With so many options available, picking a wedding dress can feel overwhelming; but finding your perfect dress should be exciting, not stressful. To take some of the pressure out of planning for your big day, it can be helpful to start by looking at some of the key styles you need to know about. Do keep in mind that while some designs might be more flattering on certain body shapes, the right dress is the one you fall in love with; at the end of the day, remember to wear what you want. After all, it's your time to shine!
The A-line dress is named after its shape, as the skirt flares out in a shape that resembles the letter A. An A-line dress features a tight, fitted bodice through the waist and a looser, fuller skirt which can be either structured or more flowing. Unlike a ballgown style, the skirt of an A-line dress is only subtly flared, widening gradually from the waist. While the classic shape of the A-line dress makes it a flattering choice for every shape, it's particularly suited to pear shapes, as the A-line of the skirt skims over the hips and the fitted bodice emphasizes curves on the upper half of the body.
Empire gowns have a high waistline that sits just under the bust, with a fitted bodice and a loose, flowing skirt. The long skirt creates the illusion of height, making it perfect for shorter brides. Similar to A-line dresses, the looser skirts of empire waist dresses are flattering on those with pear or apple shapes, while the more structured bodice draws attention upward and can help emphasize a smaller bust.
With a fitted bodice and a full, eye-catching skirt, princess-style ballgowns are the most dramatic wedding dress choice. The sheer volume of the skirt makes it a very forgiving style on just about all body shapes, though it may also overwhelm those with smaller frames. The skirt can help to balance out top-heavy figures, while the fitted waist gives the illusion of instant curves. The striking silhouette of the ballgown is perfect for those who want a glamorous, attention-grabbing look.
Sheath dresses, or column dresses, follow the natural line of the body all of the way down from the neck to the hem. This makes them perfect for those who are comfortable in their own skin, as sheath dresses leave little to the imagination. Sheath dresses are also a great choice for petite brides, as the long, straight lines lengthen the body. The sheath style gives off an air of classic, effortless elegance for those who are seeking a more modern, low-key look.
Similar to sheath dresses, mermaid gowns are fitted from the neckline down to the knee. Below the knee, the signature skirt flares out to create an instant hourglass shape, reminiscent of a mermaid's tail. The flared skirt of a mermaid dress makes it more forgiving than a sheath, while the figure-hugging bodice enhances curves. Sexy and dramatic, the mermaid dress is perfect for those who want to make a big splash, and who have the confidence to pull off the style.
Trumpet dresses — also known as fit and flare — are similar to mermaid dresses, but in a more subtle shape. While they share a similar bodice silhouette, trumpet dresses flare out just below the hips and can either share the dramatic volume of the mermaid gown or take a less structured, more flowing approach. Trumpet dresses are particularly flattering on those with hourglass and pear-shaped figures.
On a drop-waist dress, the waist falls below the natural waistline, around mid-hip. The fitted bodice elongates the top half of the body and is flattering on those who already have longer torsos. Drop-waist dresses also look great on women with smaller hips, as the skirt flares out from the widest point of the hip.
Basque dresses feature a fitted bodice that sits slightly below the natural waistline, with a v-shape in the front. Basque waistlines can help elongate a shorter torso and draw attention to the waist and are especially perfect for those wanting to show off a slender frame. The classic silhouette makes them an elegant choice for most body shapes, but you may want to steer clear if you're self-conscious about your stomach.
Asymmetrical dresses can add interest to an otherwise classic shape. Dresses with asymmetrical necklines, like one-shoulder designs, nicely balance modesty and seductive appeal and can emphasize broad shoulders. Asymmetrical hemlines, like handkerchief or high-low hems, bring an element of whimsy and spontaneity to a dress, perfect for those who are torn between a more traditional floor-length gown and a shorter style.
Short dresses — most often between knee-length and tea-length — are ideal for those looking for a more fun, informal dress. Their length makes them perfect for shorter brides, or for anyone looking for a more casual, laid-back look. Short dresses pair perfectly with less formal weddings, from beaches to backyard ceremonies to city hall. Accessories can really customize this look, and it's the perfect opportunity to show off an amazing pair of shoes.