Style Glossary: Classic Wedding Dress Silhouettes

Best friend’s wedding coming down the aisle? That probably means wedding dress shopping is in store! Helping your friend pick out her dress will be quite the undertaking, so it won’t hurt to have a little fashion knowledge on hand to help your BFF make an educated decision. So, we’ve invited a few classic wedding dress silhouettes to attend this affair of a blog post, and to bring their descriptions along as dates!

Princess – quite similar to the A-line, this silhouette is fitted at top and follows clean lines as it flares out through the skirt

Empire – a popular silhouette in the first quarter of the 1800s, this cut features a waistline just below the bust and a skirt that flows down from there

Mermaid – this voluptuous silhouette follows the figure down to the knee before flaring out dramatically

Ball gown – made popular by Queen Victoria, who wore a ball gown silhouette for her 1840 wedding, this silhouette boasts a fitted bodice and voluminous skirt often made of tulle

Sheath/Column – this silhouette flows straight down from the neckline, thus gently hugging the form

Basque waist – the most definitive feature of this silhouette is a natural waistline that angles down into a V; it generally accompanies a flared skirt

Ballerina– inspired by classical ballet, this silhouette flows straight down from the neckline, and features a voluminous skirt that falls to the mid-calf

If you’re having trouble memorizing all those definitions, don’t fret! We’ve created a free, downloadable chart of these silhouettes, so you can print it out and bring it with you to the bridal boutique.

Do you have any dress shopping tips? Do share!


About Hannah

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  1. Avatar
    Jessica 05/24/2011 at 10:23 am #

    Ooh love! This was totally helpful!
    I’ve always been a fan of sheaths. Simple and classy!

    • Avatar
      headless 05/24/2011 at 3:45 pm #

      checked out your blog, fantastic.

  2. Avatar
    headless 05/24/2011 at 3:44 pm #

    i must say this was actually pretty informative and i now know more than i did 5 mins ago.

  3. Avatar
    Liz 05/24/2011 at 5:17 pm #

    For the shorties:
    Careful with the waistline. If you have short legs like me (I’m, 5′ tall), then a dress with a waistline that hits down at the hips (like the basque) instead of up at the the waist, may make your legs look even shorter.

  4. Avatar
    sparkles 05/24/2011 at 8:58 pm #

    i wish my bridesmaid dress was one of these… instead it looks like a column but with cling film wrapped around the waist to make us all look pregnant.
    i wish i’d known this 2 months ago – great information

  5. Avatar
    Sydney 05/24/2011 at 10:18 pm #

    Honestly, my advice is this: do your research. I looked online and found several dresses I liked so that I would have a starting point in the stores. Also, look online and find as many reviews as possible for local bridal salons. You do NOT want to end up dealing with one that has less than stellar customer service, believe me.

  6. Avatar
    Maria 05/27/2011 at 11:03 am #

    Where’s the image for the ballerina silhouette?

    Maria Elyse

  7. Avatar
    Kate O'Rourke 03/06/2012 at 7:15 am #

    Do you mind if we use your dress silhouette drawings for our school newspaper? We will credit your blog! Please get back to me ASAP!! We need your permission before we can use your images.

    • Avatar
      Hannah (ModCloth) 03/09/2012 at 1:11 pm #

      Hi, Kate!

      You have my/our wholehearted yes to use the images! The credit can go to localhost/modcloth. Glad to see these images will see new life, and thank you for checking!


      • Avatar
        kaitlyn0209 03/10/2012 at 6:41 am #

        Thank you so much! 🙂

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