Everything You Need to Know About Ball Gown Wedding Dresses

With our simplified style guide, learn all you need to know about ball gown wedding dresses as you plan for your big day.

By Emily Forrest

ball gown dress illustration
Photo by Zola

Ball gown wedding dresses are among the most popular silhouettes for brides. After all, who doesn’t want to feel like a fairytale princess on their big day? A ball gown has a fitted bodice with a voluminous skirt. This type of dress is flattering on every figure, and it gives the legs free movement, compared with fitted cuts. The shape slyly camouflages the hips, waist, and midsection, while drawing attention to the beauty of a full, floaty skirt.

Although most ball gown wedding dresses skim the floor, a tea-length skirt has the same appeal. Wear stilettos for extra height, or flats for ultimate comfort. Anything goes with this traditional wedding dress style. Many ball gown skirts have a hook in the back to lift it off the ground and secure when dancing—or when in need of a bathroom break. Some have a tiered effect, while others form a shape similar to an A-frame, but with extra layers to create more width.

Additionally, ball gown dresses either create a Cinderella-esque circle or an extended train. In short, it’s one of the most classic wedding dresses, and it creates a dreamy appeal for any romantic wedding celebration. With a number of variations to keep the look traditional or updated to your modern vision, starting with this flattering ball gown silhouette is a great way to get started when dress shopping for your upcoming nuptials.

If you’re thinking about going big with your wedding gown, this is the ultimate choice. Elevate the look by customizing the fabric, neckline, and adornments that you want to complete your ultimate wedding day look. Ball gown dresses are among the most sought-after wedding dress styles, with personalization available to make your dream dress a reality.

Everything You Need to Know About Ball Gown Wedding Dresses | Zola Photo Credit // Libby Sue Photography

Feel Out Different Fabrics

Common fabrics for ball gown wedding dresses are chiffon, organza, tulle, and other lightweight fabrics. Several layers of these sheer materials create the fullness of the skirt without weighing down the look. It’s perfect for both an elegant, traditional celebration, or a low-key garden ceremony. Adding beading to the skirt or trim to the tiers gives it an extra level of style, all based on the aesthetic that you want to achieve.

Other fabric choices include crepe, charmeuse, and duchess satin. Each of these wedding dress fabrics are also lightweight, with a slight, glamorous sheen. Designs using these fabrics often rely on folds and draping to create volume similar to that achieved with tulle or other poufier materials. For brides who prefer a mix of fabrics, a satin foundation with lace trim is an ideal pairing for a ball gown wedding dress; it offers an ornate appeal to a timeless fashion.

As you peruse your favored fabrics, especially with a certain budget in place, keep in mind that extra luxe and layers often increase the cost of a dress design. Additionally, the more intricate the beadwork or lining, the higher the price will likely be. Another factor to think about when it comes to picking fabrics is the season when and the venue where your wedding will take place.

Airy fabrics may feel more appropriate for an outdoor wedding, while heavier, luxe fabrics may feel suitable for formal ceremonies. These are simple guidelines to help you narrow down your dress selections and factor in how you’ll feel while wearing your dress, in addition to how it looks.

Narrow Down the Neckline Choices

There are nearly as many neckline choices as there are fabrics to choose from. The first thing to consider is how much coverage you’d like for the bodice. If you favor complete coverage, a square or slight scoop neckline is best. The square has a horizontal bodice that meets thicker straps to create a 90-degree angle, while a scoop neckline provides a slight dip without showing as much skin as a v-shape or sweetheart neckline.

The strapless sweetheart is arguably one of the most preferred necklines when pairing with the full skirt of a ball gown. It’s effortless, elegant, and looks beautiful on every bride. An off-the-shoulder neckline is a modern option that shows off the collarbone and shoulders without going completely strapless. There’s also the allure of a one-shoulder strap, halter neck, or a sheer panel over a sweetheart neckline, among a variety of others. It all comes down to how much you’d like to keep open at the top of your bridal gown.

Choosing the ideal neckline also depends on what kind of straps you want to wear. For example, thicker, standard straps or t-shirt sleeves pair well with a square or scooped neckline. Other mentioned necklines have a built-in coverage with straps that either form a halter or cover one shoulder. Additionally, for an elegant look, wrist-length sleeves constructed of lace make a dramatic statement, while opting for short, flutter sleeves give off a romantic, timeless appeal.

Style Your Ball Gown Based on Your Personality

The beauty of a ball gown holds enough glamour on its own without the need for extras. However, to customize your wedding dress to reflect your personal preferences, consider design features and accessories to complete your wedding day look. For the dress itself, tiers of fabric for draping changes the look of the bridal gown. The addition of beads, bows, and sequins also switch up the style.

What you wear in your hair is another adornment that showcases your own unique eye for fashion. Will you wear a veil, hair comb, hat, or floral crown? Or, will you leave your hair undone in loose curls or a simple bun? All of these customize the styling of your ball gown. The same can be said by the shoes and jewelry you choose to wear.

For a vintage vibe, pearls and lace make a good duo, while a fairytale look calls for lots of sparkle and shine. Top it with a tiara to complete the transformation. Your wedding dress design can be as extravagant or minimalistic as you want it to be. Each element you choose adds to the overall allure of your dress, and it allows everyone to see your personality shine through.

To pick your wedding dress based on the specific aesthetic, choose from mid-century modern, a formal celebration, or a rustic-chic ceremony, just to name a few examples. Each of these offers their own specific details that help make your wedding day feel special and personalized to you and your soon-to-be spouse.

Make It Mid-Century Modern

Mid-century modern may not immediately come to mind when you think of ball gown dresses, but it’s taking the tradition and making it your own. For this aesthetic, skip the floor-length skirt and opt for a hem that hits just below the knees. The silhouette remains the same with a fitted bodice and full skirt, and the change in length is the only difference. Add a sash or colorful shoes for a modern appeal or to match your wedding party. Opt for a chic updo or chin-length veil to complete this throwback look that feels retro without being outdated.

Everything You Need to Know About Ball Gown Wedding Dresses | Zola Photo Credit // Eight Weddings Photography

Get Fancy for a Formal Celebration

Pull out all the stops for a formal celebration by amping up your ball gown styling even further. Intricate beading or layers of delicate lace add luxury to an already stunning silhouette. Add on the jewels too, with an extravagant necklace and chandelier earrings to match. Your wedding day is one you’ll always want to remember, and part of that memory involves what you wear. This is the time to be as fancy and indulgent as you’ve always dreamed.

Embrace the Romantic Appeal of Rustic Chic

From your veil to your bouquet, embrace your natural settings and combine your desire for a rustic atmosphere with a princess-style gown. Create a whimsical allure with a voluminous, high-low skirt made with delicate fabrics such as tulle or organza. Skip the diamonds and pearls, and instead incorporate as many florals and greenery as possible.

These are only a few ideas for inspiration as you start to plan and think about your wedding day attire. All of the different elements of your celebration should complement each other to create a cohesive vision of how your wedding day will play out.

Why We Love Ball Gown Wedding Dresses

A ball gown wedding dress is flattering, fun to wear, and feels good, which are really the basics of what you need to consider when choosing the one you’ll wear on your big day. A bodice that hugs the body, coupled with a big, beautiful skirt makes it easy to dance the night away without restriction. There’s an added sense of glamour when it comes to ball gown wedding dresses—it’s how we envision the everyday bride to look.

A ball gown silhouette doesn’t have to mean settling on a cookie-cutter style though. It simply lets you hone in on the shape you want first. Choose from your favorite fabrics and necklines, and then consider how you want to personalize your gown. Narrow down your search by thinking about these details until you happen upon the perfect dress. See how it transforms you when you try it on, and happily check off one of the most important wedding details off your to-do list.

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