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How to choose the right wedding dress for your body type

Kori Ellis is an editor and writer based in San Antonio, TX, where she lives with her husband and four children. At SheKnows, she writes about parenting, fashion, beauty and other lifestyle topics. Additionally, Kori has been published i...

Pick the perfect bridal gown

Congratulations, you are getting married! In all the excitement and stress of planning your wedding over the next few months, one of the most important things you will purchase is your wedding gown. The first thing you should do before actually heading to the bridal shop is get an idea about which style of wedding gown you prefer. You will need to get familiar with wedding gown terminology and styles. Here are some general guidelines to help you get started on the road to wedding day bliss.

Pick the perfect
bridal gown

Congratulations, you are getting married! In all the excitement and stress of planning your wedding over the next few months, one of the most important things you will purchase is your wedding gown. The first thing you should do before actually heading to the bridal shop is get an idea about which style of wedding gown you prefer. You will need to get familiar with wedding gown terminology and styles. Here are some general guidelines to help you get started on the road to wedding day bliss.

wedding dress

Silhouette

A-line

wedding dress

The A-line or princess dress has no marked waist and the vertical seams flow from the shoulders down to a flared skirt, creating an "A" shape. If you carry your weight in the middle, this silhouette is a nice choice.

Ball gown

wedding dress

These gowns are normally quite formal, reminding you of Cinderella. The bodice is fitted with a very full skirt. Ball gowns can be long-sleeved, sleeveless or anywhere in between. The full skirt of a ball gown can hide large hips and thighs.

Empire

wedding dress

Empire gowns have a raised waistline that starts right under the bust, flowing to a skirt that skims over the hips then flairs slightly to the floor. This romantic silhouette is flattering to most body types and is particularly flattering to small-breasted women.

Mermaid

wedding dress

As the name indicates, the mermaid dress is contoured against the body then the gown flows out beginning around the knees. This is the sexiest of the styles. If you're confident in your body, a mermaid dress can show off your curves.

wedding dress

Sheath

The sheath or column dress has a slim shape that follows close to the line of the body. The straight design doesn't allow for many body flaws. The long lines of a sheath gown can elongate the look of your body. Therefore this type of dress can work well for short brides.

Neckline

  • Bateau — Close to straight across from the tip of the shoulder. Gives plenty of coverage.
  • Halter — Wraps around the back of the neck to create deep armholes. Often also a backless style, which is very sexy.
  • High — Covers most of the neck. Creates a formal, somewhat stiff look.
  • Jewel — Similar to that of a t-shirt. Creates a bustier look.
  • Off-the-shoulder — As the name indicates, the top of the shoulders are bare. Showcases your collarbone and shoulders.
  • Portrait — A very wide scoop from the tip of one shoulder to the tip of the other.
  • Scoop — Classic U-shaped neckline. Can be cut low for a sexier look.
  • Square — Squared neckline, often associated with empire gowns.
  • Strapless — Normally straight across. Not recommended for women with small busts.
  • Sweetheart — Shaped like the top half of a heart. Emphasizes the cleavage.
  • V-Neck — Dips in the front into a V-shape. Can be very deep.

Length

  • Street length — Hem falls just past the knee.
  • Intermission (or tea) length — Hem falls between the knees and ankle.
  • Ballet length — Hem falls just to the ankles.
  • Floor length — Hem barely touches the floor on all sides.

Sleeves

  • 3/4 sleeves — End between the elbow and wrist.
  • Bell — Long sleeves that flare out toward the wrist creating a bell shape.
  • Cap — Rounded sleeves, just covering shoulders.
  • Fitted point — Long, fitted sleeves that come to a point over the hand.
  • Juliet — Long, fitted sleeves with puffy shoulders.
  • Long sleeves — Extend to the wrist and are normally form-fitting.
  • Off-the-shoulder sleeves — Cover the upper part of the arm but leave the tops of shoulders exposed.
  • Poet — Long sleeves, fitted to the elbow then flared.
  • Pouf — Short sleeves, gathered to create a puffy look.
  • Short sleeves — About the length of t-shirt sleeves.
  • Sleeveless — Strapless with no sleeves.
  • Spaghetti — Thin spaghetti straps with no sleeves.

Bodice

The bodice refers to the portion of the dress between the neckline and skirt.

  • Corset — A form-fitting bodice with boning and lace-up closures.
  • Halter — Sleeveless bodice that wraps around your neck, normally backless.
  • Midriff — Fits very closely around the mid-section, accentuating your waist.
  • Surplice — Sections of fabric cross-wrap in the front or back.
  • Tank — Sleeveless with wide armholes like tank top.

Train

  • Sweep — 8 to 12 inches in length, just a few inches longer than the gown.
  • Court — Extends about 3 feet from the waist.
  • Chapel — Extends about 4 feet from the waist.
  • Cathedral — Extends about 6 to 9 feet from the waist.
  • Royal — Extends more than 9 feet from the waist.

Veil

  • Birdcage — Falls right below the chin, usually attached to a headpiece.
  • Flyaway — Falls to the shoulder.
  • Blusher — Worn over your face, about 28 inches long.
  • Elbow — Falls to the elbow or waist.
  • Fingertip — Falls to the finger tips or just below the waist.
  • Ballet — Falls to the ankles.
  • Chapel — Falls slightly longer than floor length.
  • Cathedral — 9 feet or longer.

Up next: Selecting a wedding gown for your body type

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