Wedding Gowns 101: 5 Best Bridal Dress Silhouettes and What They Look Like

A wedding is an opportunity for a bride to be the star of her own show. With all eyes in the room focused on her, it is only natural for a bride to want to look and feel their best.

This is what bridal dresses are made for.

When you’re about to tie the knot but have yet to find the right wedding gown to wear on your special day, you need not take anyone else’s word for it. You only need to know what you’re looking for before starting your search.

If you still don’t have a picture in your head (or already have one, but you’re unable to describe it precisely), you will have to learn about the distinct types of dress silhouettes. The right one will ensure that the dress will highlight your best assets without overwhelming your natural beauty.

This article will teach you what silhouettes are and what the best ones look like.

What is a Silhouette?

A silhouette dictates the overall style of a wedding gown. In simpler terms, it is the outline you see in the dress with just one glance.

Most designers often have a silhouette in mind when making those pretty dresses they present during fashion shows. For a future bride like you, deciding on a silhouette can help narrow down your options considerably as it is the most basic description of the gown’s design.

5 Best Silhouettes and What They Look Like

Fashion is cyclical in nature. Designs of the distant pasts tend to pop up now and then as the new wedding gown trends.

Over the years, the industry has established certain silhouettes as the favorites choices for bridal dresses. This includes:

1. Ball Gown

If you’ve dreamt of having your own fairytale moment during your wedding, then the ball gown silhouette is the best choice for you. This is a classic dress style that can give you an instant Cinderella look that is perfect for women raised with stories about princesses and a “happily ever after.”

The ball gown consists of a dramatic full skirt and a fitted bodice. It can accommodate most body types but is ideal for pear-shaped or slender figures. This is because the full skirt hides the lower body and accentuates the waist at the same time.

Women with large busts will also benefit from this type of silhouette as it helps create an hourglass look, thanks to the fitted bodice and dropped or natural waistline. It is worth noting, however, that ball gowns may create unwanted illusions, especially for petite women who don’t have the height to balance the voluminous skirt that goes with the dress.

2. A-Line

An A-line silhouette comes with a fitted bodice and a skirt flows out down without breaking the line. As its name implies, it resembles the outline of the letter “A.”

This is another classic dress style that makes for a great wedding dress. But, unlike the ball gown, this style is more appropriate for events that range from traditional church weddings to quiet backyard nuptials.

A-Line dresses are suitable for all body types but look particularly good in women with larger busts. It can hide a woman’s larger lower body with its full skirt or establish curves on a narrow frame, much like some of the dreamy dresses included in this Marchesa wedding dress collection.

But that’s not the best thing about this silhouette. The A-line dress boasts a versatility that allows simple modifications in the fabric, waist, or neck to accentuate a woman’s best features and hide those the bride is not too fond of.

3. Empire

The empire silhouette is defined by its raised waistline that begins just under the bust. From there, the rest of it flows down to the hem with no break, skimming over the hips and tummy area.

The flowy quality of the empire dress makes it perfect for women with pear-shaped bodies, but it can fit most body types well.

It is also great for women with smaller busts as it creates definition and draws attention along the neckline. By adding fabric embellishments and accents like beadwork and capped sleeves, an empire dress can draw attention towards the chest and neckline, thereby creating an illusion of a fuller bust.

Alternatively, it can be made to conceal a bigger bust by a simple change into a square neckline. The height of the waist and flow of the skirt also helps cover features brides don’t want to show, which can include short legs or a long torso. It can even hide a growing belly, making it the perfect choice for pregnant brides.

4. Mermaid and Trumpet

Mermaid dresses are considered one of the most flirtatious types of silhouettes ever made.

It has an extreme fit, starting from the bodice extending down to the waist and hips. As such, this style contours the bride’s body from the chest down to the knee or even lower. From there, it flares out at the hem (much like a mermaid’s fishtail, which explains the name).

Because of its fit, mermaid gowns are excellent for showing noteworthy curves and are best worn by women with slimmer figures to achieve an illusion of an hourglass shape.

Of course, if you want a less fitted version of this gown style, you can also consider the trumpet. Also called the “fit-and-flare,” this silhouette comes with a tight-fitting bodice and skirt that flares out higher than the mermaid – just under the hips. This creates a semi-full skirt that looks much like a bell (or a trumpet, as it is aptly named), minus the added volume and bulk.

5. Sheath

Sheath silhouettes are considered an effortless type of gown as they skim the body and flow straight down to the floor just below the hips. It requires less fabric compared to other dress styles and is quite easy to move in, making it perfect for brides who want the freedom of movement during their wedding day.

What it lacks in volume (compared to most silhouettes), it makes up with its versatility. In fact, modification of sheath dresses present endless possibilities as can be altered using almost every fabric type, be it satin, lace, beading, or even crepe.

Sheath gowns are most recommended for petite brides and women with slim figures who don’t want to be overshadowed by their own dresses.

Choose a Silhouette and Prioritize

Choosing the type of silhouette you want for your bridal gown can ensure that your dress compliments your figure and body type. 

From there, you can prioritize what features you wish to highlight or hide by modifying other elements of the dress – from the neckline down to the hem.


Kristie Romanos is the creative director of Esposacouture., a luxury bridal boutique offering every bride-to-be a one-stop-shop to find her perfect wedding look. Esposa Group includes Esposa Privé and Esposa boutiques in Lebanon and Dubai, offering a multi-brand selection showcasing the works of international designers. Kristie is also the designer behind EsposaCouture.