The wedding dress has been a symbol of joy, love and celebration over the years. While it is one of your most treasured pieces of clothing, it can also be one of most difficult. You may not be familiar with the various parts of a wedding gown. This is why we are here. Knowing the anatomy of your wedding gown is important for many reasons. These terms are useful for wedding dress shopping. It is also helpful to be familiar with the lingo before you go to your alterations fittings. This is where you will customize your gown with a professional seamstress.
This glossary will explain the major components of most wedding gowns. It includes the bodice, sleeves, and hem. To help you feel prepared for the big day, we also explain some technical terms you may encounter when searching for your dream dress.
These terms are likely to have been used in casual conversations. However, now that you own a bridal gown, it is time to learn more about the major parts of a bridesmaid dress. We’ll explain them all from the top.
The neckline of a wedding dress is exactly what it sounds. It’s the top part of your wedding dress that contains the openings for your arms and neck. The neckline frames your face, upper body, and is the most noticeable detail when you are wearing the wedding dress. Some necklines, like halter, one shoulder, and jewel, sit high on your neck, providing coverage for your collarbone and chest. Portrait, sweetheart and V-neck necklines are more defined. They expose more skin, including cleavage depending on how low the neckline is. The right neckline can give a gown character, highlight a neckline, or show off a necklace.
Wedding dress sleeves not only provide coverage for your arms but can also add interest to your wedding gown’s top. Sleeves were once closely tied to the season. However, they are now an all-year option for wedding gowns, depending on what look you choose. Long-sleeved wedding dresses are more popular in winter, but they can be worn year round, regardless of the season.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are barely-there sleeves like spaghetti straps and cap sleeves. They’re often loved for their sexy, lingerie-inspired look. Strapless dresses are those that have no sleeves or straps. A strapless neckline can be straight across, or it can take on a heart-shaped appearance which is known as a sweetheart neckline.
You can add intrigue to your wedding gown by choosing a statement sleeve style such as boho bell sleeves or maximalist puff sleeves.
The bodice is the top layer of a wedding gown. The bodice is the part of the wedding dress that covers your stomach and bust from the neckline. Some bodices have a particular shape to your midriff, such as corsets or bodices with boning. Others are looser fitting.
The bodice can be more than a part of the dress. It can also be decorative. A simple bodice can be flipped to reveal a sheer, lace-up corset. A bodice with side cutouts can offset a high neckline. A strapless bodice with side cutouts can be given a glamorous upgrade by adding bustier-style cups to it.
Technically, the waistline is a horizontal seam that runs across the midriff of the wedding gown. It connects the skirt and bodice. This part of the wedding dress, along with the bodice, sleeves, and neckline, creates a particular shape and conveys your style.
There are many types of waistlines, each with a different effect. Your body type can affect how a dress fits. Basque women’s waists are defined by a V-shape. This highlights the hips and enhances your curves. If you are looking for a princess-worthy look, this is the perfect finishing touch to your full ball gown.
A natural waist, which is a waistline that falls below your ribs, creates a traditional look and skims your lower body. Drop waists, which were very popular in 1920s flapper dresses, create the illusion that your torso is longer. Empire waists that are right below the bustline are preferred for their slimming properties and Regencycore influences.
Some styles of wedding dresses don’t even have a waistline. Slip, column, and sheath dresses drop straight from the bodice. They skim your body but don’t show any visible waistline.
The skirt is the bottom part of your wedding gown. It can affect the overall appearance of your ensemble, just as the rest of the dress. Each dress has a different shape, size, and length for the skirt.
Even if the wedding skirt is short or fitted, most skirts will have at least one layer of fabric. Your wedding dress will have a lined, which is a layer or nude of fabric that lies underneath the rest of it. This is different from casual dresses you might wear every day. The lining is a slip built into the skirt that keeps the dress from being too sheer. The lining can also be used to protect your skin from the (potentially itchy!) embellishments on your skirt, such as illusion lace, beads, or other embellishments.
Your wedding dress may also have a lining. A crinoline or petticoat, along with the lining, can be added to your skirt. These are used to create full, flowing skirts, especially for A-line and ball gowns. Your seamstress will be able to add a crinoline or petalcoat to your wedding dress if it doesn’t already have one. Some of the most sought-after fabrics for wedding dress skirts are tulle, chiffon, and organza.
The length of your skirt is the hemline. This can help you decide the formality of your wedding. The more formal the event, the longer the gown. Although most wedding dresses are floor-length, there are many options.
The most formal wedding dress is the one with a floor-length hem. Semi-formal gowns are those that reach the ankle or below the knee. Styles that fall below the knee or are shorter are considered semi-formal. However, they are a great choice for an elopement dress, a wedding gown, or just to show off your legs.
The train is the end of the wedding gown. It’s basically a longer piece or fabric that extends to the floor from the skirt. The train is more important than any other component of a wedding gown and can transform your look, giving you a memorable bridal moment. The origins of dress trains can be traced back to the Middle Ages, when the length indicated societal rank (longer trains = higher rank). Today, cathedral and chapel are the formal and most majestic of wedding dress trains.
Watteau and sweep trains are shorter and barely touch the floor, making them less formal. The skirt is usually fastened with buttons or hooks to detachable trains. This makes them very easy to take off during reception, and eliminates the need to bustle.
If your gown has a train, this is the last part that you will need. A bustle is a discrete set of buttons, hooks or ribbons that is sewn to the back of your skirt. It can be either underneath or on top. What is its purpose? Its purpose is to shorten long trains and make it easier to walk around, without needing to take off your skirt.
The best time to bustle your dress on your wedding day is between the ceremony and the reception. You’ll be able to see the dramatic effect of the train moving across the ground as you walk down the aisle. Then, it’ll be easy to tuck it away when you’re done.
Your seamstress will need to make a bustle for you. Wedding dresses do not come with built-in ones. We recommend that you have a trusted bridesmaid who can help you bustle the train when you are wearing the gown. Make sure they practice before the big day!
Other Wedding Dress Terminology
While technical details are important, you need to be familiar with some terms before going on your first shopping trip. These are the most commonly used terms you may come across.
The silhouette of a wedding gown refers to its overall shape. This is the most important element to consider. A gown’s silhouette is the foundation of your look. If you have always longed to be a fairytale bride, a fitted bodice with a full ball gown skirt is a winning combination. For a more feminine look, sexy silhouettes like the fit-and-flare and mermaid can be a great choice. For minimalist brides, straight silhouettes like column or sheath are the best options.
When choosing wedding dress fabrics, consider your personal style, texture, movement, and wedding season. Because each fabric is unique, a single dress can look completely different.
Some fabrics will hug your body, while others will hold their shape. Some fabrics are prized for their weight and crispness, while others are prized for being light as air.
You might be familiar with silk, lace and crepe as well as organza, chiffon, tulle and chiffon. Your bridal stylist can help you select the right fabric for you, based on your dress code, budget, and season.
The white wedding dress is a symbol of marriage, and it’s difficult to find another tradition more associated with the subject. While it is true that many colors have been incorporated into wedding gowns in recent years, such as blush and tulle, white remains the most preferred color for brides.
Not all white wedding gowns are created equal. There are many wedding gown options available. They come in white, ivory, and off-white colors. Your personal preference will determine the color that you choose. When you order your wedding gown, some designers allow you to choose between ivory, stark white or another color.
Stark white is the most bright and crispest white. Natural white fabric is darker than other colors and is usually made from natural fibers like silk. Ivory is an off white color that has subtle yellow undertones. Champagne white has pink and gold hints, which gives it a warmer feel.
Good news! Most white fabrics look the same from a distance and on camera. If you are unsure about the shade you want, your stylist can show you the dress in different lighting conditions (natural light, fluorescent bulbs, and low lighting).
Consider the embellishments as a way of elevating your wedding dress. You can add elegance and individuality to almost any style with the right embellishments. You can add texture and richness to plain fabric with embellishments like embroidery, lace appliques, and beading. You can dress up your bodice with small, iridescent beads or sequins. Layers of fringe or crochet trim can instantly add a boho flair to any design.
We recommend that you ask for customizations and embellishments when ordering your wedding dress. However, your seamstress can also help you. You can add sparkle to your wedding dress without altering it permanently by adding a waist sash or beaded topper.