Glossary of Important Wedding Dress Terms

A wedding dress is something that is supposed to be worn only once. For this reason, many brides feel immense pressure when trying to pick it out. It has the power of setting the theme for your entire day and so many people are focused on making sure they find just the right one for them.

You have many factors to consider when you are buying a wedding dress. You want it to flatter your body, be trendy for today’s standards, but also reflect your personal style and the desires of future generations who might wear the dress someday.

When you’re a complete novice to the world of formal dressing, it’s easy to get lost in all the terminology that consultants use. You want to be confident while trying on dresses – nothing is worse than dreaming about a certain style and not being able to find it because you don’t know what words they might use!

This guide will explain all the different types of wedding dress terminology, including silhouettes that work best for certain body shapes, sleeves and necklines. This can help you to find your perfect wedding outfit with confidence for your special day.

Choosing Your Wedding Dress Style

When it comes to finding the perfect wedding dress, brides have a difficult task ahead of them. They need to pick the right shape and style for their body type while making sure not to neglect embellishments or fabric choices.

It can be a challenge to choose the perfect wedding dress with so many styles available. Our advice is to have a Pinterest board set up as soon as you get engaged, and research what styles appeal to you (and even consider where those dresses would work best). After that, book your bridal appointments! Keep the visits to the bridal shop at a minimum as having multiple appointments will make your decision even harder.

When buying a dress online, you should remember that not all stores have the same range of dresses available. It is always best to call the store to find out what they have available, so you can ensure that they have the right size, colour and style.

Even with all the planning that goes into a wedding, there is no doubt that the dress that you finally end up wearing is one of the most important decisions that you will make on your big day. So it is a good idea to make sure that you have a little fun when trying on wedding dresses!

Wedding Dress Silhouettes

All over the world, there are 7 popular styles of wedding dresses.

Fishtail Wedding Dress

Fishtail dresses are slim around the bust with a flared skirt section. Some styles of fishtail dress have an extremely dramatic transition from body to bottom, making for an extravagant effect (puffy, ruffled or lacy bottom).

Megan Markle, Kim Kardashian and Khloe Kardashian are a few celebrities that have worn the fishtail wedding dress style.

Body Shapes For A Fishtail Wedding Dress

In the design of a fishtail wedding dress, the bottom fits tightly to your body and then flares outwards towards the lower end. This type of shape is perfect for hourglass figures as it really emphasizes that look.

A-Line Wedding Dress

The name of the A-Line Wedding Dress is due to its shape which resembles the letter ‘A’ when worn. The bodice is be structured and fitted, reaching down to the waist, while a fuller-looking skirt flows from the waist all the way down to floor level.

A-line dresses and ball gowns are different as A-lines have lesser full skirts. For example, an A-line dress resembles the dress a Disney princess starts out in rather than what she wears during her final scene at the ballroom dance floor.

Princess Beatrice and Nicki Hilton have worn an A-line style dress in the past.

Body Shapes For An A-Line Wedding Dress

The A-Line dress suits all body types, which is what makes it so popular. It’s a very flattering style, and you can easily hide any areas that you’re uncomfortable with. This dress suits the pears shaped ladies perfectly as the A-line skirt will skim over your hips and make your waist look much smaller while also showing off the bust area if that’s something you prefer to show off.

Empire Line Wedding Dress

In the year 2021, empire line wedding dresses have been popularized because of Bridgerton’s success. Empire line dresses are typically worn with a high waistline, square neckline and long straight skirt that stops at the ankle. Depending on your sleeve choice or other accessories you decide to wear, that dress can either appear very regal or have a Jane Austen-like vibe.

Empire line dresses work well for any wedding, no matter the location. They can be seen at a stately home in an English garden or even a registry office. This dress has the capacity to flatter any body type!

Many pregnant brides-to-be opt for an empire line dress because, while other styles would require lots of alterations as their body changes, this one will not.

Body Shapes For An Empire Wedding Dress

An empire line wedding dress is perfect for brides who are slimmer or petite and want to appear taller on their big day.

On the other hand, If you are an apple-shaped bride or if you suffer from bloating, the empire line wedding dress would be ideal. An additional benefit of this style is that it accommodates coloscopy bags and insulin monitors on your wedding day.

This dress has a forgiving cut, so there’s no need to worry about how it will fit. You can dance the night away and eat as much as you want thanks to this flattering style!

Princess Line Wedding Dress

Princess dresses are a flattering type of gown that is shaped to the body via seams that run from the top to the bottom of the dress. Each princess bridal dress consists of long fabric panels, rather than just one larger bodice piece and one for the skirt, which means there is no defined seam at the waistline.

Princess line dresses are not the same as ball gowns or A-line dresses. The key difference is that they have no defined waist and their seams are of a different style.

Body Shapes For A Princess Line Dress

A princess-style gown is typically better suited for women with bigger busts. This style, in fact, suits nearly every body type because of the way that it smoothes and lengthens bodies.

Ballgown Wedding Dress

Ballgown wedding dresses are the most timeless and classic style of dress. They feature a fitted upper body with a full skirt, as well as an easily identifiable break between the bodice and skirt.

Ballgowns are a romantic and dramatic style, but they also work well at more traditional weddings in churches or stately homes.

If you choose to wear a ballgown for your special day, make sure the aisle is wide enough, so your skirt can comfortably pass through. You also need to consider how you will be transported on the day of the wedding since some large skirts do not fit easily in small vehicles.

Body Shapes For A Ballgown Dress

The ballgown covers a big range of dresses, so there is always one to suit your body type and personal style. Many brides find that the extra volume in the skirt can cover any areas which they feel are too curvy or add curves for those who need them. The versatile dress that brides need!

Perhaps the only female body type who should avoid a large ball gown are petite brides. These types of dresses can overwhelm smaller frames with their fabric. However, if you’re trying on one and get that “bride” feeling then don’t let your size or shape hold you back! Everyone deserves to feel like royalty on their wedding day.

Sheath Style Wedding Dress

A sheath wedding dress is a long, flowing gown that has a fitted waist and flattering curves. It typically does not fan out near the bottom as many mermaid dresses do.

If you’re looking for a way to feel breezy and easy on your wedding day, then sheaths are the one! The simple skirt, made up of minimal fabric, won’t feel heavy and you’ll be able to go to the bathroom without any hassle.

Sheaths are versatile and perfect for dancing, partying, or even beach weddings. They’re the number one choice of many brides who have a beach wedding because they fit in with that relaxed vibe.

Body Shapes For A Sheath Dress

Sheaths generally move and drape nicely, but they can stick to the lower body. They look really great on brides who are petite or those with an athletic body type.

A sheath dress can be used for any bride, but you’ll have to make sure that you try out a range of sleeve and fabric options to find the right style for you.

Two Piece Wedding Dress

Nowadays, brides are choosing something that they can wear after their big day and still feel like themselves. Wedding separates come in a variety of styles and colours at the same time! Although it might not be your first thought to choose a two piece wedding dress, you would be surprised how beautiful these dresses look!

A two-piece wedding dress is a trend that features a smaller upper half and a much longer flowing skirt. It can also come in the form of crisp white shirts or mini skirts, as well as flowy trousers. For traditional two piece wedding dresses, they are not easily recognisable due to their lack of distinction between the top half and bottom half.

The best thing about a two-piece wedding dress is the option to easily transition from your ceremony to your reception. Just remove the longer skirt and add a mini skirt with some flashy heels and you’ll be the centre of attention on the dance floor.

Body Shapes For A Two Piece Dress

A two piece wedding dress is the perfect choice for brides who are confident in their body but have different sizes on their top and bottom. They can make an elegant, modern statement with this type of gown.

The choices for today’s bride for two piece dresses are nearly unlimited, so you’re sure to find one that makes you feel amazing.

Wedding Dress Sleeve Styles

Flutter Sleeves

Flutter sleeves are a feminine and flattering style for the upper arm. Soft layers of chiffon drape elegantly to create this effect, as well as produce a ruffled look that is delicate and whimsical.

Who Wears Flutter Sleeves?

If you want a soft, feminine feel to your wedding dress, try out one with flutter sleeves. Flutter sleeves are best suited to sheath or mermaid-style dresses but look good on A-line dresses too.

Bell Sleeves

Bell sleeves are named as such because they resemble the bell bottom trousers. When you think of them, imagine a long, fitted sleeve that ends right at your elbow or forearm and then flares dramatically over to your fingers.

Who Wears Bell Sleeves?

Bell sleeves are appropriate for both vintage and fantasy styles. These may be the right choice if you want to give your wedding outfit an old-fashioned or medieval look.

Bishop Sleeves

Bishop Sleeves are one of the most dramatic sleeves. They usually consist of chiffon or gauze that is full at the shoulder and then fitted back in around the wrist.

Who Wears Bishop Sleeves?

Bishop sleeves are ideal for a fairy tale wedding look. This style of sleeve is able to be customized to any type of dress and can work well with all body types.

Spaghetti Straps

Spaghetti straps are thin and silky, and usually found on sheath gowns and slip style dresses. They resemble spaghetti because of their appearance.

Body Shapes For A Spaghetti Dress

A spaghetti-strap wedding dress is one of the most beautiful designs out there, as it accentuates the collarbones and gives off a dainty look. Unfortunately, the thin straps are not great for holding up any weight. This means that brides with larger busts may want to choose thicker straps unless their bodice has adequate boning and structure to hold up their neckline.

Spaghetti strap wedding dresses can suit small and petite bodies as well as athletic ones, to give the wedding dress a different look.

Halter Neck Wedding Dress

This style of dress is a classic and chic wedding look. It has a single strap, wrapping around the back of the neck. The benefit it provides with this one strap is that you can accentuate your bust while keeping straps off your back for comfort. This creates an opportunity to wear a daring open back, which is seen as radical in traditional bridal fashion.

Body Shapes For A Halter Neck Dress

Much of the time, women with broader shoulders try to avoid wearing a halter neck dress at weddings because they believe it draws attention to their broad upper body. However, wearing a halter neck gown can actually add balance to your shoulder and neck area and make your shoulders look more slender by comparison. Halter dresses are also perfect for brides who have medium or large breasts that want them minimised- this lengthens the appearance of her torso making it appear proportionate in relation to everything else on her body.

When you have a larger bust, it is necessary to keep in mind this could put more weight on your neck. Ensure the strap isn’t too thin for your neck region due to the fact that if you have a heavier chest, you could end up with big red marks from an uncomfortable strap being so tight.

Lace Sleeves

The trend for lace-sleeved wedding dresses became mainstream when Grace Kelly married Prince Rainer of Monaco. This style has continued to influence brides today including Lady Kitty Spencer and Nicki Hilton. The presence of lace adds elegance to any dress as well as an authentic touch that is reminiscent of past centuries.

Lace sleeves are a great option for brides who want to appear more modest on their big day. This sleeve style is usually relevant for weddings at places of worship that require shoulder coverage.

Body Shapes For A Sleeved Dress

Sleeved wedding dresses are perfect for petite or slightly conscious brides who are not too confident about the upper arms. The tailoring and sizing can be changed to suit each bride’s preference, making them a great choice for most body types.

Cap Sleeves

The cap sleeve is a very short, yet slimming type of sleeve which covers the shoulder but tapers away almost to nothing underneath the arm. The sleeve rests on top of the shoulder like a cap, which is why it’s called a cap sleeve.

Cap sleeves are a more dainty, less dramatic sleeve than other short-sleeved styles. This makes them popular as an addition to wedding dresses as they give the dress a more delicate appeal and don’t overpower it too much.

Who Wears Cap Sleeves?

Cap sleeves are ideal for giving the appearance of longer, narrower shoulders. If you feel like your shoulder to hip ratio is too disproportionate or that your proportions overall aren’t balanced, then a cap sleeve will fix this issue.

Bear in mind that cap sleeves stop at the widest part of the arm, which can also create the illusion of wider arms. If you are insecure about your arms this might not be a good option for you!

 

Wedding Dress Necklines

Strapless

A strapless wedding gown features no straps or sleeves. This design is perfect for those who are comfortable with their having their arms out and exposed. The bodice usually has some sort of support so that the dress can stay up on its own without adding in more straps.

Though a strapless wedding dress may seem like a beautiful choice, it is not without its risks. Especially on your special day, you don’t want the chance of your dress falling down! Make sure to check that everything fits just right and have help with alterations if needed beforehand.

Sweetheart Neckline

Sweetheart necklines are shaped like the top of a heart. They dip in the centre of your chest and can be seen as flattering on many different body types, such as those who have a bigger bust and thus more cleavage.

Bardot or Off-Shoulder

The Bardot neckline is a type of dress that runs across the collarbones or centre of the chest and extend to sleeves that run off the shoulder. It can be worn as a low-cut or high-necked dress, and it’s flattering if you have narrow shoulders and wish for them to look broader.

Illusion Neckline

Illusion necklines are perfect for brides that want to show some skin without being too exposed. The sheer fabric on the bodice is arranged with lace, appliques or beading. Illusion necklines can be sexy or modest depending on how the applique is placed. They create an ethereal effect that makes any wedding dress look beautiful.

Plunging Neckline

A plunging neckline refers to a very low-cut wedding dress. It is usually more popular with brides who don’t have a large bust, as the logistics of wearing underwear with a deep V are difficult. This style of dress is also sexy and sophisticated for those daring enough to wear it on their wedding day!

High Neck Wedding Dress

High-neck wedding dresses are coming back into style and it’s about time! They look beautiful paired with lace bodices and long sleeves for an incredibly classic style, but also looks amazing in fabrics like silk and chiffon due to the way they hang softly on your upper body.

For a bride who is slim and has a longer torso, this type of dress would be best suits them. A high neckline on the dress can make the person’s torso seem shorter and slightly more stocky in appearance.

Colours For Your Wedding Dress

So your decision is made, and you know the style of wedding dress you want. Now it’s time to think about colour! You can’t just walk into a bridal boutique and request white- there are different shades available to choose from.

Here are all the shades of white colour that you can choose for your wedding dress:

Pure White

Pure white is a very bright, icy white colour. Natural fibres can never be bleached to this level of whiteness, so if you are looking for pure white in your wedding dress you will need to opt for synthetic material. This is not the best option if you are fair-skinned as it would appear too harsh against your complexion!

Off White

Off white is a shade below pure white and it’s the most traditional shade for a wedding dress. The colour is a flattering shade and can normally be seen in natural fibres.

Ivory

The golden white shade is a similar colour to an eggshell or bone.

Natural White

It is a warm and soft shade that is not as yellow toned as the Ivory colour.

Cream

It’s a creamy and yellow tone shade with a buttery appearance.

 

When you’re a bride, there is no need to always wear the traditional white dress. There are a few other popular wedding dress colours out there! Here’s are some of the most common colours:

Champagne

There are a variety of shades in champagne, from having hints of pink or lilac to being soft caramel gold. Champagne is often worn as the base layer under white lace and other color tones.

Nude

Typically nude refers to the beige tone that resembles white skin. There may also be highlights of camel and honey.

Mocha

This colour is more suitable for darker skin tones. You can select a warm brown shade or you can get cooler tones. Mocha is often used as a base layer for lace.

Peach

Peach is a delicate, feminine colour that’s between champagne and blush. It looks perfect on an alternative bride!

Blush

Blush is a soft pink with hints of grey. Wedding dresses described as blush range from true blush to even pale pink.

Lavender

Lavender is a pale purple that usually falls on the cooler side of the spectrum.

Gold

Gold wedding dresses come in many different shades of gold such as metallic gold or warm shade of gold, close to the champagne shade. The shade is often contrasted with sequins or embellishments to make it pop.

Mink

Mink is a smooth blend of dusty rose, grey and lilac. It looks great with cool-toned colours on people who prefer them!

Blue

The blue dress shade looks stunning and vintage against artistic settings. And that’s just what you need for something blue!

Grey

Rock and Roll brides would prefer this colour as its a flattering yet smoky tone that suits their character.

Silver

Go for a silver metallic dress to make an entrance on your wedding day. For the bride who wants something different from the traditional white dresses, this is perfect!.

The wedding dress glossary above should help you choose the right wedding dress for your big day. Remember that our suggestions are just guidelines and that you should wear whichever dress makes you feel most confident.

Now that you have decided on your wedding dress, make sure the straps and embellishment look perfect for the big day. Don’t forget to pack a bridal emergency kit in case anything goes wrong!

About Author /

Emma is the editorial director and has been with the brand since 2021. She is is a writer and editor with over 5 years of experience covering Weddings, Fashion and beauty.

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