here is a video to demonstrate the difference between the fit and flare, mermaid and trumpet silhouettes.

Let us now look at some examples of fit and flare dresses.

All-over lace appliques on fit and flare silhouette with V-neckline

Satin minimalist sleeveless gown with fit and flare silhouette

Sheath 

This is one of our favorite wedding dress silhouettes, as it is simple, classy and elegant. The sheath silhouette follows your natural body shape from top to toe. It doesn’t have any defined lines and simply flows over your natural body curves.

The sheath is very simple with a straight structure. It does not have multiple layers like other dress styles. Nevertheless, the simplicity of this dress style is its strongest feature.

Sheaths are also known as column-dresses. They look great on straight figures, as they create the illusion of curves. Sheaths are also good for brides with defined waistlines and brides who wish to flaunt their curves.

For more information on this wedding dress style, watch this eHow video.

The following sheath dresses belong to our Best for Bride wedding dress collection.

 Stretchy crepe sheath dress with illusion scoop neckline and sweetheart bodice

Shimmering lace appliques on sleeveless sheath gown

Chapter 4: Wedding dresses and different body types 

We just looked at the different wedding dress silhouettes that are available for brides.

So, when you go wedding dress shopping, do you try dresses in all available silhouettes?

That certainly wouldn’t be a sensible idea!

Unless you limit your options, your wedding dress search will never end. And for this, you should first identify your body type and then find the best wedding dress silhouettes for it.

So, let us first look at how to evaluate what body type you are.

How to identify your body type

Where body shape is concerned, there are four categories:

  • Apple or inverted triangle
  • Pear or triangle
  • Hourglass
  • Rectangle Straight

To recognize which of these you belong to, first measure yourself around the bust, shoulders, waist and hips. Then compare each of these measurements against each other to find out which body type you are according to the following instructions.

  • If your shoulder measurement is much greater than your hip measurement, you are an Apple.
  • When your hip measures more than your shoulder and bust, you are a pear or triangle.
  • If your shoulders and hips measure pretty much the same, and your waist measures smaller than both these measurements, you are an Hourglass.
  • When the measurements of your shoulders, hips and bust are similar, you are a Rectangle.

This comparative method should give you a fair idea of what your body shape is. However, you can also follow the more detailed process in our guide to correctly identifying your body type to analyze your body shape.

Alternately, refer to this post for detailed instructions on how to correctly identify your body type.

Once you recognize your body shape, most of your work is done! It is now easy to find the wedding dress silhouette that best enhances your positive assets.

So, let us move to this step.

In the coming section we will look at the different silhouettes that are best suited for each body type.

Chapter 5: Best wedding dress silhouettes for each body type 

Now, let us look at the different wedding dress silhouettes for each body type and understand why it is suitable. We will also look at the dress styles you to avoid for each body type. Here goes!

  • Apple or inverted triangle 

If you are an apple, your upper body dimensions are larger than those of your lower body. So, you have broad shoulders and less curves in your lower half.

Based on these characteristics, the ideal dress silhouettes are those that balance out your broad upper body by adding bulk to the lower body.

Dresses that flare away from the waistline, thereby concealing slight hips will achieve this effect. Also, silhouettes that pull the upper half in and define your waistline better will flatter you.

Here are the recommended choices:

A-line: Hide your slender hips and legs under an A-line skirt that flares out at the waistline. The larger the skirt, the better it will balance out your upper body.

Ball gown: These dresses have heavy skirts that can camouflage a slender lower body. The thick skirt also creates a defined waistline that adds the illusion of curves, thus enhancing your figure.

Avoid fit and flare and trumpet dresses since these emphasize the larger proportions of your upper half.

  • Pear or triangle 

Pear-shaped women have larger dimensions in the lower body than in the upper half. So, your hips are wider than your shoulders, and you are small on top.

The best wedding dress silhouettes for you will show off how little you are on top, while hiding the larger proportions of your hips. These would be dresses that either hide the hips or flare away from the waistline, camouflaging their larger proportions.

We recommend the following

Ball gown: The full skirt of these dresses and defined waistline will draw attention to your slim natural waist. Your thicker hips will not be obvious under the naturally puffy skirt of a ball gown.

A-line: A-line dresses with skirts that do not cling are good for pear-shaped women. These balance the proportions in either half by flaring away from the waistline and hiding the natural shape of the body beyond the waistline.

Sheaths and trumpets are two silhouettes to avoid. The sheath emphasizes your natural curves and draws attention to your lower body. Trumpets draw attention to the stomach and hip area with their straight lines, and this will not work in your favor.

  • Hourglass 

The characteristic feature of an hourglass shape is well-balanced upper and lower halves and a defined waistline. So, your hips and shoulders will be quite the same size and you will have a beautiful curvy structure.

The balanced proportions of both your body halves makes it easy to carry off any wedding dress silhouette. Since there are usually no features to hide, you should show off your curves to look more fashionable. Here are the silhouettes that achieve this effect.

Mermaid: This wedding dress silhouette shows off your natural curves and hence is one of the best choices for hourglass figures. You will look stunning in the well-defined curvy shape that draws attention to your slim waistline.

Fit and flare: You can carry off fit and flare gowns with details like a dropped waist, ruffles and textured bodice with perfect style. This silhouette also accentuates your naturally curvy figure, showing off your best assets.

Sheath: The straight shape of the sheath plays up your natural features, making it a wonderful choice for hourglass figures.

  • Straight 

With similar proportions in both the top and bottom halves, your waistline isn’t obvious when you have a straight shape.

When choosing wedding dress silhouettes, look for dresses that create the illusion of curves where there aren’t any. Also look for dresses with bodices that pull in the upper half and create a more defined waistline.

Here are the best choices

Ball gown: This dress has a slender bodice and a full skirt, that creates a full figure by itself. When brides with a straight shape wear this silhouette, the longer and straight proportions of their upper body balance out by the larger proportions of the skirt.

Sheath: The benefit of this silhouette is that the straight appearance creates an illusion of curves in the lower body. As a result, your body shape will tend to look curvier than it actually is.

A-line: A-line dresses with a defined waistline and full skirt also look attractive on rectangle body types. This dress style creates a full look at the waistline and beyond, thus adding more dimension to your lower body.

If you are a rectangle, avoid wedding dress silhouettes that accentuate your straight structure. Stay away from trumpets, mermaids and fit and flare silhouettes that closely fit.

Chapter 6: Some more important things to know 

We have now finished looking at wedding dress silhouettes and how to choose the right one according to body shape. So, ready to go shopping?

Not just yet!

Here are some important tips to help you make the most of your wedding dress shopping.

1.Only shop at the right place

Don’t limit yourself when you shop for your wedding dress. Choose a bridal salon with rails and rails of diverse collections, so you can explore all your options. Also make sure it has great customer reviews, since this directly impacts the quality of your shopping session. Go with a reputed salon and your wedding dress shopping will be a fun-filled and memorable experience in every way.

2.Keep an open mind

Do you know how many brides end up buying a wedding dress they never initially considered?

Bridal dress shopping is funny that way! A dress may look unappealing on the hanger, but amazing when you wear it. Unless you are flexible with your ideas and open to trying such dresses, you may miss your dream dress. So, shop with an open mind and you may be luckier than you expect.

3.Trust your consultant

An experienced wedding dress consultant will be an expert in wedding dress silhouettes and styles. She will also be able to identify your body type by just looking at you. As a result, she can suggest dress silhouettes that are sure to look amazing on you. So, trust her and try on her suggestions. You will not be disappointed!

4.Buy it only if you love it

There is no such thing as a wise impulse buy when it comes to wedding dresses. So, take your time to think your choices through before you make your final decision. If unsure, go home and think over it. Finalize your wedding dress only when you are certain it is right.

As challenging as wedding dress shopping is, you cannot go wrong when armed with the right knowledge and information. Revel in every moment while you shop for your dress, explore your options, and wedding dress shopping will be a fond memory that you will always cherish.

Look no further than our bridal gallery at Best for Bride for all the wedding dress inspiration you need. Irrespective of the silhouette, whether it is a ball gown, sheath, fit and flare or mermaid, we have a stunning variety of options for you to choose from. So, start preparing for your shopping by browsing through our gallery of dresses here.

About Olga Pomeransky

Olga is manager at Best for Bride since 2005. Currently Best for Bride operates 4 bridal stores in Canada (Toronto, Etobicoke, Hamilton and Barrie). Best for Bride sells wedding, bridesmaids, mob dresses and more. http://www.BestForBride.com

11 Comments

  1. AllysonManley@yahoo.com'

    Allyson Manley

    April 12, 2019 at 10:47 PM

    Very good information here! There is so much to learn before even buying a dress for my wedding. I am glad I found this resource.

  2. BettyMarsh@yahoo.com'

    Betty Marsh

    April 12, 2019 at 11:05 PM

    Wow, so many different dresses. I was going to let the bridal shop take care of walking me down the path to the right dress, but this is such a great resource for me right now.

  3. FayeWard@yahoo.com'

    Faye Ward

    April 13, 2019 at 11:42 AM

    So many myths for your wedding day 🙂 Thank you for putting some of the to rest and putting my mind at ease!

  4. BrendaGrace@yahoo.com'

    Brenda Grace

    April 13, 2019 at 11:55 AM

    This is a really great resource. Thank you so much for this. I am going to share it with my bridesmaids and fiance.

  5. SaraFowler@yahoo.com'

    Sara Fowler

    April 13, 2019 at 11:59 AM

    this is a great resource that should be shared on facebook. Thank you!

  6. kelseyyitsmeea12@hotmail.com'

    Kelsey S.

    October 22, 2019 at 1:49 PM

    I love the illusion lace motifs! Now I can’t decide to have them just on the bodice or on the bodice and long sleeves. I love both styles.

  7. maddyjadeknoxy12@gmail.com'

    Madison M.

    October 23, 2019 at 7:22 PM

    I love the trumpet style! The ball gown style is nice looking but I think it’s too much for me. Great examples, so I feel like I got a good place to start when deciding on styles, etc.

  8. jazzyjasmine12@gmx.com'

    Jasmine Pomona

    October 25, 2019 at 8:04 PM

    I really like the long sleeves! They are magical looking in my opinion! I’m considering it for my dress actually.

  9. linamyers54@gmx.com'

    Lina Myers

    October 27, 2019 at 12:37 PM

    I love the mermaid style because it’s like the best of both worlds, you get to show off a nice fitted dress part around the skirt part, and still have a nice flared bottom part to add excitement and pizzazz.. just love it!

  10. sarahwall7089@gmail.com'

    Sarah Wall

    October 27, 2019 at 8:56 PM

    @Jasmine me too. I think it stems from my love of disney movies, lol.

  11. elaineinthabrain26@gmail.com'

    Elaine Karlsson

    October 27, 2019 at 9:57 PM

    The gallery link you posted was very helpful for me. I think I have a style in mind now. Finally! Ha. My fiancee will be happy.

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