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Wedding Gown Glossary - Ideas & Advice for the Wedding Party by Bargello.com.
Choosing the dress of your dreams is difficult enough, but wait until the salesperson at your local salon hits you
with bridal gown mumbo-jumbo. What the heck is a shantung mermaid with a bateau anyway? Don't despair, bring this
handy glossary of dress terms with you when you go shopping-you'll be able to describe exactly what you want.
There are so many dresses to choose from; knowing the proper
terminology is the key to narrowing down the selection and
choosing what best suits your figure. Good luck!
The silhouette describes the outline of the dress. It's
the most important factor in selecting the style that's
right for your body type. Once you know what shape you would
like your dress to be, the rest is easy.
- A-Line - has a flared skirt and less defined
waistline. It's an easy style for almost any figure.
- Ball Gown - is the ultimate fairy tale dress, with a
tightly fitted bodice, defined waistline and very full
- Empire - is great for a slim line. The
waistline starts just under the bust, and the skirt is
usually has a close fit.
- Mermaid - just like it sounds: a form-fitting
gown with a fishtail hem; looks great in slinky
- Sheath - the most contemporary style. The
close-fitting shape hugs your curves and ends with a
slight flare. You can add a detachable train for
Your choice of fabric can be determined by many factors:
dress style, body type, season and the formality of your
- Brocade - a type of fabric with designs woven
right in. Since it can be very heavy, it's a better
choice for a fall or winter wedding.
- Charmeuse - a soft, clingy fabric with a
slight luster. Only for the very fit, this fabric is
- Chiffon - the most delicate and sheer fabric.
It can be made from silk or rayon and is often layered
because of its transparency.
- Damask - a lighter weight version of brocade.
- Illusion - fine net fabric; used on sleeves
- Lace - delicate net with fine embroidery of
flowers, foliage or geometric patterns. The finest lace
is handmade. Some dresses are made entirely of lace; and
lace is frequently used to trim veils.
- Linen - perfect for a summer wedding at the
seaside. Light and breathable, but wrinkles very easily.
- Organza - a stiff, sheer fabric. Can be very
sculptural, almost Asian-inspired.
- Satin - one of the most classic and popular
bridal fabrics. Heavy, silk satin can be ultra-luxe.
- Silk - one of the most luxurious fabrics, can
be very pricey.
- Shantung - a rough-textured, lustrous fabric
that resembles raw silk. Gaining in popularity,
especially for bridesmaids dresses.
- Taffeta - crisp and smooth with a visible
weave. Fine taffeta can be very elegant, but beware
lower quality, which can look cheap.
- Tulle - net-like material used in veils and
underskirts, gorgeous in a ballerina-style dress.
Contemporary brides can choose from minis, pants and
everything in between. But traditional gowns come in three
basic lengths. Tea length dresses are for more casual
affairs while only floor-length will do at a black-tie
- Ankle Length - just a little shorter than
floor length, looks beautiful on shorter brides.
- Floor Length - hemline falls 1/2 to 1 1/2
inches from the floor, makes any bride appear
- Tea Length - a more fun, casual style.
Hemline is several inches above the ankles.
These days many brides are selecting strapless dresses. But
there are also endless variations of necklines that flatter
the face and define the shoulders.
- Boat or Bateau - a total classic, goes
straight across shoulders barely revealing the
- Decolletage - a deep, plunging neckline, only
for the truly bold.
- Halter - a sexy style, the neckline scoops in
front and fastens behind your neck, leaving your arms
bare. Great for a summer wedding.
- Jewel - rounded neckline, which highlights
your shoulders and neck.
- Scoop Neck - a low, curved neckline cut deep
in the back, front, or both.
- Square - forms a half-square around the neck.
- Sweetheart - heart-shaped neckline that
accentuates your cleavage. Usually seen on strapless
Whether you want to show off your totally buff arms or hide
a figure flaw, pay careful attention to the sleeves on your
- Cap - very short sleeves; only covering the
shoulders, sometimes seen on off-the-shoulder gowns.
- Fitted - a tight sleeve cut very close to the
arm, best for those with thin arms.
- Juliet - Renaissance look, tightly fitted
with a small pouf at the shoulder.
- Leg o' Mutton - the Dynasty look, very full
at the shoulder, very fitted at the forearm.
- Tulip - a cap sleeve made of overlapping
fabric that curves into a petal shape.
- Poet - a fitted long sleeve with an outward
flare just above the wrists, very lyrical.
Nothing is more dramatic than the sweep of a train when you
walk down the aisle. Designers are creating gowns with
trains that can be detached or converted to bustles when you
head to the reception.
- Sweep - the shortest style extending only 8
to 12 inches behind you.
- Chapel - extends 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 feet from the
- Semi-cathedral - extends 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 feet
from the waist.
- Cathedral - extends 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 feet from
Extended Cathedral/Monarch - extends 12 feet (or more)
from the waist. You'll look like a princess bride.