As a bride, you want your dress to represent you; your sense of style, taste and tradition. Before you get lost in the blizzard of bridal fashion terms for sleeves, necklines, and trains, consider the basic outline of the dress. The silhouette for bridal gowns fall into five broad categories: (1) Ball Gown, (2) Empire, (3) Princess or A Line, (4) Sheath, and (5) Mermaid, – and each of these shapes has strong advantages and disadvantages, depending on your particular figure.
Ball Gown ~ The ball gown silhouette is the most romantic of all bridal silhouettes. It is typified by a fitted bodice and a small waistline (natural or dropped) that leads into a very full skirt. It’s most flattering to women who are average height with hourglass or full figures. The skirt of this gown will overwhelm a petite bride.
Ball Gown - Photo courtesy of William Ames Photography
Empire ~ The empire gown has a high waistline (right under the bust) which falls to a slimmer skirt width. Traditionally flatters the small breasted and thick-waisted women. The raised waist creates a long line, ideal for petite brides.
Empire Gown - Photo courtesy of J&A Photography
Princess / A Line ~ The style’s name comes from the triangle (or A shape) it has vertical seams from the shoulder to the hem, the result is a “fit and flare” effect without a define waist. This gown is suitable for a variety of fabrics and flatters most body shapes including petites and full figures.
A-Line Gown - Photo Courtesy of William Ames Photography
Sheath ~ The slim skirt is a key attribute of a sheath silhouette. This gown will show off your curves and depending on the weight or drape of the fabric the effect of the dress will differ. It’s a great look for tall, slim-hipped or petite, slender brides.
Sheath Gown - photo courtesy of Suzanne Winter Photography
Mermaid ~ A variation of a sheath is the mermaid style gown. This gown is a body-hugging silhouette like the sheath, but the skirt flares out at the knee or just below it. Flatters the tall and hourglass figures, not recommended for the pear shape brides.
Mermaid Gown - Photo courtesy of J&A Photography
I find a good way to simplify your shopping is to first decide which styles are most flattering to you, and then start with trying on those dresses. Engage yourself in the most exciting purchase of your life and your perfect dress will be meticulously chosen.
Special Thank You to William Ames Photography, J&A Photography, and Suzanne Winter Photography for their photographic contributions to this article.