Wedding Ideas

Wedding Dress 101 : Silhouettes

Posted At : August 26, 2014 2:42 PM   |  Posted By : Fashion Editor   |  Views: 6,976
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" A series of posts that explain the ins-and-outs of wedding dress terminology, from silhouettes, to necklines, and even sleeve styles. "

Click on any of the photos to jump to the silhouette or scroll down to view all.

ballgown wedding dress esme marie by maggie sottero A-line wedding dress Phillipa by Watters Brides Slim A-line wedding dress Rose Garden by Ivy and Aster Empire wedding dress style Ores by Pronovias
Ballgown A-line Slim A-line Empire

Fit and flare wedding dress style 2752 by Allure Romance Trumpet wedding dress style Abigail by Maggie Sottero Mermaid wedding dress style 2162 by Casablanca Bridal Sheath wedding dress style Harlow by Jenny Packham
Fit & Flare Trumpet Mermaid Sheath

Tea-length wedding dress. Style Malta by Rosa Clara Two Cocktail length wedding dress. Style Messina by Watters Encore.
Tea Length Cocktail

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Be sure to check out the other articles in our 101 series:

What is a silhouette?

Silhouette refers to the overall shape of the wedding dress. Dress shape plays a major role in the look and feel of your gown; by wearing the right silhouette for their body type, brides can accentuate, minimize, and emphasize their shape.

Most brides can wear more than one silhouette very well and if you are feeling stuck, consider the wedding venue and the overall feel that you want on your wedding day. With that in mind, see if you can then decide if one look feels more like your vision of yourself on your wedding day.

Ballgown

This classic silhouette has been loved by brides of every era. Ballgowns can have a variety of necklines and its waistline is typically at either the natural waist (just above the belly button) or dropped waist (on the hips). Thanks to its outward flared skirt that draws the eye inward, ballgowns highlight the waist by making it appear its smallest.

Perfect For: Brides wanting a classic or fairy-tale feel. Choose the amount of fullness that is right for you.
What it Highlights: Waist
What it Minimizes: Hips

ballgown wedding dress esme marie by maggie sottero

'Esme Marie' ballgown by Maggie Sottero

Ballgown silhouette Ballgown silhouette Ballgown silhouette Ballgown silhouette

Common Questions:

Q. How do I know if I should wear a slim A-line or regular A-line?
A. We say if you love it, wear it! You can avoid feeling overwhelemed by choosing a ball gown with a bit less fullness or lighter layers.

Q. I want to dance a lot at my wedding. Won't the skirt be too much on the dance floor?
A. Seamstresses are able to add a bustles or bustles to your gown, which is a way to tie up the back of your dress so that it just grazes the floor. Remember: when trying a ballgown on in-store, the sample will likely be too long, which always makes the dress feel less manageable. Once it is hemmed to your length, the gown will move easily with you and is sure to be beautiful floating on the dance floor!

Site Tip

Want to see the ballgown dresses available in Canada? Click here.

A-line

The A-line gown is the ultimate in versatility. Considered another timeless silhouette, the A-line gown is the perfect canvas to showcase an interesting neckline, intricate beadwork, or fabric details. A-line skirts also flare at the waist, but far more gradually than their ballgown counterparts. Since the difference in width between the hips and waist measurements is less pronounced, the eye focuses more softly on all three attributes. You might choose an A-line with more details to show your fashion sense or less to channel simplicity.

Perfect For: Brides wanting to draw attention to the details on their gown instead of their silhouette.
What it Highlights: Bust and Waist
What it Minimizes: Hips

A-line wedding dress Phillipa by Watters Brides

'Phillipa' A-line gown by Watters Brides

A-line silhouette A-line silhouette A-line silhouette A-line silhouette

Site Tip

Want to see the A-line wedding dresses available in Canada? Click here.


Slim A-line

The slim A-line is a wonderful, modern twist on the classic A-line. Designers began focusing on this silhouette more in response to the desire of today's brides to show a hint of their silhouette while maintaining a classic A-line feel. Many slim A-line gowns also do away with layers of lining and crinoline, which makes them very light-weight and comfortable to wear.

Perfect For: Brides looking for an easy to wear silhouette that doesn't hide the hip completely.
What it Highlights: Bust and Waist
What it Minimizes: Hips, though less so than an A-line.

Slim A-line wedding dress Rose Garden by Ivy and Aster

'Rose Garden' slim A-line gown by Ivy & Aster

Slim A-line silhouette Slim A-line silhouette Slim A-line silhouette Slim A-line silhouette

Common Questions:

Q. How do I know if I should wear a slim A-line or regular A-line?
A. Brides that like A-line gowns should definitely try on a slim A-line silhouette. Something to consider is how comfortable you feel while you are wearing the dress. Because slim A-line gowns often have fewer lining and support layers (to make the skirt fit closer to the body), some brides feel more held-in and secure in a traditional A-line.

Site Tip

Want to see the slim A-line wedding dresses available in Canada? Click here.

Empire

The empire silhouette is identified by its billowing skirt which begins directly underneath the bust. It can be combined with a variety of necklines and strap styles, from sleeved to strapless. For many of us, we are reminded of Weathering Heights or Sense and Sensibility when we think of empire gowns, but talented designers like Jenny Packham can be credited with breathing new life into the empire silhouette lately.

Perfect For: Brides that want an easy, carefree silhouette on their wedding day.
What it Highlights: Bust
What it Minimizes: Waist & Hips

Empire wedding dress style Ores by Pronovias

'Ores' empire gown by Pronovias

Empire silhouette Empire silhouette Empire silhouette Empire silhouette

Common Questions:

Q. Will people think I'm pregnant if I wear an empire gown?
A. This is one of those jokes that everyone has heard at least once, but fashionable brides have moved past the stereotype! With today's low backs and daring necklines, an empire gown does not need to be the modest style of days past.

Site Tip

Want to see the empire wedding dresses available in Canada? Click here.

Fit & Flare

The fit & flare is a silhouette that has become more popular recently and for good reason! You may know it as a modified A-line as well, but it simply means that the skirt gently grazes the hip before flaring to an A-line at the bottom.

Perfect For: Brides wanting to show more of their shape and highlight all curves equally.
What it Highlights: Moderate emphasis of the bust, waist, & hips
What it Minimizes: Highlights curves less than a trumpet or mermaid silhouette.

Fit and flare wedding dress style 2752 by Allure Romance

'2752' fit & flare gown by Allure Romance

Fit and flare silhouette Fit and flare silhouette Fit and flare silhouette Fit and flare silhouette

Common Questions:

Q. How do I know if I should wear a fit & flare or A-line for my body type?
A. If you find yourself shying away from an A-line because it is a bit too simple, we suggest trying the fit & flare. Something to look for while you wear the dress is how you feel from all angles now that your hips and behind are more defined. If you feel confident and happy, than this is the silhouette for you. If you find yourself constantly worrying about what you look like from this angle or that, you may want to stick with a less hip-hugging silhouette.

Site Tip

Want to see the fit & flare wedding dresses available in Canada? Click here.

Trumpet

The trumpet silhouette is one that highlights a woman's curves. This is a fashionable silhouette that has been gaining in popularity in the last decade and we think of it as the newest staple silhouette in a designer's repertoire. Trumpet gowns are fitted to the low hip, at which point the skirt flares outward. The level of flare and exact point that the skirt flares can vary from gown to gown, but if it flares between the low hip and knee, it is a trumpet.

Perfect For: Brides that want to highlight their curves and in particular their behind.
What it Highlights: Medium emphasis of the bust, waist, & hips
What it Minimizes: Highlights curves less than a mermaid silhouette.

Trumpet wedding dress style Abigail by Maggie Sottero

'Abigail' trumpet gown by Maggie Sottero

Trumpet silhouette Trumpet silhouette Trumpet silhouette Trumpet silhouette

Common Questions:

Q. Will my dress get wrinkled since it is tight at my hips?
A. This is a great question. Since the fabric will be folding every time you sit, there is a chance that creases will form. Remember that you do not spend your day standing still and most people will not notice a few fabric creases. One fabric to be mindful of is satin. While it is a beautiful, lustrous fabric, it is will hold creases in a trumpet gown. If you are prepared for this and love the way the dress looks, we say go for it; if you will be tempted to have your steamer with you the entire day, you may want to reconsider the silhouette or fabric.

Site Tip

Want to see the trumpet wedding dresses available in Canada? Click here.

Mermaid

An exaggerated form of the trumpet gown, the mermaid silhouette is fitted to the knee or just below, then flares dramatically. Designed for maximum impact, the mermaid silhouette highlights a bride's every curve and in particular, her derrière!

Perfect For: Brides that want to highlight their body from every angle!
What it Highlights: Mostly emphasizes the hips, also highlights the bust & waist.
What it Minimizes: This silhouette does not minimize your assets.

Mermaid wedding dress style 2162 by Casablanca Bridal

'2165' mermaid gown by Casablanca Bridal

Mermaid wedding dress Mermaid wedding dress Mermaid wedding dress Mermaid wedding dress

Common Questions:

Q. Will I be able to walk in a mermaid gown?
A. Think of the mermaid gown like your favourite pair of 6" Manolos; they may not be as comfortable as your flats, but sometimes you need to sacrifice a bit of ease for fashion! Remember, if it is were truly impossible to walk, no one would wear this style! While the range of movement is certainly less than that of a ballgown or A-line; walking, sitting, and dancing are all possible in a mermaid gown. Stairs can be trickier in this silhouette and so we suggest skipping this look if there is a staircase involved in your walk down the aisle.

Site Tip

Want to see the mermaid wedding dresses available in Canada? Click here.

Sheath

The sheath gown is the antithesis of structure: it is a shift style designed to NOT mold the body into a pre-defined shape. While the sheath silhouette does not accentuate the body based on structure, it can accentuate the hips if made of a clingy crepe fabric or highlight the bust if cut with a low V-neck.

Perfect For: Brides that want a light-weight silhouette that gives glimpses of the figure when it moves.
What it Highlights: This silhouette softly highlights the bust, waist, and hips.
What it Minimizes: This silhouette does not cinch tightly at the waist and so does not emphasize it as much as other silhouettes.

Common Questions:

Sheath wedding dress style Harlow by Jenny Packham

'Harlow' sheath gown by Jenny Packham

Sheath silhouette Sheath silhouette Sheath silhouette Sheath silhouette

Q. I am very busty, will a sheath gown work for me?
A. What sheath gowns do not offer is the inner structure that other gowns have built in. This is a feature that a lot of smaller-busted women love, but in order for busty brides to wear a sheath gown, you need to make sure that you can wear any supportive undergarment that you will need to feel comfortable and not have the lines showing. This can become tricky if the gown has a low back or bust line. Whenever possible, try on the sample with the appropriate undergarment, or a similar one, prior to saying "yes"!

Site Tip

Want to see the sheath wedding dresses available in Canada? Click here.

Tea Length

The tea length silhouette is typically characterized by a mid to full-length skirt that ends mid-calf. The silhouette began gaining popularity in the 50's, thanks to fashion house icons like Balenciaga and Dior. Tea-length dresses are typically crafted with couture sewing techniques for a refined, elegant look.

Perfect For: Brides looking for a semi-formal option infused with a touch of playfulness.
What it Highlights: Waist
What it Minimizes: Bust & Hips

Tea-length wedding dress. Style Malta by Rosa Clara Two

'Malta' tea length gown by Rosa Clara Two

Tea-length wedding dress Tea-length wedding dress Tea-length wedding dress Tea-length wedding dress

Site Tip

Want to see the tea length wedding dresses available in Canada? Click here.

Cocktail Length

Cocktail length dresses have a lot of versatility in their styling: they can be playful with a full skirt or slight sexy, with a tailored silhouette. The hemline of a cocktail length dress ends just above the knee. They are considered less formal than tea-length and full-length dresses.

Perfect For: Brides wanting a less formal wedding dress or perhaps a fun party dress for their reception.
What it Highlights: An A-line cocktail length dress will highlight the waist; a fitted cocktail dress will highlight the bust, waist, and hips.
What it Minimizes: A-line cocktail length dresses will minimize the hips.

Cocktail length wedding dress. Style Messina by Watters Encore.

'Messina' cocktail length gown by Watters Encore

Cocktail length wedding dress Cocktail length wedding dress Cocktail length wedding dress. Cocktail length wedding dress

Site Tip

Want to see the cocktail length wedding dresses available in Canada? Click here.

You are now an expert on wedding dress silhouettes!
Have you read the other articles in our 101 series yet?

Wedding Dress 101 : Necklines
Wedding Dress 101 : Strap & Sleeve Styles

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