Today's Bride

Wedding Dress Style Guide


When shopping for your wedding dress, one of the first things you should do is consider any style preferences you might have. When selecting your gown style, you’ll want to weigh all the options for the silhouette, sleeves, neckline, bodice and train. In order to help you with your decision, we’ve come up with the following guide – which breaks down the basic terminology of popular wedding gown styles.

As seen on

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The Silhouette

  • A-line – 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.
  • Ball Gowns – These gowns normally feel quite formal, reminding you of Cinderella. The bodice is fitted with a very full skirt.
  • Empire – Empire gowns have a raised waistline that starts right under the bust, flowing to a slim (but not body-hugging) skirt.
  • Mermaid – As the name indicates, the mermaid dress is contoured against the body then the gown flows back out, beginning around the knees. This is considered the sexiest of the gown styles.
  • Sheath – The sheath or column dress has a slim shape that follows close to the line of the body. The straight design is form-fitting and doesn’t allow for many body flaws.

The Sleeves

  • 3/4 sleeves – end between the elbow and wrist.
  • Cap – rounded sleeves, just covering shoulders.
  • Long sleeves – long sleeves that are normally form-fitting.
  • Off-the-Shoulder Sleeves – cover the upper part of the arm but leave the tops of shoulders exposed.
  • Short sleeves – about the length of T-shirt sleeves.
  • Strapped – a solid strap; thicker than a spaghetti strap
  • Strapless – no sleeves whatsoever.
  • Spaghetti straps – thin spaghetti straps with no sleeves.

The Neckline

  • Bateau – follows the curve of the collarbone to the tip of the shoulders; 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.
  • Illusion – a transparent panel attached to the bodice that extends from the bust to the collar; constructed of tulle, sheer net or lace.
  • 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.
  • Queen Ann – high-rising collar the back of the neckline that sculpts low across the chest.
  • 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

The 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 the 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.

The Train

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

The Veil

  • Birdcage – falls right below the chin, usually attached to a headpiece.
  • Flyaway – ends at the shoulder.
  • Blusher – worn over your face, about 28″ long.
  • Elbow Length – ends at the elbow or waist.
  • Fingertip – ends at the finger tips or just below the waist.
  • Ballet – ends at the ankles.
  • Chapel – ends slightly longer than dress length.
  • Cathedral – 9 feet or longer.

Check out our gown Pinterest board!



TylerNahmen says:

The article really gives me great help. Thank you.

Jordan Roberts says:

Of course! Glad it helps. 🙂

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