After you’ve accepted a marriage proposal, choosing the dress is usually one of the first things on your mind. But when you enter the wonderful world of bridal design it’s not uncommon to be baffled by the terminology.
Never fear; our handy guide will tell you everything you need to know about the most popular wedding dress styles and necklines — and we’ve asked three fashion experts to help you decide if those styles are right for you.
With no straps attached to the neckline, a strapless dress sits snugly across the bust and under the arms, fastening securely at the back.
“Whatever your shape, there’s a strapless fit to flatter,” says Nick Ede, head judge on Catwalk 24 and style expert for OK! TV on FIVE. “It’s an elegant understated look for accentuating a long neck and providing ample opportunity to show off a statement necklace.”
This scalloped neckline forms a natural heart shape across the bust, exposing the central panel of the neck
“This is a pretty and romantic neckline, giving you a sweet and innocent look,” says TV fashion judge and bridal coach, Michele Paradise. “It also works with larger busts, showing a hint of cleavage instead of a bucketful. This is also a great neckline if you have an angular face as the curves and contours add softness and balance.”
Usually a high neck with deep armholes or two straps from the bodice that meet at the back of the neck.
Nick says halter neck dresses are an unusual choice as most modern brides opt for a strapless look: “Showing off the shoulders and upper arms, a halter neck can elongate a petite bride. It can also help to prevent the dreaded ‘underarm pouch’ that an ill-fitting strapless dress can create.”
Formed by two diagonal lines from the shoulder that meet on the chest, the plunging “v-shape” exposes the neck and décolleté.
Michele says this neckline is great if you want to minimise your bust: “But a small bust could look smaller,” she warns. “V-necks create the impression of height and are particularly good for apple shapes.”
This angular shape is created by three linear edges that do not join or cross over.
“Square necklines are ideal for brides who are well endowed — they cut low without being too revealing,” says Michele. “This neckline will downplay a round face and help to give the shoulders a broader look. When paired with opera-length gloves, the square neckline can be very formal and elegant.”
A dress that is narrow at the top, gradually getting wider towards the bottom to create an “A” shape.
“Pear shaped brides are extremely well suited to this style,” says Martin. “This shape skims over the hips, making the waist seem smaller and leading the eye to the bust. The upper part of the body becomes the focus so keep details neat, not over fussy. Petite brides can elongate the silhouette by trying different necklines rather than choosing a straight, strapless A-line dress.”
A traditional, full-length wedding dress with a fitted bodice and full skirt.
According to designer Martin Charles, owner of Martin Charles Bridal Gallery, a ball gown with a lace-up bodice and a full, pleated or gathered skirt will make your waist look tiny. Martin says this style suits all shapes: “You need to get the proportion between you and the dress right, along with the neckline and detailing. Fullness of the skirt depends on the design; styles can vary from a lightweight, tulle skirt to a chic 1950s taffeta gown. This dress is for the hidden princess in every girl.”
A slim-fitting dress with a straight narrow shape flowing from neckline to hem.
“This style is most suited to the willowy, tall bride,” Nick says. “Column dresses hug and emphasise the figure, so it’s great for showing off the bridal bod. You might want to invest in a good pair of Spanx to ensure a smooth outline underneath the dress — but definitely avoid this style if you’re conscious of your hips.”
A dress that follows the contour of the body before flaring out at the knee — often seen on the red carpet.
“You need curves to carry this show-stopper off,” says Martin. “The girl who wears this style should be totally comfortable with her body. In satin it’s a Hollywood dream, in lace the texture detracts from lumps and bumps. Height is also good with this silhouette, so choose some comfy heels.”
A high-waisted dress, gathered just under the bust, with a long, loose-fitting skirt.
“Empire line dresses are perfect for slim brides with a small bust, and for petite brides who want to appear taller,” says Michele. “This style is forgiving around the legs and hips and is also great for apple shaped brides, with a little extra weight in the middle, bringing attention upwards and smoothing-out the middle.”