A Guide to Every Wedding Dress Silhouette

What's the difference between mermaid and trumpet, anyway?


PHOTO BY CHI-CHI ARI PHOTOGRAPHY /Design by Zackary Angeline

As a bride-to-be, the proposal is not the only thing you will say "yes" to. Since every little detail comes together to create the wedding of your dreams, there are plenty of decisions to be made—and saying yes to the dress is high up on that list, right after finding your partner. 

Your wedding is your day to revel in the spotlight—all eyes will be on you, whether you’re walking down the aisle, having your first dance, or mingling with the guests. So, naturally, this defining moment deserves a dress worthy of the occasion. But the sheer magnitude of options out there can make the process overwhelming. This is why a quick understanding of the silhouettes that best complement your personality and body type will make the choice easier.

As you prepare for your bridal appointment, keep these general rules in mind.

  • A fitted sheath, mermaid, or trumpet gown will accentuate your curves (or create the illusion of them).
  • Pleats or gathers around the waist can magnify it. A well-fitted high-waist and loose skirt will combat this. 
  • When in doubt, consider an A-line gown. 

We asked bridal designers Krésha Bajaj, Karan Berry, and Leon Vaz to share their top tips with us. “It’s important you do some research and have a vision in mind before you embark on the hunt,” says Berry. “That said, keep an open mind. Try multiple options, even silhouettes you may not typically consider. The trick is to draw attention to your most flattering features,” adds Vaz. Bajaj feels that comfort should be your key focus, as you’ll wear the gown for several hours. “It’s not just your body type that should dictate your decision, it is all about being confident and happy. The important thing is that your gown makes you feel good!” she says.

Meet the Expert

  • Krésha Bajaj is the founder and Creative Director of her eponymous bridal label. She studied at the London College of Fashion, Parsons, and the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising.
  • Karan Berry and Leon Vaz are the co-founders of Mumbai-based couture brand Karleo, which specializes in wedding gowns, evening and cocktail gowns, and bridal accessories. 

Read on to learn more about every type of wedding dress silhouette.

silhouette guide
Jessica Olah/Brides 
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This is a universally flattering favorite. Complementing all body types, it remains fitted until the waist from where it flares out into a soft A-shape, hence the name. Berry feels this is a silhouette that hugs you in all the right places and is a great choice for pear-shaped or curvy brides: “An A-line gown hugs the waist area, creating a slimmer waistline while flattering the bust,” he adds. “It can make a petite bride look taller with its overall slimming effect.”

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This silhouette contours the body from the chest to the knee and is flared thereon. The style is known to emphasize the waist and hips rather than narrowing them, especially if you’re apple-shaped. Berry adds that choosing the right shapewear is important with the mermaid dress: “Considering how fitted it is, you’ll also want to make sure that you can move freely in it, and can sit down easily too.”

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The trumpet is a more toned-down version of the mermaid—straight bodice to the hips and the flare starting mid-thigh—but it is crowd-pleasing nonetheless, considered a particularly good match for an extravagant celebration. “A trumpet silhouette is ideal for slender frames and hourglass body types,” explains Bajaj. “Brides who want to flaunt their curves often pick this outfit.”

Vaz feels that the shape of the top draws attention to the midriff and hip area, making it a winning go-to for brides with slender waistlines and delicate figures.

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Ball Gown

Ball Gown


If you want to glide into your happily ever after like a princess, this fairy tale-ready gown is for you. Volume? Check. Drama? Check. Classic? Yes, of course! Vaz suggests this fit-and-flare silhouette if you’re slim-hipped with a fuller bust. “The voluminous skirt balances the fitted top,” Bajaj adds. “The fuller silhouette accentuates the waist and hides the lower body. However, a bride who is conscious of her hips may want to keep in mind that the skirt can make you look larger.” It’s easy to drown in swathes of fabric, so another pro tip is to keep the embellishments minimal and tonal. 

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Minimal, sophisticated, and impossibly chic, the slip dress makes a case for a ‘less is more’ bridal repertoire. The slip dress’s simplicity is its real virtue, as is its fits-like-a-glove tendency. It’s best advised to have this design made to measure with elements like a cowl neck, bias-cut, or back detailing for more character. 

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“A sheath gown boasts a snug fit and contours the body from head-to-toe,” says Bajaj. “It gives a petite bride an elongated look which helps her appear taller. As for a tall bride, it gives her body definition.” Those with a boxy body, can opt for a sash or embellished belt with it to create the illusion of a more defined waist. The end result is modern and comfortable. Moreover, if you were looking for a style that works well without a train, here it is! 

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Are column and sheath silhouettes interchangeable? They are similar but definitely not identical. The key difference is that the latter is lighter and more seamless. The column gown is often given structure using fabrics like taffeta, brocade, or corded lace. The silhouette is tailor-made to flaunt a sleek and slender figure. So if you have an hourglass or athletic frame, don’t think twice before picking this one.

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If you’re searching for a style that has a ‘something old, something new’ quality to it, then this ankle-grazing silhouette is for you. The tea-length wedding dress is the perfect middle ground—a marriage of fashion-forward and traditional sensibilities. Its characteristic vintage charm lends added appeal. Bajaj feels that a tea-length dress is an unconventional choice, so it says a lot about the bride’s personality: “Brides opting for an intimate ceremony, a brunch wedding, or a simple-but-beautiful registry should choose this length. The beauty is that it can be easily recycled long after your wedding, too.”

It’s a silhouette that you can dictate rather than the other way round—choose a length and flare that best enhances your body type. An added bonus is that you get to play up your accessories so that those crystal-studded stilettos can make it to your wedding album! 

  • What is the best wedding dress silhouette for plus-size brides?

    A-line wedding dresses are the most universally flattering with a nipped-in waist for shape and flared skirt for comfort. Trumpet styles offer the same benefits with a more body-skimming approach for those that wish to flaunt their curves.

  • What is the best wedding dress silhouette for pregnant brides?

    Trumpet and mermaid-style wedding dresses are great for showing off a growing baby bump while still supporting the belly. Silhouettes with an empire waist (think A-line styles that nip in right under the bust and flare out from there) are great for concealing the bump.

  • What is the most popular wedding dress silhouette?

    Historically, ball gown and A-line silhouettes have been the most popular wedding dress shapes.

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