Your Ultimate Guide to Wedding Dress Silhouettes

From A-Line gowns to simple sheaths, here's everything you need to know about dress silhouettes before you go wedding dress shopping.
by The Knot
Wedding dress silhouette guide
photo by Trevor Dixon

We understand: Shopping for a wedding dress can be an overwhelming experience—there are lots of gorgeous options, and you want to make sure you choose the right one. One way to limit the endless stream of choices is by narrowing down the dress silhouette. Choosing the right dress silhouette can help you emphasize your best body features or deemphasize any problem areas. Read on for our comprehensive guide to every dress silhouette you’ll see on your hunt for your dream wedding dress.   

A-Line

A-line wedding dress
photo by Trevor Dixon

Dress by Jenny Yoo

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As its name implies, the A-line cut is narrow at the top, close to the rib cage, and extends out along the body in the shape of an A in a smooth, elongated line. This style is the most universally flattering, so it's no wonder it's one of the most popular choices. There's also a modified A-line, which is a mix between a mermaid silhouette and a traditional A-line. This shape is roomier in the hips than a classic mermaid, but still flared at the bottom, which gives the gown movement as you walk. You may want to consider this flattering fit if you're looking for more shape than a simple A-line and more comfort and mobility than a mermaid style.

Ball Gown

ball gown wedding dress
photo by Trevor Dixon

Dress by Demetrios

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This feminine style, known by its trademark full skirt, fitted bodice and natural waist, looks particularly good on boyish figures because it gives the illusion of enhanced curves. It's also great for pear shapes, since the fitted bodice defines your waist while the billowy tiers skim over your hips. Tall brides will appear statuesque in voluminous silhouettes, and busty brides will love this shape too, since it creates balanced proportion.

Empire Waist

empire waist wedding dress
photo by Trevor Dixon

Dress by Jenny Yoo

This high-waist style hits just below the bustline, de-emphasizing the waistline and hips while making you look longer and leaner—the perfect solution for women looking to play down their middle. This style is less flattering if you have a large chest or full hips because it will overemphasize those features.

Mermaid

mermaid wedding dress
photo by Trevor Dixon

Dress by Tulle New York

For a dress that contours to the body this slim, tapered, curve-hugging style follows the line of your hips and thighs and then flares out below the knee. With a cut that hugs so closely to the hips, this silhouette works best for brides looking to show off their curvy figures.

Trumpet

trumpet wedding dress
photo by Trevor Dixon

Dress by Maggie Sottero

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Often confused with a mermaid silhouette, a trumpet silhouette has a straight-lined bodice (unlike the body-hugging one of a mermaid silhouette) that subtly flares toward the hem, creating a semi-full skirt (shaped like the bell of a trumpet) starting at the knee. It's another popular option for flaunting your curves, but it's slightly easier to move around in.

Sheath

sheath wedding dress
photo by Trevor Dixon

Dress by BHLDN

Simple and sophisticated, this style looks best on petite or slender brides who benefit from its elongated lines and formfitting cut, which gently hugs the body from head to toe. Its slim silhouette lengthens the body, giving the illusion of height, which won't overwhelm a smaller frame the way a full ball gown could.

Dropped Waist

dropped waist wedding dress
photo by Trevor Dixon

Dress by BCBG

This silhouette flares out slightly below the waistline around your hip area. A dropped-waist wedding dress is perfect for brides who want to flaunt their trim middles and shape, since it hugs your waist and hips. Think twice about this silhouette if you have a boxy figure—it might make you look like you have fewer curves. For petite brides who opt for this style, avoid dropped-waist gowns with a more voluminous skirt, which could swallow up a smaller frame.


Browse a variety of wedding dress silhouettes and designers here!

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