Loading... Please wait...

Our Newsletter

Wedding Gown Glossary

Wedding Gown Glossary - Ideas & Advice for the Wedding Party by TheHeer.com.

You are at >> Home > Glossary >> Wedding Gown Glossary


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 skirt.
  • 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 material.
  • 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 versatility.


Your choice of fabric can be determined by many factors: dress style, body type, season and the formality of your wedding.

  • 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 totally unforgiving.
  • 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 or necklines.
  • 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 wedding.

  • 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 statuesque.
  • 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 collarbones.
  • 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 gowns.


Whether you want to show off your totally buff arms or hide a figure flaw, pay careful attention to the sleeves on your gown.

  • 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 waist.
  • 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 the waist.

Extended Cathedral/Monarch - extends 12 feet (or more) from the waist. You'll look like a princess bride.

You are at >> Home > Glossary >> Wedding Gown Glossary