Wedding Dress Words & What They Mean (With Pictures)

Posted on

wedding dress

Wedding Dress Words Defined


A glossary (complete with pictures) explaining the confusing terms used to describe dress styles, so you can search for the perfect one more easily and communicate what you want to your consultant!


If you're unfamiliar with the language of the fashion world, you're not alone - most women, even if they love the color pink and have dreamt of their wedding dress since they were five, don't know how to describe the dress they want beyond the basics. They might know they like the princessy, Cinderella look, or that they like long sleeves, but searching online with just those descriptors is going to be difficult, limiting, and frustrating. 


The more you know about how consultants, bridal stores, and designers describe and label their dresses, the greater the likelihood of you being able to see all of your options and find THE dress. 


Kadlee's here to help! Our specialty is bridal robes - you know, the realllly cute comfy floral/lacy ones that you wear with your bridesmaids before the dress goes on - but because we're wedding experts, we know all the words that you need to know in order to find your ideal gown. However, we also know that you don't need to know every single term for lace - you just need a little more than the very basics to get you by. 


What definitions do you really need to know when it comes to shape, neckline, fabric, sleeves, trains, and other gown elements?



To Describe the Shape...


A-Line - One of the most popular types! This dress has a fitted bodice (the upper half, the part around your torso, is tight) and flares out slightly as it descends and goes out from your waist. (It's called an A-Line because it somewhat resembles the letter A). Dress from Kleifeld Bridal. 

a-line wedding dress

Princess Line - an A-Line, but with vertical lines starting at the top of the dress and ending at the bottom of the torso to give the dress a regal look. Dress from Stella York

princess line wedding dress

Ballgown - Similar to an A-Line, with one key difference - volume. Ballgowns also have a fitted bodice but the skirt is extremely full immediately or close to your waistline. Think Cinderella. Dress from Courtier. 

ballgown wedding dress
Empire - The skirt starts right below your bust (it's a high waistline), and gradually flares out as it descends. This is also a popular style, although the name is less well-known. Dress from David's Bridal

empire wedding dress

Column - Similar to the Empire except the skirt falls straight to the floor - it doesn't hug your body but it doesn't flare out at all. Dress from Dorris Wedding.

column wedding dress
Mermaid - No doubt you're familiar with this one, but it is form fitting all the way down to or just below your knees, where it dramatically flares out. Dress from Kleinfeld Bridal. 

mermaid wedding dress
Sheath - Hugs you all the way from top to bottom. Dress by Kleinfeld Bridal.

sheath wedding dress
Trumpet/ Fit-and-Flare- An ironic name, as it's basically a mermaid except more subtle...the bottom begins to flare out higher, about mid thigh, and descends closer to your body. Dress from David's Bridal

trumpet wedding dress
Redingnote - The dress appears to "open up" in the front to reveal another material or flare shape. Dress from Catherine's Bridal Boutique. 

     redingnote wedding dress


    To Describe the Neckline...

    Sweetheart - Probably the most used and most sought after style, it's where round fabric over each breast meets at a V-neck point in the middle (like a heart!) Dress from Essence of Australia

    sweetheart neckline
    Halter - The top extends high up towards your neck and ties around the back (which may be open). Dress from Morilee

    halter top wedding dress
    V-neck - Pretty self explanatory, but the neckline takes a deep (or shallow) dive in the center of your chest, to show off your cleavage. Dress by Kleinfeld Bridal.

    v neck wedding dress
    Strapless - No straps - can be a sweetheart, as well! Dress by Romantic Gowns

    strapless wedding dress
    Off-the-shoulder - Like a sleeveless dress, except there's fabric on your upper arms. Dress from JJsHouse.

    off the shoulder wedding dress
    Bateau - Like if a halter top was attached to your shoulders - it goes straight along your collarbone (Megan Markle-ish). Photo by WeddingMania

    bateau wedding dress
    Scoop - Similar to a V-neck except more rounded, not as sharp. Photo by WeddingMania. 

    scoop wedding dress
    Portrait - It's an off-the-shoulder, but with more/thicker fabric. Dress from The Cotswold Frock Shop

    portrait neckline wedding dress

    Queen Anne - Think Kate Middleton's neckline - the fabric extends up o the neck on both sides, framed by sleeves, and offers a thin V-neck that doesn't descend very far, or a wider opening on the chest that is still shallow. Dress from DHGate.

    queen anne wedding dress style 
    Jewel - Like a halter top, but rounded at the collarbone. Dress from AllureBridals

    jewel wedding dress style



      To Describe the Fabric...

      Satin - Very traditional's heavy, shiny, and formal.  

      silk wedding dress
      Taffeta - Like satin but lighter and crisper. It ruffles more. 


      Chiffon - That near transparent material, extremely light.  

      chiffon wedding dress
      Georgette - Chiffon, but opaque, not transparent. 

      Mikado - Thicker than satin with a slight luster - it will hold its shape. 

      Mesh - Think stretchy - very thin and soft. 

      Charmeuse- Just as shiny as satin, but extremely thin.  

      Tulle - Similar to chiffon except stiffer - it provides more shape when layered.

      Organza - Like tulle, but not as stiff when between chiffon and tulle.

      organza wedding dress
      Lace - You know what lace is. Except there are a million kinds.

      Brocade - Think 1300s French royalty - it's heavy, woven, sculpted, and kind of like those expensive curtains. 

      white brocade fabric



      To Describe the Sleeves...

      Cap - The chest is bare, but the sleeves are held by a thin bit of fabric and cover the tops of your shoulder only. Dress from StellaYork

      cap sleeves wedding dress
      Spaghetti strap - You know, the really thin ones. Dress on StoreEnvy

      spaghetti strap wedding dress
      Three-quarter length - Extends to your mid-forearm. Dress by David's Bridal

      three quarter length wedding dress sleeves
      Flutter - The fabric folds softly over the upper arms, a light and airy feel. Dress from Victoria's Queen 

      flutter wedding dress sleeves
      Bell - These sleeve types flare out or drape after they hit the elbow. Dress from DressWe

      bell sleeves wedding dress
      Illusion - Sleeves, but not the obvious kind - a transparent, shimmery style that can be paired with lace to create a sleeveless-ish look. Dress by Simple Dress

      illusion sleeve wedding dress
      Bishop/Juliet - Sleeves are full, or poofed, or just full at the top, and then cinch again on your wrist. Dress by David's Bridal

      bishop sleeves wedding dress
      Dolman - Big, "baggy" sleeves that end around your elbows. Dress by Christian Siriano on OnceWed. 

      dolman sleeve wedding dress




      To Describe the Train...

      Sweep - Less than a foot long, low to the floor. Dress from Simple Dress. 

      sweep train wedding dress
      Court - Extremely similar to the sweep but instead of starting low, it descends from the waistline. Dress from JJsHouse.

      court train wedding dress 
      Watteau - Attaches to the top of the dress (upper shoulders, mid/lower back), and can extend any length. Dress from Madame Bridal. 

      watteau train wedding dress
      Chapel - About three feet in length, it descends from your waistline and adds more volume than court styles. Dress from Colomelody

      chapel wedding dress train
      Cathedral - Ultra formal, it ranges from 6-8 feet and stays low to the floor. Dress from David's Bridal. 

         cathedral train wedding dress

        To Describe other details...

        Ruching - Large areas gathered in, kind of layered or rippled. Dress from David's Bridal.

        ruching wedding dress
        Pleating - Usually associated with the neckline, this is fabric scrunched up tightly to create lines. Dress from BlessingsBridal

        pleated wedding dress
        Crinoline - layers of fabric (typically tulle) that go underneath your dress to fluff it up more - can be attached or come separately. From SimplyDeliciousFashion





        Look at you. Now you're fluent in dress-speak. Go tackle that consultation. (And read our other tips for shopping for your dress before you go!)


        Got questions? Are there any other terms you're confused about? Let us know in the comments! Do you know what to wear before you put on the dress? Contact us or shop our bridal products at! 


        Leave a comment

        All blog comments are checked prior to publishing

        Hello You!

        Join our mailing list