What is a Silhouette?
A breakdown of the different types of wedding gown shapes
By Natalie Tsang
August 17, 2011
When you start looking for a wedding dress, youll discover that the vocabulary is a little overwhelming. If you feel a bit confused about all these strange words, youve come to the right place. This post is an introduction to silhouettes. So what is a silhouette? In regular English, its another word for outline. In wedding-speak, a silhouette describes the general shape of the dress.
The four main silhouettes are A-line, ball gown, mermaid/trumpet, and sheath/slim line.
A-Line wedding dresses are fitted around the hips, and flare out into an A shape below your natural waist. Skirts can be slim or full, but the shape hugs the curves of the upper body while hiding the legs. French designer Christian Dior coined the name for this silhouette in the mid-20th century.
At first glance, ball gown wedding dresses look very similar to the A-line silhouette. However, the skirt is more dramatic on a ball gown and there are usually layers of crinoline sewn under the skirt to give it a fuller appearance. The general shape of the ball gown has not changed for over a hundred years.
Mermaid or Trumpet
These silhouettes are form hugging dresses that end with a flare. Trumpet wedding dresses offer slightly more mobility since the flare begins at the upper thigh or knee. The mermaid dress flares below the knee.
The trumpet skirt was especially popular during the 1950s in Hollywood.
Sheath or Slim Line
Sheath or slim line wedding dresses fall nearly straight down from the neckline to the hem, but can be gathered at the bust or waist to create more shape. This type of dress has a long history dating back to ancient Greece.
Some experts will argue that a drop waist A-line dress is actually a trumpet or vice versa. Or that real mermaid dresses flare out at mid calf and anything above that is a trumpet. But armed with this basic vocabulary, you can finally join the conversation.