Choosing a wedding gown that flatters and accentuates your body shape can seem a daunting task, so it's really important to know what body shape you are to begin with.
If you haven't ever heard about the different body shapes, I recommend you take a look at a great website called Joy Of Clothes, where you will find lots of great resources about styling for your shape. One of my favourite resources is their Guide to Bodyshapes. Once you have established what body shape category you belong to (sometimes you can cross between two!), you can go into a bridal shop armed with checklist of do's & don'ts for your figure.
With so many styles and cuts to choose from, I have created a guide below to illustrate the most common neckline shapes & design features you will come across. You will also find a suitability checklist to guide you in the right direction!
Although it may be tempting to pick out a dress based on the fact that you love how it looks on a model in a picture, it doesn't mean it will be right for you. Trust me, I know this from personal experience- I collected lots of photos of dresses that I thought would work on me, simply because I loved how it looked in a photograph. When it came to trying them on in a shop, the dresses took on a completely different look on my body shape. SO, it's important that you erase those "model" images from your head and make a calculated decision based on the following questions:
1. Do I love how the dress looks?
2. Do I feel confident in it?
3. Does it emphasize the best shapes of my figure?
4. Does it hide/disguise the parts that I don't want to draw attention to?
And of course, this blog post is not just for brides-to-be. These simple guidelines can come in very handy when planning an outfit for a special event too.
It's a bit of a long post this time- there were lots of dress shapes to cover! These pointers are just to be used as a guide- there are always exceptions to the rule so make sure that you take an open-minded, honest friend with you to help you make your selection. I hope you find this guide helpful and informative!
This asymmetrical, one-shoulder dress shape is quite modern and makes a confident, bold statement. If you want to show off your upper half, but don't want to feel as exposed as you would in a strapless dress, this is a great style for you. It works particularly well on pear-shapes (heavier bottom half) because it draws your eye away from the hips and focusses on the shoulders instead.
The Grecian style is characterised by softly draped fabrics, ruching & gathering, empire lines (seam under bustline around the waist) and jewelled embellishments. This ethereal style of dress is often made using luxurious silks, soft chiffons and delicate netting that elegantly cascade to the ground. It is a great style for pregnant women as the empire-cut allows the fabric to sinch in at the smallest part of the waist, and fall gently over the stomach and mid section. It is also great for women who are heavier in the legs and narrow on top - in other words, pear-shaped.
This style completely opens up the shoulders, chest and neck area. In general, it works well on most body shapes, but be careful if you have a long, thin neck and long décolleté line - keep the strapless line on the high side to make sure it doesn't leave you looking too exposed. Women with small chests should stay away from this neckline (unless you have a good padded bra!) as it will flatten you.
This dress shape is stunning if you have some cleavage and curves to flaunt. However, it also works really well with smaller bust lines too as it creates interest and adds shape to the chest area. The plunging shape of the V-neck gives the illusion of a more elongated torso and longer neckline too.
A Sweetheart neckline is a romantic & feminine look, forming a natural heart shape at the centre of the bodice. It emphasises the neck and chest area very similar to a straight strapless, and it is suitable for lots of body types. This is a very classic, feminine shape and is great at adding curves to small busts and boxy or straight bodyshapes. If you have a larger bust, it can still work for you, but be wary as certain dresses may not offer enough support or coverage.
This neckline fits snuggly along the base of the neckline and cuts straight across the shoulders. Anyone with a long, thin or regular neck will suit this shape, as will women with smaller bust lines. This neckline is not a good choice for women with a short, wide neck or women with a bigger chest.
The cowl neck is a loosely fitted neckline, with draping fabric that hangs low off the neck. This style is extremely versatile, adding curves to a small chest by the extra volume of the fabric, whilst also having the ability to camouflage a slightly bigger chest/long torso due to the looser fit.
The halter neckline can take on many shapes, but typically consists of a strap or continuation of fabric that wraps around the neck. Women with a fuller bust, long décolleté line or a long and thin neck should find this neckline works very well for them. This is a big no no for anyone with a short or wide neck. Also it’s not ideal for women with a small bust or short décolletage.
The off-the-shoulder shape follows the line of the collarbone, so if you have a lovely neck and well-defined collarbones, this dress would suit you perfectly. It has fabric (straps) that drape over the shoulders (similar to a shawl) and this gives the illusion of widening the shoulders. It is suitable for pear shapes, however it isn't recommended for broad shoulders and inverted triangles.
The keyhole shape is another form of the halter neck (so similar rules apply). It is defined by a small cut-out in the centre of the décolletage. The shape suits a variety of body shapes, however if you have a big bust, it might be best to avoid this shape as the cutout feature might bare too much clevage and end up looking tacky.
To Sleeve or not to Sleeve?
Over the past 10-15years, strapless wedding dresses have boomed and taken over a large portion of the bridal market. But in recent years, the vintage-style wedding trend has reintroduced us to beautiful antique-inspired lace sleeves. For those of you out there who don't feel comfortable wearing a strapless gown, take a look at some of the different sleeve options you can choose from below.
Dresses that have cap sleeves are a great choice for women who want a bit less exposure of the chest and décolletage as they offer coverage to the shoulder and taper off to nothing under the arm. Quite often brides will choose a strapless gown and have it altered to incorporate cap sleeves which enhance, embellish or soften the shoulders. Necklines that work particularly well with a cap sleeve include sweetheart and v-necks.
The short sleeves are typically the length of a t-shirt sleeve. They offer some coverage to the upper arm, so if you are self conscious about baring your arms, this sleeve length would work well for you- however, it's important to make sure that the sleeves don't wrap too tightly around your arms as it may lead to bulging.
This ethereal style of sleeve is often called the batwing or angel sleeve, because when the arms are lifted, the fabric splays out in the shape of a wing. It is a very easy style to wear, softening the upper body considerably due to is looser shape. It is a very feminine, angelic silhouette and suits all body shapes and sizes.
The 3/4 sleeve is a great option if you are particularly concerned about your upper-arms. Lace detailing will take the focus off bare skin, whilst the length of the sleeve generally finishes at the smallest part of your waistline, creating a flattering line to draw your eyes to.
For obvious reasons, long-sleeved dresses are often chosen by winter brides to provide extra coverage from the cold. Detailed sleeves are also a great option if you are self-conscious about baring too much of your arms! A full (or wrist) length sleeve can also give the illusion of a longer, leaner arm. If you have lots of lace detailing on your sleeves, keep your accessories simple and elegant.
Happy shopping and I hope this guide helps you to pick out a dress which perfectly accentuates your unique body shape! If you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you!