How to Describe Your Dream Wedding Dress: A Glossary of Terms

Getting married is a huge milestone that a lot of women look forward to. Considering the importance of what the occasion represents, everything about it must be perfect, starting with the bride’s gown.

But how can you find the perfect dress for the occasion if you don’t know how to describe it?

Like a lot of things in life, bridal gowns are composed of several parts — each with their own names. When shopping for a wedding dress, you’ll encounter a completely new lexicon that only those well-versed in all things fashion and dresses understand.

In some cases, it can be quite challenging to choose the right words to tell your seamstress and your companions what you truly want your wedding dress to look like. Although you might be able to picture the dress in your mind, you still need to communicate your vision to your wedding planner or seamstress accurately, so they can work effectively in making your big day perfect.

To make it easier for you, this article will define all the pertinent wedding dress terminologies, including words used to describe the anatomy of a dress and the most popular choices for each component.

Dream Wedding Dress


“Silhouette” is the term used to describe the overall shape of a gown. It is the most basic element in assessing the style of the dress and sets the mood for a bride’s overall look.

Bridal dress come in many different silhouettes, and the most popular ones are listed below:

Ball Gown

Ball gown-style dresses feature a fitted bodice, which may sometimes incorporate a corset. This is matched to a full skirt that balloons from below waist down, a look often achieved using layers of tulle or a structured petticoat that hold the skirt out known as “crinolines.”

Considered the most classic of all silhouettes, ball gowns offer an instant Cinderella effect for a bride. As such, wedding dresses with a ball gown silhouette are considered the most regal, as real-life royalties like Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, and the famous Princess Diana wore this type of gown during their own weddings.


Sheath wedding dresses are considered the most comfortable silhouettes in a wedding gown because they skim the body and flow straight down below the hips. The sheath is perfect for brides who wish to be able to move around more freely.


An empire-silhouette dress is distinguishable by its high waistline that begins right below the bust. It is perfect for brides who wish to create an illusion of an elongated body. Empire gowns work best in minimizing pear-shaped figures and divert attention from a disproportionately small or large bust.


As the name implies, this silhouette creates an “A” shape that flares out from the waist, even more than what you would see on a sheath dress. However, it is not as wide and open as the ball gown, making it the halfway point between the two silhouette styles.

Trumpet a.k.a. Fit-and-Flare

The trumpet is aptly named for its flared-out form that opens up as you go down the knee. It has similarities to the mermaid silhouette (another form of fit-and-flare) and is perfect for brides who want to flaunt their curves.


The neckline frames the bride’s face and is the very first thing that people notice in a bridal gown. With the right neckline, the dress can show off an accessory or highlight the bride’s unique feature, be it a pair of strong shoulders, a graceful neck, or a daring décolletage.

Some of the neckline choices you will encounter in your search for your dream wedding gown are:


Halter necklines offer a breezy alternative to V-neck. It can have either a high neck paired with deep armholes or straps wrapped around the back of the neck.


Also known as crewneck, the jewel neckline is the original round-neck that offers a classic, clean view of jewelry such as necklaces and earrings.


Bateau elongates the neck by gently following the curves of the collarbone. It extends nearly to the shoulders’ tips and is cut straight across to show less of the décolletage area. It is quite flexible and can be matched with sleeveless or sleeved-style wedding gowns.


As the name implies, strapless necklines don’t involve any straps keeping the gown hanging on the wearer’s body. Instead, it is cut straight across the chest, flattering most figures. Still, full-busted brides might need some help from shapewear to pull this off.


The waistline describes the horizontal seam that connects the bodice to the skirt. Like the waistline and neckline, it helps add personality to the dress. It also defines the gown’s silhouette as it is the element responsible for shaping and balancing the gown.

Below are some of the popular waistlines you should know about:


Dropped waistlines complement the build of short-waisted brides. It is also perfect in achieving a 1920s look.


The basque is a V-shaped waistline sitting along the middle to the lower part of the torso that comes with a flared skirt.


Asymmetrical waistlines are characterized by diagonal hems that offer a slimming effect for the bride.


Although many wedding dresses don’t have sleeves, the addition of such an element proves to be useful, particularly in covering up the wearer’s skin. It has also been linked to the season and can help balance the skirt.

Aside from its length, sleeves also differ in form and fit, as described below:


Fitted sleeves are tight-fitting and narrow. It can cover the entire length of the wearer’s arms or three-quarters of it, resting just below the elbows.


Flutter sleeves offer an ethereal appeal to the dress, thanks to its soft and flowy appearance.


Used to cover the top of the shoulders, cap sleeves provide a broadening effect on wearers with narrow figures and create an illusion of longer arms.


Off-shoulder sleeves are used to balance wide hips while highlighting the décolletage and collarbone. It provides an ultra-flattering effect on women with medium or full busts, but it can also complement almost any figure.


A gown’s hemline describes the length of the skirt measured down to the hem. It is an element that has evolved with time, with lengths changing since the usual floor-length hem popular prior to World War I.

Traditionally, the length of the hem dictates the level of formality of the affair. The longer the dress, the more formal the wedding.

Following that premise, floor-length gowns are considered most formal. However, bridal dresses today can already range from mid-calf to ankle-length to mini dresses, which are more common among second-time or unconventional brides.

Some choices you have for the hemline include the mini, which usually falls above the knee; tea-length, which extends just above the ankle; and the high-low, which is an asymmetrical hem with a mid-calf-long front and a floor-length back.

Describe your wedding gown precisely

Words have a way of painting pretty pictures, but if you don’t use them correctly, the resulting image may not be as satisfying. Make sure that you describe your wedding gown precisely using the right words to help others know exactly what it looks like in your mind.


Kristie Romanos is the Regional Buyer and Operations Director at Esposa, a luxury bridal boutique offering every bride-to-be a one-stop-shop to find her perfect wedding look. Esposa Group includes Esposa Privé and Esposa boutiques in Lebanon and Dubai, offering a multi-brand selection showcasing the works of international designers. Kristie is also the designer behind EsposaCouture.


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