What's a Mermaid-Style Wedding Dress?

Take advantage of the benefits of the dreamy, mermaid-style wedding dress, and learn how to make it your own.

By The Zola Team

mermaid wedding dress
Photo by Christopher Duggan Photography

There’s something ultra-romantic about the shape of a mermaid wedding dress. This design has a fitted bodice that extends down to the knee before it flares out, similar to the appearance of a mermaid tail. It’s in the same category as a trumpet gown, a design that starts with a gradual flare at mid-thigh. Either way, the fit-and-fanned out manner accentuates curves and creates a memorable silhouette by elongating the frame. It’s a dramatic cut that stands on its own without too much embellishment needed to complete the look.

Compared to other wedding dress styles, the mermaid dress hugs curves, which means choosing the right fabric is key to achieving a seamless finish. When choosing this particular cut, it’s best to avoid ruching, embellishments, or sashes near the midsection. The goal is to have a streamlined appearance from the waist down. With that being said, there are numerous ways to customize the bridal gown and make it your own.

Start with the sleeves, and choose your preferred fabric. Then, move on to necklines and styling the overall aesthetic with your chosen jewelry, while also experimenting with various hairstyles. Finally, consider your wedding venue as you decide if a mermaid gown is the best pick for your nuptials. It’s a striking option that can be styled in a number of ways depending on your fashion preferences and the time of year that your celebration will be held. It’s an ideal blend of fitted and flared, for a feminine appeal with a sultry edge.

By narrowing down your wedding dress search to a mermaid style, you’ll find that there are still plenty of details to choose from before you settle on your chosen match. Gain ideas and inspiration by thinking about the elements that will change the look of your dress, and embrace the style of the wedding you have in mind.

What's a Mermaid-Style Wedding Dress? | Zola Photo Credit // J. Benson Photography

Selecting the Ideal Sleeves

An off-the-shoulder sleeve is subtly sexy and an ideal match for a mermaid wedding dress. Fortunately, though, all sleeves pair well with the uniqueness of the fanned out skirt. For example, a simple crepe dress is an elegant choice when matched with full-length sleeves for a chic, sophisticated quality. Flutter sleeves, on the other hand, elevate the silhouette to a romantic, vintage vibe.

Of course, there’s always the option of eliminating sleeves altogether and going strapless. The key here is to find the perfect fit. It should feel snug throughout without being too tight. Even though a mermaid gown is meant to be form-fitting, you’ll still want to be able to move freely and comfortably during your ceremony and reception.

A final option to imagine, in addition to sleeves or a strapless bridal gown, is a halter top. This feminine feature highlights delicate shoulders and focuses on the structure of the dress and less on the rest of the details. Paired with a sweeping updo, a halter is simple and classy, and it lets the rest of the dress mainly speak for itself.

Choosing Your Preferred Fabric

After determining the cut that will work best with the flow of the mermaid-style skirt, select your preferred fabric based on the season and your fashion preferences. You’ll want to skip the sheer and stick with sturdier fabrics that easily drape to avoid any tears or wardrobe malfunctions during fittings, not to mention on the day of your wedding.

Satin and silk fabrics flow against the skin and move well with the body, plus they serve as a foundation for a lace overlay or more delicate fabrics to be draped on top. Crepe is another gorgeous material that meshes well with the mermaid-style wedding dress. The luxurious fabric ranges in the level of thickness and weight to adapt to the season when your wedding will be held.

Additionally, your fabric choice will affect the cost. Pure silk leans toward the higher end, but a blend or a sheen finish from satin can provide a similar appearance at a fraction of the cost. Extra wedding dress fabrics and design details usually increase the dress price, so keep this in mind to help you stick within your bridal budget.

Opting for the Most Flattering Neckline

Selecting your preferred neckline depends on how much coverage and support you want for the bodice. Do you want to go daring with a plunging neckline, or keep demure with a modest boatneck option? Despite the major differences, both balance the look of a mermaid wedding dress well. A v-neck can be as deep as you’d like and coverage can be added with a lace or organza covering that’s sheer without becoming too risque.

If you want more subtle coverage, the sweetheart neckline is a go-to for many brides. It plays up curves on the bodice that echo the curves of the skirt’s fishtail. However, going fuller on the top with a boatneck option shows off the delicate collarbone area and can also work in place of a necklace.

Regardless of the particular neckline that you may have in mind, try a few and see what looks and feels best. You may be surprised that a neckline you hadn’t thought about before is the one you ultimately decide on in the end.

Styling the Overall Aesthetic

A mermaid wedding dress is a showstopper on its own. Keeping everything else simplified works well if you want to give the dress the spotlight. A simple shoe and a lightweight veil or pretty floral crown are additions that don’t take away from the specialness of the dress. It all depends on the overall aesthetic that you want to achieve. Are you aiming for a rustic chic wedding? Or, is it a formal affair that you’re after?

The uniqueness of a mermaid wedding dress fits in with all eras and aesthetics. It’s the details that change the overall vision. Floral crowns and lots of lace fit the bill for a rustic-chic aesthetic, while detailed beading and floor-length veils may make more sense for a black-tie wedding.

However you decide to style a mermaid wedding dress, it has a timeless appeal that makes it one of the favored wedding dress trends season after season. Since it can be personalized in various ways, there’s no limit to how much you can make this standout style truly your own.

Factoring in Your Wedding Venue

Your wedding destination and venue factors into what you’ll wear. A beach location makes perfect sense for a mermaid wedding dress, as the dreamy, laid-back appeal is still elegant enough for a ceremony on the sand. Lightweight fabrics and limited accessories are also good options for a tropical climate.

On the other hand, an outdoor venue such as a winery or an elegant estate leads toward the romantic allure of this style of dress. For a fall wedding, lean toward thicker fabrics or warmer colors, such as a soft pink or ivory versus a stark white bridal color. Or, to maintain the tradition of white with a modern twist, add in a colorful belt in a solid color such as crimson, navy, silver, or gold.

Matching the design of your dream dress to the atmosphere of your wedding venue pulls everything together beautifully and allows your wardrobe to match where you are.

What's a Mermaid-Style Wedding Dress? | Zola Photo Credit // Trinity Photography and Video

Accessorizing a Mermaid Wedding Dress

To further streamline the look of a mermaid dress, stilettos or heels work best. The height keeps the train from dragging or getting caught; plus, it gives off a statuesque appearance. When trying on mermaid wedding dresses, take the shoes that you plan to wear for the big day—or similar ones that have the same height—to get an accurate idea of how the dress will fall and where the bottom may need hemming.

Then, depending on the neckline, stay minimal by wearing only earrings, or go all out with a matching necklace, too. The idea with a mermaid wedding gown is that the shape works as its own embellishment with little else needed. Although, when it comes to your wedding day, you can go as bold as you want. Try combinations of jewelry and keep things complementary to the dress without being overly complicated.

Lastly, another “accessory” is your hairdo. Flowing waves maximize the natural appeal of the mermaid silhouette, and an updo is elegant and sophisticated. An updo highlights the shoulders and neck and pairs well with a strapless bodice, while long, flowy waves are beautiful with full straps or flutter sleeves. Think about if you want to wear a veil, headpiece, or do without either. Try a variety of accessories, hairstyles, and makeup looks to create a balance before you decide what is the best option for your final wedding day look.

Having a place to start when narrowing down your wedding dress choices makes it easier to hone in on a few chosen favorites and not become overwhelmed by the endless stream of options. Once you’ve chosen the cut of a mermaid style wedding dress, consider which other features catch your eye.

Between the sleeves and the fabric, the neckline and the overall aesthetic you want to achieve, there are plenty of detailed decisions that need to be made. As you get closer to the perfect dress, you’ll slowly start to see your vision take shape. Enjoy the fun that comes with wedding dress shopping—it’s one of the best parts of planning for your big day.

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