Simple wedding gowns: Learn the terminology and pick the perfect gown
The dress types and styles available for brides, focusing on the cut, fabric, color and length of gowns.
You’re getting married. With the word “yes”, you mind began reeling. The first thing on the agenda is finding the dress of your dreams. This will be the dress that you’ll have preserved in photos for generations to come. So, where do you start? Surely, you’ve imagined this moment. Every little girl dreams of this day. However, you may have realized that the dream you envisioned is different as an adult. Do you still want to look like Cinderella? Can you look like her if this is an informal affair? Where do you start? Here is the guide to cut your shopping time and score the perfect gown…
Dresses come in a variety of styles. The basics involve only 4 things, though. If you focus on these 4 items, the perfect dress will be easy to find!
1. cut–the shape of the dress skirt and bust line
2. fabric–the material with which the dress is made
3. length–how long do you want it to be?
4. color–even white has shades!
First, select the cut that you most like. The cut of both the bust line and the skirt needs to be selected. The most common bust lines are: sweetheart, tube, v-shape, boat neck, halter, backless and spaghetti strap. If you’re wondering what these terms mean, have no fear. Sweetheart means that the neckline makes a shape similar to a heart. Imagine the heart with the top at the shoulders and the tip of the base of the heart between the breasts. (A great example of this is Julia Robert’s red dress in ‘Pretty Woman’.) Boat neck can also be an unfamiliar term. This means a neckline that skims the shoulders and is straight across the bust. (A good example of this would be styles of clothing referred to as “Jackie O”). It’s conservative but still very stylish.
Styles like sweetheart or halter will accentuate bust. Styles like boat neck or tube will work better for a conservative bride. Some necklines are available with long or short sleeves. Consider whether you’ll be comfortable in both the climate and the setting of your wedding when choosing the neckline.
Cut for the skirt of the dress comes in several styles as well. Common terms for these are: A-line, princess, mermaid, and straight. A-line is just what it sounds like. Imagine that your body has an “A” beginning at the waist, with the tip of the letter at your belly button. Princess is the Cinderella styled gown with lots of puff to the skirt. Mermaid is also just as it sounds. It is a form fitting gown that flows into a slight train at the bottom like a mermaid’s tail. If you’re interested in hiding your shape on the bottom at all, you’d prefer an A-line or princess shape. If you like to show off a curvy form, mermaid works well and allows you to avoid having a long train to bunch up while dancing.
Once you’ve decided on the overall possible shapes for your dress, you’ll want to decide if you’d like a lot of detail, or if you prefer something simpler. Dresses come in as many fabrics as any other clothing. You can choose everything from linen to velvet. The best way to determine this is by the shape of the skirt and the time of year of the event. If you’re having a winter ceremony, you can get heavy fabrics such as velvet or brocade for your dress. If you choose a princess skirt, the dress will most likely contain tulle or organza (this makes it stick out). Most dresses are silk or satin. Satin tends to be heavier, but is less expensive. Dresses can have as much or as little detail as you desire. Some brides like lots of lace on their dress. Others hate any detailing other than the fabric itself. Terms that you’ll encounter in dress detailing are: jewels, sequins, and beading. When you select the amount of detail on the dress, think about the clothing you wear day to day. You want to be your most confident and beautiful on your wedding day. So, pick the amount of detail on the fabric that feels comfortable to you.
Now that you know what shapes and fabric you most like, you’ll need to consider what length you’d like to find. Dresses come in just a few lengths. You can select a style that is to the floor, tea length (just above the ankle), ankle length, or short. Once again, this is about comfort. Some brides object to the idea of showing any leg at all in a church service. Think about the weather and the atmosphere!
Last, you have to select the color of your gown. There are many shades to choose from. Most designers use names like “candlelight” to describe gown colors. Basically, all dresses can be found in shades of white or shades of ivory. You should consider your skin type when choosing the dress shade. If you’re fair, some shades can wash your complexion out. Ivory also photographs well in dim lighting. Some nontraditional brides like the idea of a color like pink, yellow or even red for their gown. It’s important to remember that it is your day. If you don’t feel like the dresses that are out there are for you, special order a color or select a suit or pantsuit that feels right. Another possibility is a period style wedding that involves a costume type of gown. You can rent elaborate gowns in most costume stores. Although this is an unusual option, it is inexpensive and offers a variety of color choices.
Some final tips:
1. Decide which types of cut, length, fabric, and color you like before entering a store. This helps you stay true to what you like even under sales pressure.
2. Take Polaroid’s or a friend/family member with you and try on every type of style that you like. This will help you stay objective about what really works for your shape.
3. Stay true to your personal style. If this is the most formal you’ll ever be, you can be elegant without a lot of detail. You want to feel like yourself at your best. It will show in the pictures. If you’re always glamorous, this is the time to really go all out and turn heads.