A wedding dress is one of the most important fashion statements a woman will make in her life. It is a reflection of not only a bride’s personality but her wedding venue (no one wants to wear a ball gown on the beach?) and sometimes even a testament of time (what bride didn’t have a poofy gown in the 80s?). When searching for the perfect wedding dress, the seemingly endless number of choices out there can be overwhelming—do you want the sleek look of a sheath dress a la Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy or the traditional elegance of an A-line gown like Grace Kelly? (And who the heck even knows what a trumpet skirt or modified A-line silhouette even means?) We’ve made things a little bit easier and created the ultimate cheat sheet with five of the most popular and versatile wedding dress silhouettes, so you can look and feel your best, while making a killer fashion statement on the big day.
The bride who favors a ball gown is often in search of that “princess” or “fairy-tale” moment. Queen Victoria debuted this silhouette (and the tradition of wearing white on one’s wedding day) when she married Prince Albert in 1840. The ball gown has a fitted, corset-like top and flairs at the waist into a bell shape skirt. Its ample fabric enhances the gown’s “wow” factor but also provides a universally flattering cut that can either accentuate or hide certain areas.
Nell Diamond posing in her ball gown with her dress’s designer, Olivier Theyskens.
A-Line and Modified A-Line
This silhouette is named after the skirt’s full-bodied shape resembling the outline of an uppercase “A.” The A-line became popular in the 1950’s and is one of the most popular and adaptable silhouettes, cinching at the smallest part of a bride’s natural waist and flowing out to the ground in a full skirt. The modified A-line, is cut closer to the body, providing a tighter fit than the traditional A-line.
Both versions camouflage hips, balance wide shoulders and provide the elegance and grandeur of a full-skirt without the extra drama of a ball gown. The bride who wears an A-line wedding dress is typically a woman who likes tradition but also places an importance on practicality. She desires formality and elegance but still wants to dance the night away without having to carry or maneuver added weight and material.
Brooke Botsford Sinclair tried on at least 50 different options before deciding on this lacy Oscar de la Renta A-line look.
Mermaid silhouettes have taken altars by storm since the early 2000s. With a curve-hugging fit this dress follows the line of a bride’s hips and thighs then flares out below the knee. Often paired with a strapless neckline, the mermaid silhouette is for the bride who wants that “va-va-voom” vibe on her wedding day.
Jessica Foley Morse bought the sample of Vera Wang’s “Zandra” dress.
Just as its name suggests, this silhouette features a gradually-flared skirt and a close-fitting bodice that resembles the musical instrument’s shape. The cut is often considered a hybrid of a modified A-line and a mermaid cut, with a straight lined bodice and a semi-full skirt starting at the bride’s knee. The bride who favors a trumpet wants to show off her curves, bringing a vivacious feel to her wedding day look.
Carrie Jean Crozer’s “Georgina” dress by Vera Wang is now part of the designer’s iconic collection.
One of the simplest and most sophisticated silhouettes, a sheath wedding dress flows straight down from the neckline to the hem, gently hugging the body from head to toe. Its slender and formfitting cut elongates the body and gives an illusion of added height, perfect for the petite or smaller framed bride. Glamorized by brides like Carolyn Basset Kennedy, sheath wedding dresses are perfect for those seeking a sleek yet ethereal look with an element of regal sophistication.
Amber Venz Box‘s dress was custom-made by Watters Designs.