So, you’re beginning your wedding dress shopping journey? Congrats! Though that warrants a celebration on its own, we know there are a lot of options and ideas to consider. As two of the most common silhouettes, A-line dresses and ball gowns are a great place to start.
Cherished for their classic shapes and romantic styles, it’s hard to go wrong with either of these silhouettes. After all, if they’re good enough for Disney princesses (and real-life princesses!), they should be good enough for us.
However, before you start trying on dresses, it’s worth learning how to make the distinction between the two styles. Below are some key characteristics to look out for, as well as some advice to help you choose the silhouette that suits you best.
Typically characterized by their corset-like bodices and voluminous skirts, ball gowns are one of the most popular wedding dress silhouettes. Both dramatic and flattering, you’ll see ball gowns at both traditional church weddings and black-tie affairs. The bodices of a ball gown wedding dress can be either simple and sleek or adorned with detailed beading and embroidery, appealing to a wide range of personal styles. This could mean anything from Chrissy Teigen’s fairytale, tulle-skirted gown to something more traditional a-la Princess Diana.
Another popular dress silhouette, A-line gowns generally feature a fitted bodice with a skirt that gradually flares from the hips, loosely resembling a narrow “A” shape. Also widely flattering, A-line dresses have been worn by many notable celebrities on their wedding day, including Allison Williams, Chanel Iman, and Gwyneth Paltrow. Though not quite as dramatic, A-line dresses are slightly more versatile than ball gowns, as there’s often more flexibility with fabrics and necklines.
Both dresses have fitted bodices and relatively full skirts, making it easy to confuse the two. So how do you really tell the difference between an A-line vs a ball gown wedding dress? A-lines have a much more gradual flare than ball gowns, which have a more voluminous, oversized skirt. It’s this minor difference in volume that primarily separates the two, giving the A-line dress a relaxed, flowy shape that differs slightly from the ball gown’s dramatic aesthetic.
Another possible way of telling the two apart is by paying attention to the bodice. As mentioned above, ball gown styles are generally restricted to a fitted bodice, while A-line styles tend to have a tad more flexibility. Each wedding dress style is something a little different for the bride.
Kelsey Butcher Photography
Not sure what wedding dress silhouette is best for you? Just as there’s no specific style or silhouette that works “best” for a particular body type, there’s no one that can tell you what dress is perfect for you—it all comes down to channeling your personal style and finding a dress that gives you the confidence and happiness that you hope to have on your big day. If you’ve always dreamed of the Cinderella look, then embrace it with a glamorous ball gown. However, if you’re more drawn to dresses with a sleek, understated appearance, consider an A-line gown. Your bridal dress should make you feel beautiful.
As with any dress style, both A-line and ball gowns come at a range of price points, so whether you’re looking for something under $500 or don’t have a budget cap, the silhouette shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. Because of their popularity, they’re also embraced by most designers, making them widely available at both department stores and bridal boutiques. Allure Bridal even came out with a line of Disney-princess-inspired gowns this year, many of which are ball gown and A-line styles.
Both a ball gown silhouette and an A-line dress can be beautifully decorated with embroidered lace and beads to create the perfect wedding dress. Whether you want a strapless bridal gown or a ball gown skirt, anything is possible.
If you lean toward romantic styles and love to make an entrance, it’s hard to go wrong with either silhouette. In the end, the differences are subtle, and there’s always the chance that you can find something that falls somewhere in between the two styles. Just make sure to enjoy the process and pick something that makes you feel the most you.