Picking the Perfect Wedding Dress

Once you’re engaged, the “Great Pinterest Hunt” begins for the perfect dress… but where to start? You end up liking parts of this dress and other parts of that dress, so you Pin them both. While you’re still having difficulty nailing down exactly what style and cut you like, your Pinterest board quickly begins to look like a hodgepodge of all the white dresses you can find. And when your Pinning frenzy ends, you still can’t make heads or tails of the results.

Well, take a break from all those Pins and read on to learn about dress silhouettes and necklines. Once you nail down the options available for neckline (top of the dress) and silhouette (bottom of the dress), you’ll be able to narrow down your internet searches and find the perfect dress.

It’s a lot of pressure to find “the one” dress that is supposed to make everyone cry of happiness, and TV shows like TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress” at Kleinfeld’s amp up the pressure. Sure, every now and then they have a bride leave the store empty-handed, but nearly every episode ends with the bride making a purchase. I’d like to begin by saying that leaving the store having picked your dress on day one is the stuff of fairytales. I did NOT find my dress at the first store I went into. I live in New York City, a fashion design and bridal mecca, and I visited four stores before I found the perfect dress. For my entire life, I envisioned I would wear a ballgown. Lo and behold, they looked awful on me! I was swallowed up by every single one that I tried on. It took four stores and pushing myself out of my mental comfort zone before I realized my body looked best in a fit and flare. It was at that moment I realized the best way to find your perfect dress is to understand your body type and style.

Silhouettes

A-Line

This silhouette name comes from the A-shape the dress provides on your body as it creates a fitted bodice, a cinch across your waist, and a fuller skirt. The A-Line is versatile, not quite as full as a ballgown but fuller than the other cuts, can be cut into most fabrics, and handles embellishments such as beading and embroidery with ease.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Ball Gown

I am sure everyone has heard of the ballgown dress cut by now. But if you are unsure, think back to Cinderella’s blue dress with a full skirt. This dreamy fairytale look will give any bride the princess vibe. Typically, the bodice of this dress is sleek, with a defined waist and a full skirt hiding the hips and belly. Those factors make the ballgown extremely flattering for many different body types.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Dropped Waist

As funny as it sounds, the dropped waist is to wedding dresses what the mullet is to haircuts: it’s a fitted top through right below the waistline, then a flare from just around the hip area. The dropped waist is for the bride that wants to show off their figure but also wants a full skirt. The best of both worlds (so maybe it’s not like a mullet then haha).

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Empire

The bodice of the empire ends right under the breasts, and the skirt begins to flow down from there, covering the waist and hips. Although this dress does not provide you with a very feminine waist-hugging shape, it is forgiving and provides you with a lean and tall shape.

Photo Credit: David’s Bridal

Fit and Flare / Trumpet

A sexy cut, but not as dramatic as the mermaid, the fit and flare hugs the body until the skirt begins to open up mid thigh. You achieve a little derrière attention, without it being the star of the show. As I mentioned above, this was the cut I chose because I was finally able to see my body.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Mermaid

Here comes the sexy siren! The form fitted bodice, waist, hips and bum lead to a puff of skirt from the knee down, imitating a mermaid’s tail. The mermaid is the most bootiliscious dress there is! If you are petite, consider that you won’t be able to hem the dress from the bottom; you may have to shorten before the mermaid tail, and that could potentially change the look of the dress if it was beaded or embellished.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Sheath

This cut is very form-fitted and hugs the body at its every curve, from bodice to a straight drape down from the knee. I see this style worn often for beach ceremonies. This dress is lighter weight and won’t be as affected by sand or wind. Sheath gowns are also excellent options for petite and slender brides who don’t want to be swallowed up in their dress.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Tea Length

A very 50’s inspired dress is the shortened tea length that ends the hemline mid-calf or at the ankles. This style may work for a daytime wedding, a themed wedding, or if your style is a little retro.

Photo Credit: David’s Bridal

Necklines

Bateau / Boat

This shape follows parallel to your shoulders, cutting slightly rounded but almost straight across, showing less of the décolletage (the upper chest where the collarbones appear). Due to the semi-straight high line, it is often seen as a modest cut.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Cowl

This cut has the most fabric because there is a draping layer that hangs over or above the bust.

Photo Credit: Nordstrom

Crew

Also known as the T-shirt neckline, due to its similarity to an actual crew T-shirt, the crew neckline is round and sits at the base of the throat.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Halter

A halter style wraps around the neck, leaving the shoulder and back bare. This style is practical for women with a larger bust, as it helps to hold in “the girls.”

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

High Neck

A modern high neck style narrows at the neck in the front and back of the dress leaving only the shoulders bare. Meghan Markle’s second wedding dress that she went to the party in was a high neck cut. Older or more traditional full coverage high necks will look more Victorian with a high neck fabric and full sleeves.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Illusion

A sheer fabric with embellishments on top creates an illusion of bare skin with floating designs. This style is very chic. Illusion necklines can be seen in the front as well as the back of the dress and can be sleeveless or have long sleeves. You can also find a sheer illusion top with no design, which creates a classy look and provides support without the heaviness of a full fabric top.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Keyhole

A pear or marquis shape cut into any neckline creates a keyhole effect neckline.

Photo Credit: David’s Bridal

Jewel

The jewel neckline is similar to the crew, except the round scoop sits below the collar bones.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Off-the-Shoulder

Like the name, this neckline sits just below the shoulders to showcase the décolletage. Sleeves typically drape over the upper arm. Off-the-shoulder necklines make for stunning bridal portraits and are flattering on nearly all body types.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

One Shoulder / Asymmetric

A one shoulder can range from a strap on top of your collarbone to a strap draping on the arm like the off-the-shoulder style. The asymmetric style is a little edgy and modern.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Plunging

The deepest of the V-shaped necklines is the plunge. Get your sticky tape ready, my friends, because there are few undergarments that can work with this cut! No matter the size of your “girls,” you will most likely be taping the front in place to have piece of mind. That being said, it is very sexy.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Queen Anne

The Queen Anne is a sweetheart with straight lines up and around the neck and usually has some degree of sleeve. If you think of the pointed bottom of a tie, that is the shape the neckline creates on this cut.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Scoop

The scoop, a U-shaped neckline, is a universally flattering classic. It can be cut low, and quite often the scoop will continue on the back of the dress. This is the most extreme and deep cut of the rounded necklines (crew, jewel, and scoop).

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Spaghetti Strap

A delicate strap that provides function to assist in holding up your dress can also be decorative. When I was looking for my own dress, I noticed several designers that bedazzled the spaghetti straps to look like a chain of crystals.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Split / Notched

A split or notched neckline is a V-cut away from a rounded or straight neckline.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Strapless / Straight

A strapless or straight neckline is one of the most popular styles, especially for brides with a larger bust. The straight-across square bodice gives you the strapless look with more support and coverage than deeper V-cuts such as sweetheart.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Surplice

Surplice neckline is in the V-cut family but can be commonly found in wrap dresses where one layer of fabric crosses over the other at the front bust area.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Sweetheart

The sweetheart—which is actually shaped like the top half of a heart—is a great option for brides with a fuller bust, because it accentuates the décolletage (like an off-the-shoulder neckline). The sweetheart is often designed with an overlay of sheer material that rises higher than the heart shape, making the neck and torso look longer.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Square

A square neckline is straight across the chest with some degree of sleeve (cap, mid, or long), and the upper shape turns into a square.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

Turtle

Dresses can have turtlenecks too; they aren’t just reserved for sweaters. This is a very Victorian vibe with a modest and classy covered-up look.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal

V-Neck

You guessed it—this neckline dips down in the front into the shape of a “V.” It draws the eye downward creating the illusion of length and is very flattering on petite and narrow frames but also on a larger bust when fitted properly.

Photo Credit: Kleinfeld’s Bridal


After reading about all the different silhouette and neckline options, you should have a better understanding of the elements that make up a wedding dress and what parts of those pinned dresses you fancy. In case you wanted to take it a bit farther, David’s Bridal has a wedding dress quiz that you can take to help further narrow down the dress options.

Happy shopping, Brides!

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