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Wedding dress style guide

Before I got married last year, I had no idea how complex the world of wedding dresses could be, and getting to know the names of different styles and fabrics required learning a whole new vocabulary!

Whilst some brides will instantly know their Empire from their A–Line, and their Taffeta from their Tulle, others (like me!) may need a few pointers. Hopefully the following guide will help whether you are looking to buy or sell your wedding dress.


  • A–Line – This style of dress is usually fitted at the bust and waist, before flaring out from the hips and down to the hem. Just like the shape of a capital "A".
  • Full Skirted/Princess Dress –This is a traditional "fairytale" style of dress, with a fitted bodice flowing into a very full skirt.
  • Column – This dress has a slim style, and follows the contours of the body closely without the flaring seen in the A line or the Full skirted dresses described above. The skirts are usually fairly slim, but not figure hugging.
  • Empire – This style has a high waistline, the skirt typically begins just under the bust and loosely falls to the floor, lightly skimming the body.
  • Mermaid/Fishtail – Although subtly different from each other, Mermaid and Fishtail dresses share the same figure hugging style, accentuating hourglass figures. Where the Mermaid simply flares out at the bottom, a Fishtail dress has an extra panel of fabric at the back, creating the "fishtail" shape
  • T-Length – These dresses have a hem which falls midway between the knee and the ankle – perfect for a vintage look.
  • Cocktail Length (Bridesmaid Dress) – This is a shorter style of dress, with the hemline falling just above the knee.


  • Sweetheart – This neckline dips in the centre to resemble the top of a heart.
  • Dipped – The middle of the neckline dips down, however this is much shallower than that of the sweetheart described above.
  • Strapless – There is no dipping in this neckline at all, just a classic strapless shape.
  • V–Neck – A neckline that dips down to create a "V" shape
  • Halterneck – The straps here wrap around the back of the neck, but the neckline shape itself can vary.
  • Bateau – A high necked style, with the fabric usually following the line of the collarbone.
  • One Shoulder – As the name suggests, this style features a strap just going over one shoulder, creating an asymmetrical look.
  • Round – This is a classic U shaped neckline
  • Square – A scooped neckline with squared edges


  • Satin – This is one of the most common fabric used for wedding dresses, it has a glossy appearance and can come in a variety of thicknesses.
  • Silk – A light flowing material, soft to the touch and perfect for simple gowns
  • Tulle – A type of fine mesh netting, commonly used in combination with other fabrics as an overlay.
  • Taffeta – A crisp, lightweight fabric with a slight shine and surface texture. It’s often used in flowing skirts to create a lot of volume without too much weight.
  • Lace – Think Kate Middleton’s dress! Lace is a lightweight fabric, patterned either by machine or by hand, with open holes to create intricate designs.
  • Chiffon/Georgette – A sheer, lightweight fabric with a matte finish, perfect for floaty dresses. Georgette has a crinkled finish, and is slightly heaver than Chiffon.
  • Crepe – A light, soft and thin silk fabric with a gauzy texture and a crinkled surface.
  • Organza – A light fabric with a very fine weave. Like Chiffon, it has a floaty effect, but without the same movement. Organza is also shinier giving a very subtle sparkle.