What Are the Most Common Wedding Dress Styles?

Wedding dress styles come in a variety of colors, shapes, materials, and silhouettes. Discover the most common wedding dress styles.

By The Zola Team

common wedding dress styles
Photo by Cly By Matthew

Something magical happens when a bride-to-be tries on the perfect wedding dress—the tears in her eyes, the smile on her face, and the only words that manage to escape her lips “it’s perfect.” This is the moment you’ve been waiting for since you got engaged, but it’s going to take some time and effort to get there. The road to the “it’s perfect” moment takes some navigating.

Everyone’s taste is different, and the number of wedding dress styles to choose from can be a little, well, overwhelming. A helpful way to narrow down the search for your perfect dress is by figuring out what style you like. Wedding dress styles can be broken down into a few popular categories, depending on your wants and needs. But, with so many styles on the market, what the heck is the difference?

Types of Wedding Dresses

Even if you’re not an expert on the technical terms, you probably have an idea of your own personal style. And you have some idea of what’s going to make you feel beautiful on your special day.

Coverage, complexity, and the sheer size of your dress (ehem, ball gowns, anyone?) are some factors that you may have already considered. Now it’s time to take those factors and see what style is going to work for you. So, let’s get started. First and foremost: what’s your vibe?

Traditional Styles

If you’ve been dreaming of your wedding since you learned what a wedding is, there’s a good chance that you love a good, old-fashioned, traditional gown. These wedding dress styles are going to offer support up top, and pizzaz down below. Choose a dress that makes a statement, and the statement is “I’m the bride.”

Within the traditional category, there’s a variety of shapes to choose from:

1. Empire

Popularized in the late 1800s, empire style gowns have a magically quaint aesthetic that will make your wedding day feel like a real-life fairytale.

The empire shape is characterized by a high waist and a flowing skirt. While most wedding dress styles will be cinched somewhere close to your natural waist, an empire style bridal gown is going to support your bust and then immediately flare out under the chest. This is an elegant way to accentuate your chest while lengthening your skirt for the flowy, traditional dress of your dreams.

2. A-Line

In terms of size, an A-line dress is going to be the perfect middle ground between a tighter sheath fit and a larger ball gown. For a classic look that isn’t too extravagant, an A-line dress is a beautiful choice.

A-line wedding dresses are tight in the bodice and flare out at the hips into a larger skirt. This is a common style of wedding dress because it provides a beautiful silhouette that will hug your curves on top, and allow for a nice shape and flare on the bottom.

3. Ball Gown

Ball gowns are the timeless, voluptuous style that’s going to make you feel like an absolute princess. The princess bride, that is (get it?). No, but seriously. Unless you’re Kate Middleton, you probably don’t get many opportunities to casually don a full-length ball gown. And, frankly, that’s an experience everyone should get to have at least once in their life—which is exactly why ball gowns have defied the hands of Father Time in regards to their popularity.

This is your special day, you’re allowed to wear whatever you want. So, take advantage of this opportunity, because ball gowns are often referred to as a “princess style” (thank you, Disney), but wearing one is going to make you feel like a full-blown queen 👑

Sexy Styles

If sexy is more your speed, you’re going to want a style that clings to your body (and makes your partner want to cling to your body, too). Sexy wedding dress styles are glamorous, modern, and add a little spice to your special day.

Your body is beautiful and what better way to celebrate it than with a dress that makes you feel like a work of art?

Depending on how tight you want your bridal gown, and what areas you’d like to accentuate, there are a few different shapes you have to choose from:

1. Mermaid and Trumpet

Mermaid wedding dresses and trumpet dresses are two sides of the same coin. Both wedding dress styles are going to hug your curves and flare out gorgeously around the hem. The difference between the two is that trumpet gowns begin to flare above the knee, while the mermaid style flares below the knee.

Another way that these styles differ is that mermaid gowns tend to have more flair in their—well—flare. Ruffles, netting, and layering are commonly found around the bottom of a mermaid wedding dress (to resemble the fin of a mermaid’s tail). This is a great way to incorporate materials such as chiffon and batiste that add texture to your gown while keeping the main portion of the dress a silkier material that highlights your figure.

Trumpet gowns, on the other hand, tend to have a simpler flare that maintains its original material. This is an elegant and simple look that will allow your beauty to shine without drawing people’s eyes to the floor. Whether you prefer the trumpet or mermaid variety, this type of gown is going to make your curves POP🍾 These styles are great if you’re looking for something modern, sexy, and utterly va-va-voom.

2. Sheath

If you’re searching for a wedding dress style that hugs your curves in a subtler way, a sheath wedding dress is a beautiful and popular option. Sheath style wedding dresses have a straight, but narrow cut that tightly hugs the curves in the bodice, and gently drapes over the curves around the hips. Sheath gowns offer a natural shape that’s elegant and sexy, without being too much (because the attention should be on YOU, not just the dress).

3. Strapless

Strapless wedding dress styles are going to vary in terms of the skirt, but the seductive similarity in this category is in the way that they accentuate your top half. Strapless gowns typically have a sweetheart neckline and a tight almost corset-like bodice. This shape is also going to show off your chest and shoulders beautifully, leaving room for accessories that will complete your look.

This is a perfect way to show off a little skin while maintaining a long, beautiful skirt and train.

Unique Styles

It’s your wedding day, so, of course, you want to stand out. While traditional styles are perfect for some people, you may want something a little more unique to your personal tastes. In recent years, uncommon wedding dress styles have become popular.

Not everyone wants to go the classic route, and it’s amazing that being yourself on your wedding day is finally being normalized (because your partner didn’t propose to anybody else).

1. Tea Length

What if you want to show off your iconic dance moves at the reception? Or you bought really cute shoes for your wedding day and you refuse to wear anything else? And what about beachside weddings where you’re walking around on the sand? A floor-length wedding dress is going to make all of these situations a lot more difficult.

Instead, opt for a tea length wedding dress.

The hem of a tea-length dress will fall somewhere between your knee and your ankle, and give you more freedom to move around comfortably during your wedding (and show off those shoes). Tea-length dresses have enough length to look elegant and unmistakably classic, without the added baggage of a floor-length train tailing you around the reception.

This length also embodies a cute, vintage style that will have you feeling like a ‘50s teen in a soda shop who is also getting married (minus the poodle on your skirt). Pair your tea-length dress with a classic red lip and a small, retro veil and you’ve got yourself a whole ensemble.

2. Illusion

The term “illusion gown” refers to any wedding dress that utilizes a large portion of sheer fabrics in its design. Illusion gowns are often decorated with beading, embroidery, or crystal details that appear as though they’re painted onto your skin (that’s the illusion).

This style has gained popularity in recent years and has become increasingly intricate as designers get more innovative with their craftsmanship. Illusion gowns can range from ultra-sexy to very conservative, and everything in between. No matter what level of coverage your illusion gown provides, it’s going to look stunningly modern, trendy, and glamorous.

3. Wedding Outfit

Who says that your wedding dress has to be a dress? In the past decade or so, many people have made the transition from classic wedding dresses to wedding outfits. This includes pants, jumpsuits, and separate top and skirt combos.

Not only do many of these options provide more comfort than your average wedding gown, but they also allow people to be themselves and dress comfortably on their big day.

If dresses don’t make you feel beautiful, there’s absolutely no reason why you should wear one to your own wedding. This style provides a wide variety of options to choose from, and can range from subtle and simple, to totally glitzy and blinged-out.

There Are So Many Styles!

Wedding dress styles vary immensely, that’s what makes them so special.

Sure, the perfect wedding dress is going to be a certain style, but it’s also going to be more than that. Your dream dress is going to be as unique as you are, and whether it’s got a sweetheart neckline or a chiffon overlay, what’s most important is that it’s what you’ll remember wearing when you said “I do.”

What Are the Most Common Wedding Dress Styles Photo Credit // Misty Rodda Photography

Explore Wedding Dress Styles at Zola

Zola is the one-stop-shop for all of your wedding needs.

Between designing your save the dates and creating a gift registry, hop over to Zola’s online Bridal Boutique. There you’ll be able to peruse dresses based on shape, price, designer, and color. So, when you’ve finally decided on your perfect wedding dress style, finding gowns you love will be a piece of (wedding) cake.

Simplify Your Wedding Planning at Zola