Written by Agnes Los Last updated: January 16, 2013
Choice of shape strongly influences the overall style and look of the bridal gown. Some skirt shapes such as the ball gown have a classical feel whilst shapes such as the column have a modern sexier appeal. Your decision on what skirt shape to have should not only depend on what you like or what the latest fashion is, but what looks good on you.
The following illustrations are a guideline to some of the main bridal gown skirt shapes and the body shapes they best suit – and don’t suit so well. You may decide to reject all these styles and go for something totally off the wall. Remember it’s not just about the dress – you also have your personality, an aura, vitality, your face, hair… a whole package to work with.
As the name suggests, A-line dresses are typically A-shaped, with vertical seams running from the waist or shoulders to the bottom of the skirt. The degree of flare in the skirt can vary from slight to extreme and the bodice is often fitted. This style suits most people, and is the most popular choice for wedding dresses.
Above, clockwise from top left: 8664 by Justin Alexander | Alfred Angelo from Fall 2013 collection | Primrose by Christos | Annabelle by Charlotte Balbier
Column / Straight Skirt
The column design is for brides who want a modern, chic look. The slim profile closely follows the body’s curves and looks flattering on tall, slim or petite brides. Due to the straight design, there isn’t much room to hide any problem areas, however this is a classic and timeless style, and could work for many body types – try one on and ask the staff at the bridal shop for an honest opinion.
Above, clockwise from top left: Brielle by Kenneth Pool | Elodie by Charlotte Balbier | Douglas Hannant from Spring 2013 collection | Julia by Badgley Mischka
Similar to the column, but even more figure-hugging, the mermaid style flares out at the bottom. This type of skirt is quite often bias cut (ie cut on the diagonal) and suits the bride who wants to accentuate her curvaceous hourglass figure. This style does not suit: shapes without waistline, ones that carry a lot of weight in the mid-section, big busts, and short brides.
Above, clockwise from top left: Bianca Neve by Rivini | 8923 by Allure | 5827 by Liancarlo | 1912 by Mori Lee
Appearing like a column or mermaid style from the front, the fishtail has an extra panel of fabric sewn into the back of the skirt which fans out like its namesake. Suits the same body types as mermaid.
Above, clockwise from top left: Pyper by Maggie Sottero | Olivia by Elizabeth Fillmore | Lexie by Maggie Sottero | Dietrich by Pronovias
Ballgown / Full Skirt
This is the ultimate “Cinderella shall go to the ball!” dress. Ballgowns are the most traditional style of skirt for the bride who is after a classic elegant look. The skirt’s appearance can vary depending on the fabric used and range from structured and heavy looking to soft and light. This style of skirt is often combined with a fitted bodice and natural or dropped waistline, suiting a wide range of figures, especially those with curves. These dresses are usually worn with a hooped underskirt, which may have to be bought separately, to keep the skirts out and full. This style suits most brides, however it may make short brides look even shorter due to the width of the skirt.
Above, clockwise from top left: 8907 by Allure | 1917 by Mori Lee | 8918 by Allure | 1924 by Mori Lee
The empire line dress is for brides who don’t want a figure-hugging gown. The skirt starts just below the bust and is not as full as the ball gown, and may have a straight or an A-line shape. This style of dress suits a small-busted figures, slim and full alike, but can also be a good choice for pregnant brides, as the lack of waist means there’s no constriction. The flowing skirt hides many figure flaws in the waist, hip, and thigh area. Large-busted figures can wear this look as well, as long as there is enough fabric to fit and flatter the bust area properly.
Above, clockwise from top left: Uro by Pronovias | Douglas Hannant 2013 collection | Narelle by Elizabeth Fillmore | Muscari by Jenny Packham
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