One of the most popular questions I am asked when meeting brides for the first time is ‘Do you think this will suit my body?‘ and my answer is more often than not; ‘Yes‘. If your wedding dress is custom made for you, then it is custom made for your measurements, your shape, your proportions, and your style. I am a firm believer that with skilled tailoring techniques and a background knowledge in pattern-making, designing and couture skills; any one’s body can wear just about any style.
Knowing your body type and the features you personally love and want to highlight is the first step. Whether you want to highlight your curves or disguise them, whether you want your bust to appear bigger than it is, or whether you want to highlight your small waist rather than your larger hips are all things only you can decide, and only you can feel comfortable with. When you have an idea of what features you want to highlight and you start to see this coming to life through design meetings and the construction process; you will become a more confident bride who is comfortable and excited about her gown choices.
Having said all that, it is always helpful to have a basic guideline when hunting through ready-to-wear ranges for inspiration, so I have put together this blog to help ease some of the stress and confusion when not knowing where to start. Try to use these as tips on how to accentuate your features rather than rules – rules were made to be broken, and don’t be afraid to push the boundaries!
There are six basic wedding dress silhouettes from which style variations come from.
- The Ball Gown
- The Princess Gown
- The Mermaid (aka Fishtail) Gown
- The Sheath (aka Straight) Gown
- The A-Line Gown
- The Short Gown
If you have a curvy hourglass figure, most silhouettes will look stunning with your naturally-balanced body. Remember to match the volume on your top and bottom – e.g. don’t have too many layers or embellishment on the skirt but leave nothing on the bodice. Over-minimising or over-embellishing one body part over another will only create an imbalance.
An A-line with a dropped waist can help to minimise bustiness. Ball Gowns and Mermaid styles are also good options so long as they are well fitted to avoid appearing top or bottom heavy. Accentuate your small waist with a fitted waistline that falls at your natural waist. Sweetheart necklines will flatter your chest and draw the eye up to your smiling face, whereas straight necklines will make your shoulders appear wider.
If you have a pear shaped figure (your hips are wider than your bust), your goal is generally to reduce the appearance of your hips and try to achieve vertical balance. A-line gowns and Ball Gowns will look stunning by emphasising your small waist and bust. Strapless gowns will widen your neckline in your favour, and make your upper and lower body appear to be equal. Princess seams will elongate your body, while fitted, darted and embellished waistlines will draw the eye to your small waist. Try to avoid Mermaid and Sheath styles as they will make your curvy hips look larger than they are.
If you have a rectangular figure, you are fairly straight from top to bottom and may like to create some curves. Bring in your natural waist with a fitted waistline, and choose styles that will widen your bust and hips. When fitted correctly, Ball Gowns, Princess, Mermaid and A-line styles will all help to create curves when fitted correctly. Avoid too much waist gathering as it may add bulk, and consider using bridal accessories such as belts to draw the eye in instead. Draping and gathers on the bust will give the illusion of fullness, and full skirts and hip embellishment creates a curvier bottom half. Try to avoid Sheath dresses as they will make you look even more rectangular.
If you have more of an apple like figure, your goal may be to emphasise your smaller hips to match your larger bust. Try to achieve symmetry between your prominent shoulders and narrow hips with A-line gowns, Ball Gowns, and Princess silhouettes. Belting at the waist will help to cinch the waist in, while a fitted bodice will help to slenderise the shoulders. Try to avoid Sheath dresses as they will make you appear top heavy and will hide your waist and hips.
If you are tall, your long frame can support textured fabrics such as heavy lace, large prints, and substantially more fabric in the skirt. Try to accentuate your curves by drawing the eye in to your waist. Try to avoid high necklines as they may make you look like the Slender Man!
If you are short, be careful with Ball Gown and Princess style gowns. Too much fabric in the skirt will make you appear shorter and bottom heavy. The width of your dress should be less than your height – aim for half. Mermaid styles with a slight flaring at the bottom will elongate your figure and accentuate your natural curves, while Sheath silhouettes in a slinky silk will cling in all the right places.
If you are leaning towards a short wedding dress, my recommendation is always for the skirt length to end at the skinny part just beneath your knee, or just above. This will give the illusion that your skinny leg continues all the way up rather than cutting across your wider calf or thigh.
As always, there are exceptions for these basic guidelines and quite simply, you don’t know how something will look until you try it on! Plan a day out with your favourite people and try on as many different styles as you possibly can. Narrow down your favourite styles and try to get pictures so you can remember your favourites during our design meetings.
PS: To help you wrap your head around the different silhouettes (and to inspire you!); I have selected some of my favourite gowns from the recent Spring 2015 Couture shows – Enjoy! xx