Wedding Solutions’ Guide to Choosing the Perfect Wedding Dress Style
By Alex & Elizabeth Lluch
The style of your dress is the single most important factor in creating your overall look on your wedding day. Wedding dresses can range from sleek and simple to grand and elaborate, depending on your personal taste and the statement you want to make on your big day. The silhouette of your wedding dress is the first image that your groom will see when you begin your walk down the aisle, and you want to make sure that your first impression is a memorable one. Remember that your dress is not only something special to you, but it is also something special for your groom, and you want to look your best for the both of you.
This article focuses on the five basic wedding dress styles: A-line/Princess, Empire, Mermaid/Fishtail, Ball Gown, and Column. The purpose of outlining each of these silhouettes is to provide you with the necessary information you need to find the dress that is best suited for you. Each of these sections details the different necklines, sleeve lengths, dress lengths, and fabric choices that are best suited for each style. By walking into a bridal store with a clear idea of what you want, you will be saving yourself (and the salon clerk) a lot of headache. However, there is not a golden rule in wedding dress designs, and you owe it to yourself, and your future husband, to be adventurous when tying on gowns. You will never know what you look like in certain styles if you never try them on. Who knows, the style that you may think would look the worst on your body type might just be the one you end up choosing.
Dress Styles: A-Line/Princess
The A-line dress features a shape that is fitted around the bodice and flows out to the ground, resembling the outline of an uppercase A. The dress flows fluidly from the bust to the hem with an unbroken line. Due to its classic and simple style, the A-line dress is appropriate for any occasion, from a quiet backyard gathering, to a traditional church ceremony.
Options: The A-line is a versatile shape since it can accommodate many different structural elements, including horizontal seems that help define your waistline, or a separate bodice and skirt that feature contrasting fabrics. The look of the A-line dress is also dependant upon length, which can range from above the knee for a fun and flirty bride, to a full-length dress that flows into a chapel-length train for the more traditional bride.
The princess cut is the most dramatic variation of the A-line dress. This style emphasizes the clean lines of the A-line by utilizing vertical panels that run from the neckline to the hem. The princess style provides elongating lines that create a slimming effect since your eye focuses on the length created by these long, smooth seems.
The A-line style can support many different fabric choices, depending on the look you want. If you desire a simple look, free flowing silks like charmeuse are the best option because they allow the dress to hang naturally and create a soft feminine silhouette. If you want a more structured appearance that emphasizes the continuity of the A-line style, you will want a heavier fabric that can maintain shape, such as peau de soie silk or satin. This same effect can also be achieved with the use of organza, or other supporting fabrics, that can be layered to create a full skirt.
You can also affect the look of the A-line dress depending upon the added embellishments you choose. Lace overlays or bead work can make a simple A-line dress appear more formal, while a touch of color provided by a ribbon or bow can make a stylish statement.
Things to Consider: The A-line dress is flattering on almost all body types. The long lines of the princess cut dress can create the illusion of height on a shorter body, as well as slim down a rounded figure. The full skirt of the A-line can also hide a larger lower body, or create the illusion of curves on a narrow frame. Since the A-line dress is so versatile, simple modifications to the neckline, waistline, or fabric can accentuate your best features and hide those your not so fond of.
Dress Styles: Empire
An empire dress is defined by the raised waistline that sits just below the bust, from which the rest of the dress flows down to the hem. This style is usually paired with a square neckline and wide set straps or sleeves. Like the A-line, the empire style is very versatile and can accommodate a wide range of formality.
Options: Since the empire dress is primarily defined by the placement of the waistline, there are many other design options that contribute to the overall look of the dress. Sleeve length on an empire dress can range from long, bell sleeves for a winter Renaissance wedding, to a sleek, sleeveless design perfect for an outdoor summer affair. Skirt style is another important variable on the empire cut, as it can flow freely or contour to your body, depending on the silhouette you want to create.
Lighter fabrics work best on the empire design because they allow for the most movement and flow from the waistline. Layering silk chiffon over a base fabric will create a romantic effect, especially if the layers are tiered or arranged in a petal style that gently overlaps in the front. Lace is another great choice for this style that can add texture and detail to an otherwise simple design. The empire dress is also perfect for contrasting two fabrics, such as pairing a detailed brocade bodice with a simple satin skirt.
Things to Consider: While the empire dress fits well on most body types, it is especially suited for those brides with a smaller bust since it draws attention to the neckline and creates definition. Added accents and fabric embellishments, such as capped sleeves or delicate bead work, will help to draw attention to your chest and neckline, and therefore create the illusion of a fuller bust.
Oddly enough, this cut can also work to conceal a large bust by controlling and minimizing the size of your breasts due to the traditionally square neckline of the empire dress. Unlike other necklines that accentuate breast definition, such as the scoop neck or v-neck, the Empire’s square cut modestly covers larger breasts.
The design of the empire dress is also ideal for covering other unwanted body features such as a long torso, short legs, or a pear shaped figure. Since the dress flows from the bust line, it can easily leave these areas undefined. The structure of the empire dress is also ideal for pregnant brides since the fluidity of the dress can accommodate a growing belly.
Dress Styles: Column
The column dress has a narrow shape that flows straight down from the neckline to the hem. This dress, also referred to as a sheath, tends to hug the body and show any and all of your curves The column is appropriate for all types of weddings, especially causal occasions on the beach, or intimate evening events at a banquet hall.
Options: Due to the simplicity of the column style, there are many ways to change the overall appearance of the dress. Mixing various necklines and sleeve lengths will create a range of different looks around the basic cut of the column dress. A strapless column dress will look sexy and elegant, while one with a bateau neck and long, bell sleeves will look more romantic and whimsical.
The column silhouette works well with many different skirt lengths. The classic look barely grazes the floor, but you can mix it up with a knee length skirt for a casual afternoon wedding, or add a bustle and train for winter church wedding. Because of the simplicity of this style, the length of your dress can add character and formality to your gown.
The other major factor in the construction of the column dress is the fabric. Simply changing the material choice for this style can take the same dress from a slinky slip dress to highly constructed dramatic statement. If you prefer a slip dress, you should look for fabrics that can flow easily over the contours of your body, like light silks and satin. Heavier fabrics that can maintain shape, like damask or peau de soie silk, will give the dress a defined contour that will withstand movement.
Things to Consider: Similar to the mermaid style, the column dress is best worn by lean figures, both short and tall. The elongating nature of this design will help petite brides appear taller. However, the column dress does not allow much room for hiding problem areas, such as a larger lower body. It can conceal minor flaws if you opt for a constructed column that will stay in place, but the slip style will be unforgiving. Also, boxy figures that do not have natural curves may consider accenting the waistline with a separate bodice or sash to create the illusion of a defined waist.
Beware: Body hugging designs such as the column dress can constrict your movement, including the ability to sit and dance as comfortably as you would wish on your big day.; If you want a highly-constructed column dress, you may consider one that has pleats or gathering in the back that will allow you to move more freely.
Dress Styles: Ball Gown
The ball gown style is perfect for those brides envisioning a fairy tale wedding. This silhouette pairs a fitted bodice with a full skirt that can either be one piece or separates. The ball gown is most appropriate for large, traditional weddings where the dress will be consistent with the formality of the event.
Options: Much like the A-line dress, the ball gown can support many different necklines and sleeve lengths. Various combinations of these elements create many different looks for many different occasions. If you are having a very formal or traditional wedding where you are expected to be covered, choosing a ball gown with a portrait neck and long sleeves will keep you covered but also show your femininity. You can achieve a dramatic effect by choosing a strapless ball gown and pairing it with opera length gloves. If you want a simple yet elegant look, you can go with a sleeveless, scooped neck bodice that flows all the way to the ground.
Trains are perfect with the ball gown since the substantial structure of the skirt can balance the weight of a train. Whether you want the long theatrical presence of the cathedral length train or the subdued look of the brush length train, the ball gown can accommodate this traditional feature.
The ball gown can showcase a number of different fabric choices that highlight different aspects of the dress. The use of satin or a chiffon overlay creates a very elegant and traditional silhouette. Intricate beading or lace work on the bodice, paired with a simple satin skirt will draw attention to the upper body. Light and fluffy layers on the skirt will help to create a floating effect. The volume of the ball gown can be achieved in a number of ways.; The skirt may require a petticoat or crinoline to support its structure. Layering fabric, such as organza, taffeta, or tulle, can also create this same effect.
Things to Consider: While this style can accommodate most body types, the ball gown is ideal for slender or pear-shaped figures as the full skirt helps to accentuate the waist and hide the lower body. If you have a large bust, this style will help to create the hourglass look since it emphasizes the waistline due to the fitted bodice and natural or dropped waist.
Beware: The volume of the ball gown can create false and unwanted illusions. Be careful if you are on the shorter side since you may not have the height to balance the size of the skirt. Also, instead of complimenting the figure of a full-breasted bride, the skirt could actually cause her to look larger. Keep these factors in mind when considering a ball gown, and remember that an A-line or princess cut dress can be more flattering while still providing the desired effect.
Dress Styles: Mermaid
The mermaid silhouette contours to the body from the chest to the knee, then flares out to the hem. This is a very sexy look that highlights the curves of a woman’s body. For this reason, you must be confident and comfortable in your skin to pull off this dramatic style.
Options: The mermaid style can support just about all necklines and sleeve lengths to reveal or cover as much skin as you desire. Since this dress is captivating by design, a high neck and long sleeves will still create an alluring look without being too sexy. If you want to show off your skin, you can opt for a strapless neckline, or a halter with a plunging v-neck to accentuate your seductive side.
The look of the mermaid dress is influenced by the various skirt styles available. The skirt can flare out above the knee, at the knee, or below the knee for slightly different silhouettes. The shape of the skirt and the hem can also affect how the dress looks. A round skirt provides volume all the way around the lower part of the bride, whereas a trumpet flare creates volume that flows out behind the bride. There is also a flamenco flare that gathers the lower part of the dress in the front for a Spanish feel.
The mermaid dress can either be slinky or highly constructed, depending on the fabric it is made from. If you want a slip style dress that lightly hugs the curves of your body, light-weight silks and satin are the best choices. Stiff fabrics, however, will draw attention to the construction and dramatic shape of the dress. Either way, the mermaid style evokes images of sophistication and sex-appeal, whether it is worn at a casual beach wedding, or a formal evening affair.
Things to Consider: The mermaid cut is not for everyone. This daring design is best worn by slender figures, both short and tall. Since the mermaid dress is made to hug the body and show every curve, it is not well suited for those brides with full figures. However, if you are on the voluptuous side and want to accentuate your curves, this is the perfect dress for you. The most important thing to keep in mind when considering a Mermaid style dress is whether or not you will feel comfortable wearing it on your big day. You may have a flawless figure perfect for this type of dress, but if you do not feel confident in it, it is not worth choosing.
Beware: Clingy slip dress such as the mermaid often reveal embarrassing underwear lines. These lines not only reveal what you are wearing under the dress, but also take away from the elegance of your overall look. It is important to keep this in mind when considering a tight fitting or body hugging dress since it may restrict what items you are actually able to wear underneath the dress.
Alex & Elizabeth Lluch are the authors of more than 50 wedding books, including the best-selling wedding planning titles in North America. They also created WeddingSolutions.com, the most comprehensive wedding planning resource on the Web. Their goal is to help couples make their weddings beautiful, memorable, and stress-free.WP Robot Plugin