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Wedding Dress Types – What Style Should I Choose for My Wedding?

Wedding Dress Types – What Style Should I Choose for My Wedding?

When you’re choosing your wedding gown or dress, you want to be sure you’re picking the right one for your body shape.

While you might love the mermaid or sheath style, if you’re shaped like an apple, it won’t be a flattering silhouette.

Nothing says you can’t wear whatever you like, but if you’re looking for flattering shapes, we’ve got you covered here.

First, let’s start with the silhouette itself. This is the type of dress you’ll choose without all the details that make it unique and special.

Silhouettes

A-Line

The A-line dress is perfect for every body shape. It’s flattering for pears as well as apple shapes. Even those who are more of a rectangle will find that the A-line is a fantastic way to show off your assets while minimizing problem areas. The bodice of the dress is fitted with a dress that flows from the top area without a cinched waist. It’s shaped like an uppercase letter A from the bodice.

A-Line Dress
Jenny by Jenny Yoo Lourdes Gown | BHLDN

For the ultimate bohemian bride, this fit-and-flare gown ticks all the boxes. A plunging illusion neckline flows into a soft skirt coated in lace appliques, evoking a vintage vibe. Removable sleeves let you switch from delightfully demure to dance floor-ready! 

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Mermaid

The mermaid shape is skin tight from the bodice to the knee then flares out until it hits the floor. If you imagine what a mermaid looks like with skin-tight scales down to the fins, that’s what the mermaid shape of the dress is. The mermaid and the trumpet below are flattering for women who are triangle or hourglass-shaped.

Jenny by Jenny Yoo Veda Gown | BHLDN

This elegantly fitted gown features an intricate lace bodice with a plunging neckline and long, sheer sleeves. A tailored crepe skirt lends a modern edge, while scalloped lace trim and a button back provide charming detail.

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Trumpet

This style is often confused with the mermaid because they resemble each other. The top of the trumpet dress is tight, but the dress starts to flare closer to the hips and thighs than the knees like the mermaid. Imagine the mouth of a trumpet and how it tapers gradually. That’s the style of the trumpet dress.

Sheath

A sheath dress is one that skims very close to the body from the bodice straight to the floor. It’s often called a column dress since there’s no real cinching of the waist for this style. The sheath dress looks great for women who have an hourglass or rectangle shape to their figure.

Catherine Deane Abigail Gown | BHLDN

This glamorous gown is a vintage-inspired vision, made from ivory satin for a sinuous silhouette. Exquisitely detailed beadwork accents the bodice and cutout back, finished with a row of buttons and a cascading train.

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Ballgown

Most everyone understands a ballgown. It’s what Cinderella wore to the ball. It’s fitted at the top and has a cinched waist that flares into a full skirt. It’s often worn with a petticoat to get more volume on the bottom. The ballgown is not great for those who have a more rounded shape to their body, but otherwise, it’s one dress that’s flattering on most shapes.

Jenny by Jenny Yoo Charlotte Gown | BHLDN

One word for this luxe taffeta ballgown? Timeless. A V-neckline and sweeping cathedral train ensure enduringly elegant style, while pockets(!) and a chic square back make thoughtfully modern details.

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Empire

The empire dress is great for every single silhouette imaginable. It’s cinched under the bust and flares slightly to skim the body beautifully. Between this shape and the A-line, there isn’t a woman that won’t look terrific in one of these dresses or gowns on her wedding day.

Jenny by Jenny Yoo Sutton Gown | BHLDN

This minimalist satin slip gown is designed for modern brides. Thoughtful details include a soft cowl neckline, empire bust seam, bias-cut skirt, and a back flounce seam that cascades into a flowing train.

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Waistlines

Dropped waist – the waist drops below the hip

Natural waist – the top of the dress or gown stops in the middle of the waistline

Empire – the waist actually begins under the bust

Princess – this bodice is one long line with seams in the front. Usually found on A-line dresses

Basque – the bottom of the bodice has a U or V shape

Jenny by Jenny Yoo Elinor Gown | BHLDN

Intricate florals frame the sheer illusion back of this sweeping gown and peek from subtle side cutouts at the waist. A plunging V-neckline and button details complete the look.

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Necklines

Sweetheart – The top of the bodice is shaped like the top of a heart

Jenny by Jenny Yoo Tory Gown | BHLDN

Swiss dot tulle adds a touch of whimsy to this airy A-line gown. The bustier bodice features a classic sweetheart neckline, while the sweeping train makes a dramatic finishing flourish.

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Off the Shoulder – this type of dress has straps for sleeves, but they form a straight line across the bodice

Sachin & Babi Darcy Gown | BHLDN

Made from airy silk crinkle chiffon for effortless movement, this flowy gown is finished with voluminous off-the-shoulder puff sleeves.

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One Shoulder – Instead of two straps, there’s only one

Nouvelle Amsale Pearce Gown | BHLDN

Sleek and silky, this elegantly minimalist gown features a flowing silhouette and modern one-shoulder neckline for the perfect balance of dynamic movement and timeless glamour.

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Square – the bodice is a straight line that meets the strap squarely at a 90 degree angle

Jenny by Jenny Yoo Lawrence Gown | BHLDN

This crisp taffeta ballgown is the epitome of bridal elegance, with illusion side cutouts and a soft square neckline bringing a touch of modernity. (Plus, it has pockets!)

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Scoop – the scoop bodice curves in a U-shape and the depth of the U varies

V-neck – this is like the U-shape, but it’s a V that varies in depth

Sachin & Babi Diana Gown | BHLDN

Intricately embellished dimensional embroidery coats the bodice of this stunningly structured gown, which pairs a plunging V-neckline with a cleanly fitted skirt. The ultimate finishing flourish? A crisp, statement-sized bow that creates a dramatic train. (P.S. the bow is detachable!)

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Halter – the straps for this dress wrap and tie around the back of the neck leaving the back bare

High neck – the high neck dress wraps around the neck like a necklace

Bateau – this is also called a boat neck and follows the curve of the collar bone

Queen Ann – the back of this bodice type is high and the shoulders come in towards the neck. The front dips in a V shape

Strapless Curve, Sweetheart, or Curve – this is the same version of the necklines but without straps

Leigh Gown | BHLDN

Replete with floral lace, this romantic gown reminds us of a lush English garden. Delicate blooms extend onto a sweeping train, creating a breathtaking effect with subtle dimension thanks to an ivory shell and cream lining. A top applied hemline makes tailoring a cinch. 

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Grecian – the straps for this style of bodice will meet in the middle between the breasts and flare over the shoulders near the neck

Cowl – the cowl neckline is a half circle that drapes across the bodice

Illusion – with an illusion neckline, the bodice is in the shape of a sweetheart or V-neck, but there’s a sheer panel that keeps the dress from becoming too revealing

Sleeve Length and Style

The length of sleeves for your wedding dress can vary between short, cap sleeves to long sleeves down to the wrist. Depending on the style of dress and the neckline, any of these styles will be good for your wedding day. The more important question is the style, and how it will look with the dress you want.

Juliette sleeves are cap sleeves with a small puff at the shoulder that transitions to a long sleeve to the wrist.

Puff sleeves are cute little sleeves that are fitted around the top of the arm.

Butterfly sleeves are loose and flowing sleeves that are short.

Bell sleeves are long sleeves that are flared, loose and flowing.

Jenny by Jenny Yoo Beale Gown | BHLDN

Expertly draped satin lends this gown its graceful silhouette, topped off with a V-neckline and romantic flutter sleeves, which cascade over the shoulders to frame the low scoop back. A row of dainty buttons and a flowing train ensure an exit as grand as your entrance.

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Bishop sleeves are loose and flowing to the wrist too, but they are cuffed at the wrist.

Jenny by Jenny Yoo Myla Gown | BHLDN

A square neckline and plunging open back lend a modern edge to this fitted crepe gown, while sheer puff sleeves gather into lace cuffs for a romantic finishing flourish.

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Poet sleeves are fitted long sleeves that start to flare between the elbow and the wrist.

Set-in sleeves are ones that are part of the bodice. They often don’t have seams.

Raglan sleeves are an angled seam short sleeve that are common in sports tops, but not as common in wedding dresses.

Tulip sleeves are a short sleeve that has material that crosses each other to create the look of a tulip petal.

Sleeveless bodices are ones that do not have straps to hold it up. The dress usually has a built-in bra, but might need extra support.

Spaghetti strap tops have no sleeves with only a thin piece of material holding the bodice. Sometimes, they might be clear to give the illusion of strapless.

Dress Length

Knee Length Wedding Dresses

Let’s start with the shortest style of wedding dress. The knee-length wedding dress is not usually fitted, since that would give the bride a mini-skirt as wedding attire, but that might be the preference of some women. The knee-length is fun, flirty and skims around the knees.

Tea-Length Bridal Dress

This type of dress length hits a bit below the knee. It’s a flattering shape that is used in some A-line dresses. It’s a good choice for casual weddings like rustic barn weddings or backyard nuptials.

Ballerina-Length Wedding Dress

At just above the ankle, these dresses can be fun and casual or more elegant and formal depending on the style of the dress. They’re good for beach weddings where the bride might want to be barefoot.

Ankle-Length Bridal Gowns

An ankle-length gown can show off a stunning pair of shoes, or be perfect for the bride that wants to go without shoes at her beach destination wedding. She won’t have to worry about pulling her dress off the ground while walking outdoors, either.

Floor-Length Wedding Gowns

The floor-length bridal gown will skim the ground while sometimes having extra material in the back to follow behind the bride as she walks. This is traditionally what many women choose for their wedding day.

Hi-Lo Wedding Dress

While this is a slightly trendy look now, it’s one that is pretty stunning for most dresses. It’s a bit unusual, too. The hi-lo dress hits about knee length or below in the front and around the ankles or lower in the back.

Trains for the Dress

Sweep

This type of train is also called the brush since it barely touches the ground in the back. It’s great for a casual wedding dress that the bride won’t have to worry about dragging behind her outdoors.

Panel

A panel train is added as a separate panel to the dress. It’s usually added to the waist, so it falls behind the dress as part of it.

Court

The court is a type of train that flows directly from the waist as opposed to the sweep, which comes from the hem of the gown. This kind of train alters the silhouette of the dress, so make sure you’re seeing it from every angle before you buy the dress.

Watteau

This type of train is worn from the shoulders of the dress to the floor in a separate panel. It’s a rare kind of train that isn’t used much on traditional dresses.

Chapel

The chapel train extends approximately 3 to 4 feet behind the bride from the waist. It’s a dramatic train that is seen on most dresses.

Cathedral

This is a dramatic train that often needs another person to carry it down the aisle. It’s between 6 and 7 feet long.

Monarch

This train is over 12 feet long and worn by royalty and celebrities often as part of their ceremony. It requires more than one person to help carry the train and spread it beautifully around the altar when the bride gets to the end.

Style of Veil

Bridal veils come in a variety of lengths, and there are a few considerations for the veil itself. First, you’ll need to consider the style of your hair to ensure that the veil you pick will be complementary. Second, you’ll have to think about the length of the veil and whether you want it to be simple or elaborate.

The length of the veil will matter with the style of your dress, too. You might decide to be dramatic with a short dress and long veil, which will be surprising for your groom and guests.

Mantilla Veil

The mantilla is a traditional Spanish style veil that has edges of scalloped lace around the edges. The middle can be tulle or lace itself.

Double Tier Veil

If you have ever wanted your groom to lift your veil as he is set to kiss the bride, this is the kind of veil you’ll want to get. It has a front piece that can be folded back away from the face at the right moment.

Pirate Veil

A bit of lace or tulle tied around the head is a trend that is seeing a celebrity boost. It’s a lovely way to buck the normal trends of wedding veils for your nuptials.

Juliet Cap

Instead of a veil, the Juliet cap is a crocheted piece of fabric that is laid on the hair. It’s usually made with elaborate beading and jewels.

Twigs & Honey Auranne Veil | BHLDN

Complete your bridal ensemble with the vintage vibes of this Juliet cap veil, made from gossamer tulle. Hand-embroidered florals, accented by beading and crystals, add romantic detail.

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Blusher Veil

The blusher veil is another name for the piece of fabric that is used to cover the bride’s face as she walks down the aisle. It might or might not include another piece of fabric at the back.

Pelletier Fingertip Veil | BHLDN

This tulle fingertip veil has an attached blusher, ideal for creating a romantic look with a touch of timeless elegance. A white ribbon covers the underside of the comb for a seamless design.

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Birdcage

The Birdcage veil is an offset blusher veil that might only come over the forehead or cover part of the face. It’s often part of a tiny hat or other accessory.

Length of the Veil

Short

A short veil might only cover your hair. It would be more of a hair accessory than a bridal accessory. It can still cover parts of the face with drama and style.

Shoulder

A bride who wants to keep herself free to dance the night away can choose a veil that hits around her shoulders. It’s perfect for a variety of hairstyles, too. It won’t become a burden during the wedding or the reception.

Elbow

An elbow veil will skim around the upper part of your body beautifully. It’s important that you choose a style that will complement the dress since this kind can swirl around the bodice continuously and hide detail.

Fingertip

This veil length hits around the fingertips, which gives it the name. It’s a perfect length for those brides who want some drama without giving them a veil that will get in the way.

Fela Veil | BHLDN

The romantic embroidery on this fingertip veil was inspired by the Japanese art of ikebana, in which flowers are elegantly arranged as an expression of emotion.

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Ballet

The length of this veil falls between the knee and the ankle depending on the bride’s choice when picking out her dress. It’s great for tea-length or ballerina bridal gowns. It’s also perfect for the bride who doesn’t want to worry about her veil while she’s dancing.

Chapel

The chapel reaches the floor but doesn’t require anyone to carry it or arrange it while you’re at the altar.

A.B. Ellie Roesia Pearl Chapel Veil | BHLDN

Strewn with pearls, this handmade chapel-length veil adds a special touch to your bridal ensemble.

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Cathedral

The length of this veil will often float dramatically behind the dress. It’s approximately 120 inches from the top of the veil to the end. Like the cathedral dress mention above, it’s meant to be held by someone in the wedding party.

Amsale Danielle Cathedral Veil - BHLDN

Crafted from a single layer of tulle, this cathedral veil boasts floral lace appliques on the edges for an aesthetic that evokes classic romance. 

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Royal

This is another length that has the same name as the dress length. The royal veil reaches over 120 inches. You might want the dress or the veil to be longer, or you can have the same size.

Quick Tips for Choosing a Veil:

  • Stick with the same color veil as your wedding dress.
  • If you have an elaborate dress, pick a simple veil and vice versa. It’ll be more elegant.
  • Think about how you want to look in your pictures.
  • Consider if you’ll want to fight with the veil all night. You might decide on two veils; one for the ceremony and one for the reception.
  • Pick a hairstyle before the veil.
  • Ask yourself whether you’ll have hair accessories, too. Some veils work well with certain accessories and others do not.

There’s much to think about when choosing a dress, but the veil is just as vital to the entire bridal look. You don’t want to pick a stunning dress and end up with a veil that doesn’t do it justice. The veil should never be an afterthought, which is how it can look when you don’t plan on the color and style while you’re shopping for a dress and deciding on your hairstyle.

That pretty much covers the types and styles of wedding dresses and gowns that you could potentially pick for your wedding. While you should try to stick with the silhouette that works for your body shape, it’s your big day, and you should wear what makes you feel like a princess.

So Where to Order the Dress?

Times are changing. Ordering a dress online is actually the SMART way to go. BHLDN is our #1 recommended online retailer for both selection and customer service. Clear and easy return policy. You can even speak to their personal stylists.

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