Which Wedding Dress Suits Your Body Shape?

Wedding dress shopping is, for most brides, one of the most exciting parts of the entire wedding planning process. However, with hundreds of different designs to choose from, and so much confusing wedding dress terminology, it can be difficult to know where to begin.

The best way to get an idea of whether a dress will suit you is to try it on. But the guide below will give you a good idea of where to start. We’ll be describing the 8 most common wedding dress silhouettes, and discussing which body shapes they suit best.

Ballgown Wedding Dress

Everyone knows a ballgown wedding dress when they see one. Ballgowns are the glamorous, ‘Cinderella’-style wedding dresses that you may have seen in your favourite fairytale movie. They are the perfect example of ‘go big or go home’.

A ballgown wedding dress features a fitted bodice and a huge, full, floor-length skirt which flares out at the waist. Ballgowns are best worn with petticoats underneath, to really accentuate the dramatic shape. You’ll definitely make an impression on your big day if you wear a ballgown!

Which body shape does it suit? Ballgowns look best on taller brides, especially those with big busts and/or broad shoulders, as the large skirt balances the physique. They don’t suit short and petite frames as the excessive amount of fabric can be overwhelming.

A-Line Wedding Dress

The A-line wedding dress is like the cousin of the ballgown. It has the same basic shape – fitted bodice, with a skirt that flares out at the waist – however, the skirt isn’t as full. It’s more smooth and understated than dramatic and ‘pouffy’.

As its name suggests, an A-line wedding dress has a silhouette shaped like the letter A. This shape minimizes the waist and conceals the hips, making all brides look elegant and gorgeous. A-line wedding dresses can be any length, from mini to floor length.

Which body shape does it suit? A-line wedding dresses look great on practically all body types – big or small, tall or short. If you’re not sure where to start your search, an A-line dress is a failsafe starting point.

Tea-Length (Short) Wedding Dress

Whereas floor length wedding dresses are traditional, tea-length dresses are becoming more and more popular as weddings move from strictly formal to more casual affairs. Tea length dresses have a shorter hemline than most, which typically falls just below the knee (or mid-calf).

Short wedding dresses are usually tight at the waist, with a wide skirt – like an A-line, but shorter. However, you can also get fitted and body-con short wedding dresses. They’re perfect for the bride who wants to show off her shoes, or is getting married in a hot country and wants less material.

Which body shape does it suit? Tea-length wedding dresses look best on petite brides. They won’t ‘swallow’ the shorter physique, which is a risk that comes with floor-length gowns.

Mermaid Wedding Dress

Mermaid wedding dresses are fitted and snug from the neck down to the knees. But at the knees, they flare dramatically outwards creating a ‘fishtail’ effect – hence why they’re called mermaid dresses. They can really accentuate the hips and bust.

A mermaid wedding dress usually has plenty of embellishments and embroidery on the top half, whereas the fishtail skirt is made of a dramatic, pouffy tulle. Sometimes, the skirt is multi-layered and ruffled. Mermaid dresses usually have sweetheart necklines and are either strapless, or have thin spaghetti straps.

Which body shape does it suit? Not every bride can pull off the mermaid look. They best suit hourglass body shapes, as the fitted bodice shows off a defined waist while also highlighting the curve of the hips.

Empire Wedding Dress

Empire wedding dresses are similar to A-lines in shape. However, rather than being fitted at the body’s natural waist, they are fitted higher up – just underneath the bust. The floaty, casual feel of the skirt particularly suits beachy or rustic weddings.

Empire dresses are typically found in soft, flowy materials such as chiffon. Because they are comfortable and loose over the stomach, the empire silhouette is particularly popular among maternity wedding dresses.

Which body shape does it suit? Empire dresses can look great on apple shapes, and ladies who are self-conscious about their stomach. They also work well on shorter women and women with long torsos, as they create the illusion of longer legs.

Column (Sheath) Wedding Dress

The clue of the column wedding dress silhouette is in the name. Column wedding dresses are slim-cut and slender – they aren’t particularly fitted anywhere on the body, but rather the fabric drapes loosely from the neck down.

Column wedding dresses aren’t made of stretchy fabric and don’t work well on ladies with larger busts, stomachs or waists. They’re typically floor-length and either have a boat neckline or v-neck with minimal, if any, embellishments.

Which body shape does it suit? Sheath and column dresses really only work on slim, athletic (straight-up-and-down) figures. They’re the most difficult wedding gowns to wear, but they can look stunning on the right bride.

Basque Wedding Dress

Basque wedding dresses are otherwise known as ‘corset waist’ wedding dresses. They’re inspired by French couture, and can look extremely elegant. They feature a fitted (and often highly embellished) corset, with either a laced back or a hook-and-eye back.

The ‘waist’ of the basque wedding dress actually falls a little lower than the body’s natural waist. The front of the waist dips down in the middle to form a ‘v’ shape, and the skirt then flares out like an A-line dress.

Which body shape does it suit? Basque dresses suit pear shaped brides, as they draw the eye to the middle of the body, and completely conceal the hips. They’re also a great choice for brides with short torsos, as the dropped waist elongates the top half of the body.

Trumpet (Fit and Flare) Wedding Dress

Trumpet wedding dresses are very similar to mermaid dresses. In fact, they’re so alike that some people have trouble telling the difference between them. The key is to pay attention to where the ‘flare’ part of the dress begins.

Mermaid dresses, as we’ve discussed, flare out at the knee creating a fishtail effect. Trumpet wedding dresses have a more gradual flare, which starts mid-thigh. Both styles of dresses hug the hips, but trumpets look a little less dramatic than mermaids. Trumpet wedding dresses are typically floor-length, and they may or may not have a train.

Which body shape does it suit? Trumpet wedding dresses suit brides with wider shoulders, as the flare draws the eye downwards. They look amazing on hourglass figures, too.

Wedding Dress Necklines, Sleeves and Embellishments

It’s not only the silhouette of the dress that you have to consider. All the other aspects of the dress can affect how it looks on your body shape. For example:

● The neckline. Dresses with a wide v-neck can look good on women with wider shoulders. Higher necklines look best on slim figures, whereas sweetheart necklines can accentuate a fuller bust. Asymmetrical necklines are great for flatter chests.
● The sleeves. Long sleeves can help to balance out the top half if you have wider hips. However, steer clear of them if you’re apple-shaped, as they’ll draw attention to your upper body.
● Embellishments such as lace, embroidery and sequins. ‘Busy’ dresses work well on taller frames, but can overwhelm a petite figure. The eye will be drawn to wherever the embellishments are, so use this to highlight your best features.

All of the above elements combine with the shape of the dress to give an overall look which will suit some shapes, but not others. Until you’ve experimented with different styles, it’s difficult to tell what will look good on you and what won’t.

This is why it’s so important not to buy a wedding dress without trying it on first. Online shopping can be extremely useful while wedding-planning, but don’t be tempted to order a dress online if you can’t return it easily. Use our above guide as a reference for what gowns to try on, but don’t commit to anything until you’re sure it suits you.