You go into the bridal salon and immediately you are surrounded by wedding dresses. Pretty soon, you start to get white lace tunnel vision. Fear not! This guide will help you narrow down what you want to try on before you hit the stores. Finding the best silhouette for your body type, as well as your own personal style, is key to an "a-ha" gown moment in the dressing room. We're going to review the 5 most popular wedding dress silhouettes with examples in a variety of styles.
A-Line Wedding Dresses
A-line wedding dresses are arguably the most ubiquitous of the bunch. An a-line dress is one in which the skirt flares out at the waistline, forming an "A" shape. The shape can be subtle, such as in the tea-length dress above, just barely billowing out from the waist. Or it can be far more crisp and "angular" as represented in the two dresses below.
There are so many things to love about this silhouette! It's universally very flattering. If you are apple shaped, you may want a waistline that sits slightly higher, but other than that, these dresses are going to look lovely on every type of body. If you are a retro bride, look no further than the a-line for your wedding dress inspiration. This silhouette dominated the 1950s and 60s (thanks, Jackie Kennedy!).
Because a-line dresses are such a classic look, they also can withstand a lot of detailing. Horizontal stripes would normally be verboten on a wedding dress, but on this silhouette (above, left) and the stripes' low placement, it looks elegant and modern. And don't let these tiers of fabric fool you (below, right)--this is still totally an a-line silhouette. Want a traditional a-line for your wedding, but also love a more figure-flaunting gown? This dress (below, left) is actually a fit-and-flare gown, but the lace "jacket" worn for the ceremony turns it into a faux a-line!
Ballgown Wedding Dresses
The quintessential dream dress, a ballgown silhouette is a-line's more voluminous cousin. It still flares out at the waist, but the skirt is more pronounced with a fuller look. If you might need the limo all to yourself, chances are you are wearing a ballgown. These are also universally flattering, although fuller figures might want to consider less full skirts to balance out their proportions. A wedding dress like this is ideal for a classic, romantic bride who wants a take-no-prisoners, showstopper gown.
I have often heard brides be wary of this dress because of Scarlett O'Hara connotations--they are worried about looking too diva, too cupcake, too much. Don't be. There are so many ways to keep this traditional silhouette completely modern. Above, a sparkly bodice with tiny cap sleeves and a column of miniscule buttons down the skirt make this ballgown new and exciting. You can also play with belts, hem detailing (below, left) and lace overlays in different shades (below, right) to prevent your dress from being generic.
A ballgown silhouette is also a match made in heaven for ladies that have powerhouse arms and backs, but don't want to show off too much skin. Below, this dress features a bejeweled sweetheart neckline (left), highlighting her gorgeous shoulders and arms. Or if you love the statement back trend, find a ballgown with a keyhole back--they are beautiful in lace and don't detract from the classic look.
Sheath Wedding Dresses
Also called column dresses, these wedding dresses skim closely along your figure, no matter the length. Some dresses appear very straight (below), while others have more movement towards the hem. This silhouette couldn't be more perfect for athletic figures looking to accentuate or add to their curves! It's also a very modern look, so less conventional brides will love the formality of these dresses, without all the extra fabric! Don't let this simple silhouette fool you. These dresses are anything but plain!
For minimalist brides this dress above has loads of appeal. With only a bit of lace detailing at the top, this dress is elegant without being flashy, and moves really well.
But many sheath wedding dresses utilize intricate detailing and sparkly styling! Above, this Art Deco-inspired dress features a peek-a-boo lace bodice and heavy gathers at the waistline. A really decadent option for a ballroom or museum wedding! Below, this short sheath is all about the sparkle! You could either wear this little number to the main event, or just to the after party!
I admit it, this blouson-bodice dress might be one of my favorites of the year. It's a slight redux on the sheath silhouette, and totally chic. This dress would shine at a wedding on a beachfront patio or urban rooftop!
Trumpet Wedding Dresses
These dresses are similar to a sheath, but flare out somewhere between mid-hip and above the knee. Some of these "flares" are soft (as shown in the lace dress below), and others are very sharp, creating an an obvious trumpet horn shape towards the bottom of the dress. Of course, these dresses are for bolder brides who want to flaunt what they've got! Hourglass figures look amazing in these designs, and if fitted correctly, so do more athletic shapes.
No wedding dress silhouette is enjoying more current popularity than the trumpet dress. It's not as structured or as slinky as mermaid silhouettes (more on those in a minute), and allows for a wide variety of styling and details. Indeed, it's not difficult to find this silhouette in everything from vintage lace to modern colors. Below, these more prominent trumpet shapes are softened with the use of lace. The capelet on this dress (left) would make it so pretty for a winter wedding. And a sweetheart neckline naturally goes very well with the proportions of this silhouette (right). For brides with a round face shapes who want to elongate their look, make sure the "v" in the sweetheart neckline is pronounced and sharp.
Marry old-fashioned style and a modern fit with a trumpet silhouette. Below, this high lace collar is dynamic and interesting, but isn't too staid with the skirt's hip hugging design.
If the a-line is Jackie Kennedy, the mermaid is Marilyn at her sultriest. Wallflowers need not apply. This dress will get you nothing but attention! Mermaid dresses are often confused with trumpet silhouettes. And for good reason, they do look alike. The main difference is where the skirt flares out. A mermaid silhouette flares out at or below the knee in a very obvious and pronounced way--like a fishtail, if you will. These dresses really nip in at the knee, so make sure you do plenty of trial walks in this gown before your trip down the aisle!
This silhouette sings in satin! Because of its outrageously sexy lines, you don't need to put much on this silhouette for it to be amazing. Above, both of these dresses feature detailing only on top (bodice, left; and shoulders, right), so that the skirt's "tail" is the statement feature of the gown.
But if you really want to add some flair, try layering on the skirt (below, left) or ruching along the bodice and hip (below, right).
Need more wedding dress inspiration? Check out our Pinterest board!