A wedding dress is typically described by five parts: silhouette, sleeves, bodice, neckline and train. For each part of the dress, there are many different styles:
The silhouette is the basic shape of the gown:
Ball Gown: The ball gown is characterized by a fitted bodice and a waistline leading to a very full skirt (think Cinderella)
Empire: An empire-style gown features a high waistline (right under the bust) falling to a slimmer (yet not body-fitting) skirt.
A-Line or Princess: An A-line or Princess shape features vertical seams flowing from the shoulders down to a flared skirt, creating and inverted V — or A — shape
Sheath: The slim sheath closely follows the line of the body, creating a form-fitting look
Mermaid: The mermaid style is form fitting at the top, similar to the sheath, and then flows out around the knees, creating a mermaid shape.
For wedding gowns, sleeves are more than just long or short. Read below to decide which type of sleeve is best for you.
T-Shirt Sleeves: As the name indicates, these sleeves resemble those of your favorite T-shirt. This style is a good option for brides who want to cover their upper arms but don’t want to go all the way.
Cap Sleeves: Shorter than a T-shirt sleeve and more rounded, therefore a little more baring. Cap sleeves work best on women with fairly slender and well-toned upper arms.
Off-The-Shoulder Sleeves: These sleeves cover the upper part of the arms while leaving the tops of the shoulders exposed. The sleeves also cover enough of the upper arm to make most feel comfortable.
3/4 Length Sleeves: This style has a classic, ladylike feel, with the sleeves ending midway between the elbow and the wrist. An elegant look suited for a formal or winter wedding.
Spaghetti Straps: These are skinny straps with no sleeves attached. Not for the “arm-shy,” this style works best for brides with well-toned upper arms or who just want to look sexy!
Sleeveless: Today, strapless gowns with no sleeves are actually the most popular choice among brides. This style works for many body types.
As the name indicates, the bodice represents the “body” of the gown, or the section between the neckline and skirt.
Corset: This is a form-fitting bodice, complete with boning and lace-up or snap closures. This bodice style is fashioned after the ladies undergarment with the same name.
Empire: This bodice style ends just below the bust and flares into a full skirt. This style is flattering on almost all body types.
Halter: The halter is a sleeveless bodice that wraps around the neck. Sometimes backless; always sexy.
Midriff: This bodice fits closely around the mid-ribcage, and is a great choice for accentuating a small waist.
Princess-line: This sleek bodice, characterized by two vertical seams that travel from bust to hem, is super-slimming and gives the illusion of extra height.
Surplice: The surplice bodice cross-wraps the fabric in either the front or back.
Tank: The tank is a short, sleeveless top with wide armholes. This popular style looks great on most body types.
Learn the terminology for the rest of a wedding gown's anatomy - including the neckline and train in the Elegala.com guide to wedding dress styles. Visit the complete wedding dresses guide for even more style advice, tips and a gallery of designer wedding dresses.