Style & Trend
Our essential guide to wedding dress shapes
Are you look for a fabulous fishtail gown or a sassy short wedding dress? A beautiful ball gown or a sexy sheath? There are a wealth of different wedding dress shapes and finding the right one can be a minefield, right? Well, not at WED2B. Our expert Bridal Consultants know how to find the perfect silhouette, whatever your shape, size or style.
So the dress search is on, but where to start? Do you want a magical mermaid or a sassy shorty? A beautiful ballgown or a sexy sheath? There are a wealth of different wedding dress shapes and finding the right one can be a minefield, right? Well, not at wed2b. Our expert staff know how to find the perfect silhouette, whatever your shape, size or style.
Choosing your wedding dress is normally right at the top of the wedding planning list, and often more important than the venue, the date or almost anything else (apart from choosing your other half, of course!).
That’s because every bride wants to walk down the aisle wearing a dress that makes her look and feel amazing, while also showcasing her own unique sense of style. What’s more, it needs to fit with the look of the day, as well as being comfortable, supportive, easy to dance in and the most flattering thing she’s ever worn. It’s a big task!
Let’s figure it out…
The best place to start is by working out which wedding dress shapes will flatter your figure the most. So, have a think about which of the following sentences best describes you…
- Apple shape: Full bust and mid section with wide hips
- Pear shape: Smaller on top than on the bottom with hips that are wider than your shoulders
- Rectangle: A ballerina’s figure, straight up and down with an undefined waistline
- Hourglass: A balanced top and bottom half with a well-defined waistline
Once you’ve worked out which one sounds most like you, you can use it to pick the most flattering wedding dress shapes. For example, apples shapes look great in an A-line style that adds definition to the waist and flatters the lower body. Alternatively, strapless dresses are great for adding balance to pear shapes, while rectangle figures can rock a sexy sheath or use a ballgown to create the illusion of curves.
It’s important to remember though that your body type isn’t the only thing that should influence your decision. And, don’t forget, style guides are just that - a guide. Your dream dress should make you feel confident, happy and absolutely amazing. So, there really is only one hard and fast rule - if you love it, wear it!
The wed2b wedding dress shapes guide...
To help you start your search, we've put together your ultimate guide to the different wedding dress shapes, along with top tips on why they work, how to style them and so much more. So, let the wedding dress shopping begin…
A lines: The lowdown
If you’re not sure where to start with wedding dress shapes, then the universally flattering A-line is the one to try first. It’s a timeless bridal silhouette that never goes out of style. Fitted at the chest to highlight your natural waist, it flows out gradually into an ‘A’ shape, with plenty of freedom and movement at the hips. The balanced proportions work brilliantly to draw the eyes upwards. It also creates a beautiful nipped in waist, making it super flattering for all. What’s more, this shape can be found in both lightweight, floaty gowns and ones with more structure and volume.
A lines: How to wear
An A-line silhouette is the classic bridal look and probably the first one people picture when they think of a wedding dress. Therefore, it obviously lends itself to a very traditional wedding day. However, with a few modern twists this adaptable style can suit any type of celebration. Try it in sleek Mikado or with a sexy split for a modern do, with lace and beautiful long sleeves for princess-worthy perfection or in lightweight tulle for a softer boho feel. We told you it was versatile!
It also works well with lots of design features, from off-the-shoulder straps and sweetheart necklines to illusion or keyhole backs. This means an A-line shape is a great foundation for any number of looks. Add a sweetheart neckline or lots of sparkling embellishment and it's super romantic. Alternatively, go for a plunging V-neck and simple spaghetti straps for something more contemporary. Don't forget, the amount of embellishment and detailing will also have an affect on the price, too.
Meet the slim A-line...
And, if you like the look of an A-line style, then chances are you’ll also love a slim A-line. It comes with all the great qualities of its sister silhouette but fits a little closer to the body. The skirt is less flared, making this a gorgeous style for a boho wedding or a sunny ‘barefoot on the beach’ do. Slim A-lines are often composed of the lightest weight fabrics and have no petticoats. This is generally reflected in the bodice too, which may have minimal construction and a simple lace designs. As it has less material, a slim A-line can be a more budget friendly option and is definitely easier to travel with than larger styles!
Ballgowns: The lowdown
The ballgown, also known as a ‘princess gown’, is the classic fairytale silhouette. Featuring a full skirt and a structured bodice, the two combined are brilliant for emphasising your natural waistline. The difference between an A-line and a ballgown is the volume at the waist, as ballgowns have gathers or pleats whereas an A-line has a smooth waist with a simple seam. Ballgowns are dramatic and the largest of the bridal silhouettes, so it’s ideal for most body types (although it can sometimes overwhelm smaller frames).
Ballgowns: How to wear
The quintessential ballgown look is a strapless sweetheart design with plenty of intricate detailing and sparkle, perfect for princes brides. Plus, the more volume the better with this style, so try wearing it with a ballgown underskirt too. Ballgowns also look great with off-the-shoulder straps and a lace-up back, which suit the fairytale feel. For a more modern take on the silhouette, simply look for less detailing and fabrics such as Mikado for crisp, contemporary lines. Budget-wise, ballgown dresses can be a little more expensive due to the extra material and detailing. However, trust us, it’s worth every penny for the grand entrance you’ll make!
Sheaths: The lowdown
Sexy, elegant and effortless, sheath wedding dress shapes create an understated silhouette. This style is often made from light and flowing fabrics, such as crepe, chiffon or tulle. Some designs fit like a slip dress, closely tracing your body’s outline. Others drape a little straighter, like a column. Both are a good choice for petite brides or those wary of being overwhelmed by lots of fabric, as the long, straight lines have a lengthening effect.
Sheaths: How to wear
When it comes to the detailing, sheaths range from sleek and simple to heavily embellished with head-to-toe beading. This style looks particularly amazing with a statement lace train but, if you want a small train this is also the perfect choice. For the neckline, delicate spaghetti straps work well with the slim silhouette. However, off-the shoulder straps, plunging modern V-necks front and back or full-length lace sleeves are also gorgeous on a sheath. This is a look that can be quite contemporary or, with the addition soft lace, a bohemian bride’s dream. Sheath gowns are often lightweight and understated too, so are an excellent choice for an informal or beach celebration.
Fit and Flare: The lowdown
Super flattering, a fit and flare wedding dress hugs the body and flares off just below the hips, accentuating the waist. Don’t confuse it with a mermaid, which generally flares out a little lower at the knee. A fit and flare design can also be a touch easier to wear, as it’s less fitted around the thighs, but will still give you a feminine, curvaceous silhouette. It works well for petites too, as it won’t shorten your frame like larger dresses or mermaid gowns might.
Fit and Flare: How to wear
Often found with a floaty tulle skirt, this is a great choice for a classically romantic look. And if you love dancing, then this could be ‘The One’, as it’s very easy to move around in. Try it strapless with a lace-up back for a beautifully pretty feel or, for more detailing or support, look for delicate illusion straps or flattering cap sleeves.
Mermaids: The lowdown
Mermaid silhouettes (also known as fishtail wedding dresses) are the most glamorous of our wedding dress shapes. They're closely fitted to the knee or below, before flaring out dramatically to the floor. The clue’s in the name – the skirt has the same outline as a mermaid’s tail! Thanks to the dramatic cut, this style highlights a curvy figure or adds curves where there are none.
Mermaids: How to wear
A mermaid can be a high-fashion, sexy silhouette, so it’s perfect for brides who want real wow-factor. It also looks fabulous strapless and with a sweetheart neckline or draped off-the-shoulder straps. For maximum impact try a mermaid silhouette with a flouncy and fabulous waterfall skirt! If you choose this style it’s important to practice walking and sitting in your dress, as the tight fit can restrict movement a little, and invest in good seam-free underwear. Wearing it with the right underskirt will also help.
Short: The lowdown
Finally, short wedding dress shapes are a popular choice for modern brides and brides looking for a second evening dress. And by short, we mean everything from vintage style, tea-length dresses to fun and flirty minis. Tea lengths are normally fitted across the bust and waist before flowing out into a full voluminous skirt with a cropped hemline that falls between the ankle and the knee. Ideal for all body types, they accentuate the waistline and show off luscious legs. Alternatively, mini skirts generally feature a fitted skirt that falls above the knee and are a little more revealing. Great for a contemporary or micro wedding, a mini skirt wedding dress also makes a great second dress if you want to change it up for the evening do.
Short: How to wear
Shorter styles are an unconventional choice, which is why many brides love them. What’s more, you might even be able to wear it again, depending on the style you chose. The classic look is strapless or with thin straps but they also look delightful with full-length lace sleeves. You can accentuate the vintage feel of a tea-length dress with Art Deco style accessories, a short veil or a faux fur wrap. There are also modern tea-length options, in sleek fabrics with minimal detailing, that look amazing with a stylish pair of heels. When it comes to a simple mini, we love them with catwalk style, off-the-shoulder straps for the ultimate, relaxed ‘cool girl’ look.
The best styles for….
For pear shapes it depends whether you want to highlight your curves or disguise them. To show off beautiful hips, go for a mermaid or a fit and flare. Strapless is also great, as bare shoulders will give you a great shape and balance out the flared skirt. Alternatively, to draw attention away from your hips, try a flattering A-line or ballgown skirt to put the focus on your top half and give you a lovely waistline. We have even more information here.
Fuller busts / apple shapes
If you’re slim hipped with a fuller bust try a fit and flare, which will balance out your proportions. Also, look for styles with internal corsetry and/or a lace-up back that will make you feel comfortable and supported all day long. Wide illusion straps are a good choice for extra support, while sweetheart or V necklines will flatter your bust. We have even more information on apple body shapes and fuller busts.
A plunging neckline looks great with a smaller bust. However, if you’d like to enhance your bust, consider a lace-up bodice with a sweetheart neckline. Detailing on the bodice, such as ruffles or pleats, will also add shape and volume.
Plus size brides
The universally flattering A-line does it again, creating a beautiful waistline and balancing out the body. Although curvy brides should also consider a modern sheath with plenty of detailing or a fun tea length. A supportive bodice is also a good choice, especially one with a lace-up back that will give you the perfect fit. Read more on how to dress your curvaceous body.
A striking sheath will play up your natural height and suit your rectangle figure. Just add a glittering belt if you want to make more of your waistline. Alternatively, try a fit and flare style to create curves or an A-line with a split, to accentuate your height and long legs. Delicate embellishment in the right places can also give the appearance of more curves, plus you have the perfect shape for an elegant high neckline. We have even more information for tall brides here and for rectangle body shapes.
Often seen as a body shape that can wear anything, it’s still a great idea to accentuate your beautiful waist. A lace-up bodice with a sweetheart neckline will work beautifully with your curves, as will a dramatic mermaid silhouette. For a totally showstopping look try one with a daring plunging neckline! Click here to check out more about wedding dresses for hourglass figures.
The overall slimming affect of an A-line can make a petite bride look taller. A sheath style is also a great choice, as the elongated look creates the illusion of height and you also won’t be swamped by layers of material. Keep embellishment that might overwhelm your figure to a minimum and do consider a low scooped back, which will add length to your look. Halternecks are also a great look for petite brides, as they add length to the neckline. For more information on wedding dresses for a petite bride click here.
A slim A-line that will sit gently over your bump and give you room to grow is a great choice. Alternatively, a soft sheath with a stretchy jersey lining will hug your bump without clinging and also offer a bit of growing space. Alternatively, a high waisted A-line or ballgown style that sits over your tummy might work for you. Just avoid anything with boning that won't offer flexibility as your shape changes. Click here to find our more on maternity wedding dresses.
And, we’re done!
We hope our guide to wedding dress shapes has given you an idea of where to start your wedding dress shopping experience. And, it should be just that, the perfect bridal experience. So, bring your friends and family with you and make a real day of it!
Plus, if you’re still not sure what will suit you, you don’t feel very body confident or you don’t think you fit any of the body shapes we’ve talked about, don’t worry. Our friendly bridal experts (both online and instore) are brilliant at helping even the most unsure or nervous bride. Read some of our reviews and real bride stories if you don’t believe us. We promise you’ll leave your appointment feeling confident, happy and hopefully clutching the dress of your dreams!
Click here to check out all our wedding dress shapes, then try on your favourites at your nearest WED2B store. Here’s what to expect when you visit, too. Lastly, for more inspiration, check out our Instagram, Facebook and TikTok accounts or read some of our brilliant real bride stories here.
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