Wedding Dress Silhouettes: The Complete Style Guide

Discover a complete list of wedding dress silhouettes. Unlock the secret to finding the perfect dress and learn how to choose the right one for you.

By Sarah Vallie

Wedding gown and four bridesmaids dresses in shades of red all hanging on a wall
Photo by Unsplash

Whether you’ve been dreaming about your wedding day since childhood or have just started planning now that there's a ring on your finger, you’re going to need to wear something to your wedding. As the name would imply, brides most often choose a wedding gown.

Wedding dress shopping is usually one of the first things brides do, along with choosing a date and venue, and for good reason: not only can gowns take months to arrive, but a wedding gown is a unique expression of your personal style.

There is a nearly endless variety of wedding dress styles to choose from. Find out everything you need to know about the different types of wedding dress silhouettes so you can find your perfect fit.

What to keep in mind when deciding on the perfect dress

While there are many types of bridal gowns, not every dress works for every wedding or every bride. Aside from wedding gown cost and order time, there are a few things to consider when finding your dream dress:

  • Setting: Different styles of dresses work for different settings and venues. Softer, lighter dresses work best outdoors, while a ballroom may call for something more structured and formal.
  • Weather: This is a key consideration, especially if the ceremony is outdoors. A summer wedding may call for something airy, while a heavier gown suits a winter event.
  • Wedding theme: Your gown should coordinate with the theme and formality of your wedding. A simple or short style is great for a low-key affair but might feel out of place at a more formal wedding.
  • Comfort: There are some gown styles that are easier to wear and dance in than others. For example, mermaid gowns look stunning but can sometimes feel restrictive.
  • Body type: It’s important to choose a gown that makes you feel beautiful. Some types of dresses are more flattering on certain body types than others.

The wedding dress silhouette isn’t the only thing that makes a gown more or less suited for an event. Things like beading, lace, fabric, sleeves, and train length can all contribute to making a dress heavier or more formal.

13 types of wedding dress silhouettes

There are over a dozen different styles of dresses to choose from. Many styles are most flattering on specific body types or work best for specific types of weddings.

A few key things contribute to the silhouette of a wedding gown, primarily where the waistline hits, how fitted the gown is, and the shape of the skirt.

We’ve broken down 13 types of wedding dress silhouettes below to help you find your dream dress.

1. The flattering a-line gown

An A-line gown is one of the most elegant and timeless wedding dress shapes. These gowns have a fitted bodice with a moderately full skirt that creates an “A” shape on the body.

A-line gowns look good on nearly every body type. The A-line skirt is especially flattering for those who are apple or pear-shaped, as the skirt balances the body so it appears more hourglass.

These gowns are available in just about any type of wedding gown fabric, and as a result, the A-line shape works for most event types, except perhaps the very simple.

a line gown

2. The attractive mermaid silhouette

Mermaid gowns create a striking and elegant silhouette. These gowns fit to your body until about the knees, at which point they flare out to create a shape similar to a mermaid's tail.

However, these gowns aren’t for everyone. They usually look best on those with an hourglass figure, and they can be hard to move in. If you plan on dancing the night away, it may be better to consider a less restrictive style like a trumpet or fit-and-flare gown.

With these gowns, you’ll often need to factor in additional costs for alterations. Because mermaid gowns are meant to be fitted to most of your body, you may need additional alterations to ensure the dress fits like a glove.

There are different types of mermaid dresses. Sweetheart necklines are common, but these gowns can have any style of neckline, as well as different length trains. They can be made from a variety of materials and may include corded lace, beading, belts, or other types of embellishment. While mermaid gowns are usually more formal, some simpler styles may be appropriate for less formal weddings.

mermaid gown

3. The elegant slip dress

Slip dresses get their name because they resemble a slip that’s typically worn under a dress. These gowns are often made from satin or silk, cling to the body, and flow around the legs. Some slip dresses offer a fitted bodice, while others are relatively unstructured.

While slip dresses can be simple and informal, things like structure, fabric, and details like beading and lace can elevate them for a more elegant event.

These gowns are excellent for petite brides with delicate figures, but can also look great on hourglass shapes and those who are top-heavy, so long as the bodice is fitted properly.

Elegant Slip Dress

4. The fairytale-like ball gown silhouette

A ball gown is the ultimate choice for brides who want their wedding day to look straight out of a fairytale.

Ball gowns have fitted bodices and large, voluminous skirts. They can be made out of materials like satin, silk, lace, chiffon, and taffeta. Some ball gowns are heavier than others, and most require wearing a crinoline underneath to maintain the shape. This means they aren’t always great in the heat.

The waistline of a ball gown can hit at several different places, meaning it's a style that can be flattering on almost any body type. However, petite brides may get lost in all the fabric.

Fairytale-Like Ball Gown

5. The form-fitting trumpet gown

Trumpet gowns are often mistaken for mermaid gowns, but there’s one key difference: the skirt of a trumpet-cut dress starts to flare above the knee, usually mid-thigh, rather than at the knee. This still creates a lovely figure, but it’s less restrictive than a traditional mermaid gown.

Like mermaid gowns, trumpet gowns are available in a variety of materials and can have differing amounts of embellishment. This means you can wear a trumpet gown for almost any type of wedding.

Also like mermaid gowns, trumpet gowns tend to look best on those who are slender or hourglass-shaped. They may make those who are apple or pear-shaped look unbalanced.

Form-Fitting Trumpet Gown

6. The all-time favorite empire style

Reminiscent of Greek goddesses, empire-style gowns are another popular pick. The waistline of these gowns is right below the bust, and the skirt flows from there. Chiffon is a common material for these dresses, but they may also be made of lace, organza, or satin.

Often, these gowns are worn for less formal events. They’re a great choice for summer weddings thanks to their flowy, ethereal look.

Empire-waist dresses are a good choice for petite brides, as the fabric isn’t too overwhelming. They’re also excellent for those who are apple or pear-shaped and want something that highlights their narrowest part.

Empire Style

7. The dramatic fit-and-flare gown

Fit-and-flare gowns are fitted through the bodice, with a skirt that starts to flare below the hip at the top of the thigh. They’re similar to trumpet-style gowns, but start to flare higher up.

Fit-and-flare gowns come in a variety of fabric types and amount of embellishment, so you can wear it to most types of weddings. Brides with hourglass or inverted triangle body types typically look best in this style dress.

Fit-and-Flare Gown

8. The classic column wedding gown

Column gowns are somewhat fitted in the bodice, with a skirt that flows straight down, like a column. They may hit at the natural waist or farther down toward the hip. These gowns are typically cut in straight lines, don’t flare, and are structured to minimize flow.

While this is a simpler wedding dress silhouette, the fabric, train, and embellishments of the dress can elevate it and make it more formal.

Column gowns aren’t particularly forgiving and usually work best for those who are slender or have an inverted triangle-shaped figure.

Classic Column

9. The all-flattering sheath silhouette

Similar to column gowns, sheath dresses are fitted at the bodice with a skirt that flows straight down from the hips. Unlike column gowns, the skirts are less structured and more flowy.

These gowns have a softer style and are great for boho brides. However, with the right fabric and embellishments, a sheath gown can be just as elegant as a mermaid.

Because sheath gowns don’t have fullness in the skirt to balance the silhouette, they tend to look best on petite or hourglass-shaped brides and those with slender waistlines.

sheath gown

10. The chic tea-length wedding dress

Tea-length gowns are a charming option for brides who want to step out of the box. Instead of the full-length skirt of a traditional wedding gown, these dresses stop somewhere between just below the knee and the mid-thigh.

Tea-length gowns are excellent for outdoor or somewhat informal weddings, or for brides who just don’t want a long dress. They’re also perfect for vintage-themed weddings, especially when accessorized with the right pieces.

The waistline of these gowns commonly hits at the natural waist, but you can find tea-length gowns with empire waists or basque waists. As a result, most body types can wear a tea-length dress so long as it has a flattering, natural shape.

Tea-Length Wedding Dress

11. The regal basque waist style

On a basque waist gown, the waistline hits below the natural waist right above or at the hips. The waistline sometimes creates a v-shape where it dips in the front.

Ball gowns are the most common type of gown with this type of waistline, but you can also find basque waists on wedding dress shapes like A-line and sheath gowns. This means a variety of body shapes can wear basque waist bridal gown styles.

Basque Waist

12. The modern wedding jumpsuit

Jumpsuits are a chic alternative to the traditional wedding gown. These are one-piece outfits that have pant legs instead of a skirt. Bridal jumpsuits are available in casual styles as well as sleek, elegant looks.

Jumpsuits tend to be most flattering on hourglass and pear-shaped brides. A jumpsuit with a structured waist or belt can also be very flattering on apple and rectangular body shapes, and shorter brides may find the legs help elongate their figure.

bridal jumpsuit

13. The versatile matching top and pants set

A matching top and pants set is the perfect choice for someone who doesn’t see themselves in a gown. These two- or sometimes three-piece sets are designed specifically for brides, still allowing you to stand out among your guests.

Bridal sets come in many different styles, so you can find the set that fits your personality, body type, and overall wedding style.

wedding top and pants set

How to combine accessories and veils with your dress

When choosing accessories like jewelry, headpieces, veils, and shoes, you’ll want to consider many of the same things you considered when buying a gown. These include the season, the venue, the theme, and the formality of your wedding.

There is a range of accessories and veils available. Above all, choose pieces that are comfortable to wear and accentuate, not overpower, your gown.

Check out our wedding boutique for all your accessory needs.

Wedding dress silhouettes FAQs

Below, you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions about wedding dress silhouettes.

What is the most popular wedding dress silhouette?

While certain silhouettes go in and out of popularity, A-line gowns are a consistently popular option. These gowns are available in many fabrics with varying amounts of embellishment, and they look good on almost every body type.

What is the best style for a pregnant bride?

Though it depends on how far into her pregnancy the bride is and how much she’s showing, empire waist dresses are generally a safe choice for pregnant brides. These gowns flow from under the bust, which allows them to skim over the baby bump and makes them more comfortable for expecting brides.

What is the best style for a tall bride?

Tall brides can pull off most bridal gown styles, but some of the best options for tall brides include sheath gowns, trumpet gowns, and the ever-flattering A-line gown.

Complement your dream wedding dress flawlessly with Zola

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