Wedding Dress Styles & Silhouettes
Marrying your love surrounded by family and friends while wearing the dress of your dreams should be all wedding bells and bouquets. But sometimes finding a gown that lives up to the vision in your head—one you may have had since you were young—isn't a total cakewalk.
"There are different silhouettes that technically flatter different body types," says Nordstrom Wedding Suite stylist Meg McKinney. "But I think in all types of dressing—bridal or not—you should wear what you feel comfortable in," she adds. "It doesn't matter if it's not the so-called 'silhouette for your body type'—if you feel confident in it, then that's the dress for you. I don't believe in any of those 'rules.'"
Below, McKinney explains the five most popular wedding dress styles you can explore to find the one.
"I get a lot of brides that come in looking for mermaid," says McKinney. The most sought-after wedding dress silhouette is fitted through the bodice, hips and knee before flaring out at the bottom.
When it comes to mermaid dresses, there is a common misconception McKinney wanted to address: "There's a difference between mermaid and trumpet," she clarifies. "Mermaid is really, really tight and fitted down to around your mid-calf and then flares out, while the trumpet is fitted through mid-thigh and flares out, but these are both great for every body type. I feel like if you're really curvy, it looks so good on an hourglass shape. And if you don't necessarily have curves, it doesn't swallow you, either—it just shows you off."
You can't go wrong with an A-line silhouette—it's one of the most classic wedding looks. This dress type is similar in shape to a capital letter A in that it's more fitted through the top and gradually flares out from the waist.
"A-line is known to be a universally flattering style—it works on everybody and looks good on every single body type," McKinney says. "Anyone who doesn't really know what they're looking for should start with A-line," McKinney advises. "Plus, it tends to be more comfortable and you can walk more easily. That's something I hear a lot with mermaid and trumpet, that you can't really move your legs as much; you can dance easier in an A-line."
Characterized by a full skirt, the ballgown is a statement princess-like shape that many brides gravitate to for their fairy tale day.
"Ballgowns are fitted at the bodice and then at your waist they flare out—sometimes it's the natural waist and sometimes it's a little bit higher," McKinney explains. "These styles are perfect for anybody who maybe wants to hide a little bit of the hip part, or if you think you'll be uncomfortable eating and drinking all night in a super-fitted dress—which I hear a lot. A ballgown is such a great option because you can't see anything past your waist. If you're on the shorter side, though, ballgowns can sometimes be a little bit drowning because the dress is way bigger than you."
The sheath dress is another classic, fitting somewhat close to the body but not flaring at any point. "This style is kind of similar on top to the trumpet but it's not quite as fitted—you don't feel as sucked in," McKinney explains. "But starting at about the hips it drapes rather than hugging your legs at all. If you want something you can move around in, I think the sheath is a good option that's kind of fitted but not super tight. It's flattering on petite girls who aren't super curvy because it doesn't fully show everything, it just kind of drapes. And it's great on anyone with any curve at all, because I hear a lot that if you have a booty or bigger thighs, it's hard to walk in those trumpet gowns, so it's definitely a more comfortable option."
A backless dress is the perfect choice when you want to show a little skin, but not too much. "These are very popular all of a sudden—I get a lot of requests for open back," says McKinney. "I always say they're 'wedding-appropriate sexy,' especially for brides who are more modest or may be doing any kind of religious ceremony and don't want to show cleavage or shoulder, it's a way to show skin without being too out there." These dresses come in many variations, from halter to high-neck to long-sleeved.
No matter which style you go with, McKinney says that the most important factor is that you love the dress. "You should wear what you're confident in," she concludes. "Every bride I get who is trying on wedding dresses for the first time is very nervous that nothing is going to look good on them," she says. "But there are always going to be dresses that look good on you." Her final piece of advice? "Stop looking after you pick your dress!"